“These pieces reflect our own decline.” – Isaac Cordal
You’re walking along in a hurry to get to work. Around you are the same gray, noisy, impersonal parts of the city you pass every day. Then something catches your eye. At first, you dismiss it as a piece of litter, or maybe a toy some kid has dropped. But something about it makes you take a second look.
Suddenly you realize that you’re staring at a tiny little man who is up to his waist in water. It’s a sad figure wearing a forlorn expression, but still you smile, because your morning has just become a little bit more interesting.
A macabre twist on the wedding cake bride and groom
Sculptor and painter Isaac Cordal fits the bill of a “street artist” perfectly. After all, the streets are exactly where his miniature artworks reside – and sometimes they seem to poke out of the very pavement itself.
These small, intriguing figures are part of Cordal’s growing “Cement Eclipses” project, which spans cities across Europe – from London to Croatia. His latest canvas was the BLK River Festival in Vienna, which is where these photographs were taken.
The detail in these tiny sculptures is incredible.
“Cement eclipses is a project related to both sculpture and photography in the urban space,” Cordal explains. “I’m interested in representing prototypes that represent human beings in modernity. I’ve created scenes that summarize recognizable behavior patterns. These installations are my way of interpreting the social system we’ve created around us.”
“I’m fascinated by working in public spaces because it offers the viewer the element of surprise.”
Cordal’s work is also a commentary on the environment and climate change. Indeed, his choice of medium is itself a statement. “Cement is our footprint in nature,” Cordal says. “In Spain, its massive use in construction has devastated the coast as well as so many beautiful places in the countryside, converting the land into a kind of board game for speculation. It is a very curious parallel between the destructive capacity of termites devouring cellulose and our activity destroying nature in order to expand our cities.”
To this poor man, a mere puddle is a vast lake.
Despite their being placed in some pretty surreal situations, there’s still something very human and melancholic about Cordal’s figures. As small as they are, the artist has still managed to give his sculptures recognizable postures and facial expressions to let us know how they’re feeling.
“Lots of people find them very sad and negative, but I think there is also a lot of humor to them.”
Cordal makes his cement figures in his studio before relocating them to the streets. “Sometimes I put sculptures in my backpack and then, walking in the streets, I find situations that work well and that I had not imagined before,” he says.
The artist likes the readymade backdrops for his sculptures that cities provide. “The street is great: you can just use the space that is there. I find it more difficult to create the setting myself in a gallery. In the city everything is there at hand: puddles, holes in the roadway, etc.”
“In Milan someone stood there for ten minutes thinking about what he saw.”
Then there’s the act of, for example, placing a tiny man standing in a miniature shopping trolley in position. “You get a lot of reactions,” says Cordal. “People start asking whether you made that hole in the street yourself.” Looking at the pieces, we can definitely understand the fascination.
Most of the pieces are around six inches tall.
“Their main predators are cleaning services, weekend thieves (they become an alcoholic's Olympics Games), or curious people who think that street art is only for them,” says Cordal, describing the threats to his miniature installations.
Ideally, the sculptor would prefer it if people could just enjoy his artworks where he places them. “I don’t leave the sculptures on the street for people to take home. Street art is for everyone, not for just one person. But okay, those people which have sculptures at home could at least send me a picture so I can see that the boys are well.”
“I’m not trying to tell jokes. I’m aiming for a more critical kind of art.”
Street art has become increasingly popular over recent years, and Cordal attributes this boom to the Internet. “Previously, it was more ephemeral. It was only people who were on the spot at that moment who could see it,” he says. “These days you can do something in the middle of nowhere and make it known worldwide just five minutes later. I don’t like all street art, but I do see it as something positive. I like the idea that you are giving something to the city for free. I can’t imagine a city without street art. That would be very boring.”
“We live immersed in the collapse of a system that needs change.”
As an artist, Cordal sees himself as a kind of street vigilante. “For me, street art is a way of combat, a way of expressing my ideas. A sort of activism,” he says.
We thank Isaac Cordal for sharing these photographs of his amazing and thought-provoking art with us.