William Pye: Water Sculptor

William Pye sculptures
Charybdis, William Pye, 2000.

Moving water is a difficult medium for sculpture. While dynamic, its liquid form belies the very idea of a static 3-D form. William Pye is, however, a sculptor in water. Based in the United Kingdom, he has established a career in this unique medium. You can see his commissioned works in places such as England, Brazil, Oman, Canada, and Hong Kong.

In Charybdis, Pye employs the concept of the vortex and the rollwave. The vortex is formed inside of a transparent cylinder made from a specialized clear acrylic polymer. The air-core vortex is formed when water is pumped into the cylinder with high pressure, creating competing currents, and sustaining the swirling center. Extensive water filtration is necessary to maintain the look and drama of the vortex.

Raised in London, he also spent a lot of time in Surrey at his family’s country home. There he was fascinated by water throughout the natural setting. He started by photographing water, and eventually moved to manipulating the flow of water through dams and cascades, and recording the reaction of the water. He took to traveling and continued photographing water around the world in a variety of environments, such as mountains, gorges, and roads.

Born in 1938, he began his career in the 1960s with sculpture in abstract forms made with metal and stone. In the 1970s, he graduated to geometric forms in highly polished stainless steel, which began to include movement and reflection, leading him eventually to water.

Now Pye’s work fully encompasses water, not just as the substance but as a conduit of movement, reflection, light, and environment.

William Pye sculpture

Double Dome, 2010; William Pye. Available for Sale.

This piece uses the concept of transparency and rollwaves. A rollwave is formed when thin films of falling water over a smooth surface create repeating wave patterns. For the Double Dome, Pye used a transparent dome-within-a-dome that repeatedly fills with water between the domes until it overflows over the exterior. Changing LED lights create an interplay with the rollwaves and transparency. The dome is also visible from beneath, further playing with transparency.

Other concepts that Pye includes in his work include: the coanda effect, deflection, hydrostatics, jets, reflection, rollwaves, spouts, transparency, vortex, starbursts, and brimming bowls. He works in both large and small scale, indoors and outdoors. He usually works on commissioned pieces that are site-specific. These would include the Fonthill Tavola in Fonthill Bishop, Wiltshire, UK.

William Pye sculpture

Fonthill Tavola, 2014; William Pye.

He has also won international competitions for public sculptures, such as a public sculpture in the new town square of Drammen, Norway. His entry, Vannpaviljong, was unanimously chosen.

William Pye sculpture

Vannpaviljong, 2011; William Pye. Located in Drammen, Norway.

While it would be tempting to call Pye’s pieces fountains, the scope of every piece is so much broader. Every piece and portion is sculpted, and the site and environment are carefully incorporated into the design. Water is never simply “falling.” The very nature of the liquid is examined and emphasized.

Pye also offers works for sale. They range in size and scope, and are largely meant to be public sculptures. Each artistically demonstrates the universality of water as a truly contemplative medium, one that can bring a quiet meditative quality to any space.

You can learn more at http://www.williampye.com.

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