Friday, 8 December 2017

Mario Converio and his iron sculptures

Italian sculptor Mario Converio is known for his sculptures in wrought iron. Though iron has been known to humanity at least for a few thousand years, its use for creating sculptures is not very common as it is difficult to work with. Mario manages to creates poetry with the metal.

Recently an exhibition of his works, "Metal Fantasies" was organised in Schio (VI, Italy), where I had an opportunity to talk to Mario. This post presents the artist Mario Converio and some of his sculptures from this exhibition.

Mario Converio

Mario lost both his parents early - his mother died when he was 2 and his father, when he was 12. His artistic journey started when he was 14 and decided to make a sculpture of his father (in the image below, Mario Converio with the bust of his father).

Mario did not attend any art academy. He was interested in art and started learning it by himself, experimenting with different materials and techniques, starting with clay and stone. He visited different parts of Europe and was inspired by ice-sculptures, after which for a period he worked with ice and glass, and participated in many international art events. One of his first metal sculptures was that of a female-butt made from a grass-cutter. Since then he likes to experiment with butts and this has brought him fame.

In 1976 he was one of the founders of artists' group of Schio. The group organises street events in which he demonstrates his wrought iron sculpting skills. They had also started some art courses.

Over the past decade he has participated in different events about wrought-iron sculptures in Italy and in different parts of Europe. He has won awards in some of them. He feels that this has been a great learning opportunity for him to see the techniques others were using and sharing his own experiences. Apart from iron, he sometimes also uses bronze and stones in his works.

He told me, "Making art is a process of trial and error. Some times, it works and I am happy with my creation. Other times, I feel that it was a mistake and it did not come out as I had imagined it."

Working with iron is hard and tiring work. Mario said, "I am 73 years old and I start to feel that I can't go on doing it for very long. It requires strength and energy of a younger person. When I was younger, I didn't use proper protections like using gloves to protect from vibrations, so that has created some complications for me."

About the sculptures in the exhibition, Mario explained that some of them were things that he had made many years ago, while others are more recent. Making of these sculptures requires time. The simple ones can be completed in a couple of weeks while big sculptures, require months of work.

Creating sculptures in wrought iron

To create the sculptures, the artist needs to choose the iron sheets which then have to be forged at high temperature. While a sheet is red hot, its shape can be molded. The iron cools quickly and thus time for shaping it for creating sculptures is short.

Mario first creates a model of his sculpture in clay, which is much easier to work with. This allows him to think of the shape he wants to create in iron and plan the process.

Though iron is a difficult metal to work with for an artist, Mario's long experience and ability makes him bring out a kind of dynamism in his sculptures, making them come alive. Beaten iron can assume different hues, from a cold bluish grey to a warm burnt sienna. These chromatic variations add to the beauty of his work.

Apart from working with sheet metal, Mario has also experimented with perforated metal sheets for creating his sculptures. Creating a sculpture with such nets, requires additional care as it needs to be shaped delicately. Some of his most suggestive works have been created in this way.

Now, let me briefly present some of his works from his "Metal Fantasies" exhibition.

Nature sculptures

Mario likes to sculpt animals and birds, with an occasional flower or a plant. Among his animal sculptures, I especially liked animals frozen in action. Among these, my favourite was a running dog, its whole body lifted in air with only a paw touching the ground. I loved this dog's expression and I could almost see its saliva drooling down its mouth.

Female form

Mario's sculptures of the rounded female buttocks are famous. He had a large number of them in the exhibition. I liked the ones where the metal's shape suggested the roundness and the female form, rather than the more explicit ones showing genitals.

My favourite among his female butt-sculptures was the one shown in the image below, made from a perforated thick iron sheet. Compared to the legs that are lateral, the upper part of the body is turned forward at an impossible angle.

Another of his sculpture, which is well known, had a nude woman wrapped around an old TV set.

Among his full body female nude sculptures my favourites were those where the body was shown frozen-in-action, like the girl doing acrobatics with a ribbon in the image below. Like the frozen-in-action animals, in all these sculptures, only small parts of the bodies were anchored to the base while most of the sculptures were in the air.

Male form

There were occasional sculptures of male nudes, buttocks and genitals among his work but they were not a prominent part of his work. Among these, my favourite was one in the image below, of a guy with a six-pack abdomen and once again, frozen-in-action body.


I loved Mario Converio's sculptures. I liked the way he combines abstract unformed metal, as if being torn away from its roots, and how it gently transforms into a shape, hinting at something instead of being explicit. I also liked his ability to freeze a moment in time in the metal, catching the dynamicity of an action-charged moment. They are full of drama and emotions, something which you do not expect to be so strong in a metal sculpture.

To conclude, below you will find the thumbnails of some other sculptures by Mario - click on them for a larger view. Do tell me which of Marios's sculptures presented in this post did you like the most and why!

Note: Some of the images of his sculptures presented with this post, have been modified with photo-effects and are therefore, different from how those works actually appear.


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