The Sculptor’s Life: Viv Astling

Viv Astling is a sculptor of stone. His current interest is to reflect the form and structure of natural objects. These range from seeds and leaves found in our gardens and hedgerows to the wider landscape and the sea.

Often the stone is considerably larger than the original subject, which he uses as a starting point and, by following the flow, arrives at a final form.

Viv is the Honorary Secretary of the RBSA, and has generously donated one of his works to our forthcoming Charity Auction on November 2.

ART BLOG asked Viv to share with us his thoughts on the artist’s life…


What are your sources of inspiration?

I often make work based on natural forms as a start and then develop the form as I sculpt. I draw a lot on the stone and test what I should do next, so it’s very direct carving.

I don’t make a maquette (a model in clay to copy) nowadays but I have in the past. The natural forms I’m drawn to include waves, and I’ve been fascinated by the work of the Japanese artist Hokusai who produced a famous wood cut of the wave – now the subject of an Exhibition at the British Museum.

Likewise I think wings are wonderfully sculptural and have made a series of works based on the wing form.

I suppose what I avoid at all costs is the straight line – I love curves in buildings, plants, cars and planes.

I went recently to Bilbao and spent about a day looking at the Guggenheim building to see how it incorporated so many interesting curves and parabolas.


Which sculptors do you admire?

I like the work of Dave Nash RA, who I know and have had discussions with. I was involved in commissioning six pieces he made for the National Forest.

Also other environmental artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Long and Peter Randall Page.

Heliane Blumenfeld produces beautiful work in marble. Of those now in the sculptural graveyard I think Elisabeth Frink and Barbara Hepworth are great inspirations and I have produced pieces based on work I have seen of Hepworth.


Viv Astling, ‘Goldberg Variations’


What are your current projects?

I am just completing a sculpture based on a piece of music – the Goldberg Variations by Bach – a piece often played on the piano.

I went to hear Joanna Macgregor play this at the Hay Festival and an artist drew thirty sketches whilst she played the theme and thirty variations.

I also made notes and doodles to help me design a piece. As a result I have made quite a big sculpture (four foot in length – it started off weighing 13 stone!) which is my ‘take’ on the music.

This is a complete departure for me as it’s what I have called Narrative Sculpture.

My four works themed around music are all in different stones and the last is a very delicate sculpture in English Alabaster which is a rare stone nowadays. It is tiny in comparison to the Goldberg.

Viv Astling, ‘Dipteros’


Tell us about your involvement with the RBSA…

I have had a slightly different career path from most of my fellow members. I graduated in law, not Fine Art, and qualified as a Solicitor and therefore know something about the legal side of the RBSA and its governance.

So that’s probably why I am the Hon Sec. It takes quite a bit of time but it keeps my mind active! And I feel I can contribute my special/peculiar skills to help the organisation.

Charity Auction

You can bid on Viv Astling’s Wavelet, below, at our forthcoming Charity Auction on 2 November, 6.30pm, Deutsche Bank, Brindleyplace.

Viv Astling, ‘Wavelet’


Hosted by Bonhams and with ticket sales going to Deutsche Bank’s Charity of the Year Autistica, and auction proceeds to the RBSA, it is going to be an action-packed evening!

  1. A fully illustrated catalogue is available online as a downloadable pdf

  2. Bidders are invited to browse the catalogue and shortlist works of interest

  3. All donated works can be viewed on arrival at the venue

  4. After registering, guests will be given a numbered paddle to hold up when bidding

  5. The event starts with welcome drinks at 6.30pm

  6. The auction itself runs from 7.30pm to approximately 8.30pm

  7. Bidding will take place at the auction and is open to ticket holders only

  8. Payment can be taken at the end of the evening

  9. A 50% deposit can be placed if works are to be collected from the RBSA Gallery

Tickets are £10. Why not book now?

  1. Call us on 0121 236 4353 to pay by card over the phone

  2. Send a cheque in the post (payable to ‘RBSA’) to RBSA, 4 Brook St, Birmingham B3 1SA

  3. Pay by cash in person at the Gallery

  4. Pay via PayPal on our website

Viv was elected Honorary Secretary of the RBSA in 2011. He has completed three public art commissions, including the carving of a two-tonne monolith for a memorial garden at the National Memorial Arboretum. He is a member of the Shapeshifters Sculpture Group and hires studio space from Dudley College. He is also a member of the Birmingham Art Circle.

Viv appears in several exhibitions including Equivalent 8 at the RBSA, an exhibition of 64 abstract and semi-abstract sculptures, paintings and drawings by eight RBSA Members.

This show runs alongside the William Gear exhibition.


A Celebratory Open Day takes place on Sunday 5 November, 2 – 4pm to mark the opening of our Equivalent 8 and William Gear exhibitions. Open events are free and there’s no need to book.

There’s also a Saturday art demonstration with Equivalent 8 exhibitors on 18 November, 11-1pm and 2-4pm. Free, no need to book.

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Images © the artist or the artist’s estate unless stated otherwise.