Scottish-born sculptor Toby Govan with some of his creations designed to be touched. SUR
When touch is a meaningful part of the experience
Toby Govan, Scottish artist

When touch is a meaningful part of the experience

The 57-year-old Scottish artist says that touching his sculptures is just as important as enjoying their visual appeal

Tony Bryant

Friday, 11 August 2023, 19:45


The touching of artwork at exhibitions is prohibited in just about every gallery in the world, but one sculptor who is currently exhibiting a collection of his work in Estepona throughout August is openly encouraging visitors to do just that.

Scottish artist Toby Govan says that his prime purpose when creating a sculpture is for them to be touched, which, he claims, "is just as important as their visual appeal".

"In the case of my work, touching is both right and appropriate. It is designed so that, to truly understand it, it must be touched. Touch is a meaningful part of the experience," the sculptor explains to SUR in English.

Toby's work focuses mainly on animals, and he has pieces in private collections in the UK, France, Germany and the USA. There are also four pieces located in Estepona, one of which is an elephant, which weighs one ton: the town hall brought the pieces from Toby after the hotel where they were displayed went into bankruptcy.

Born in Edinburgh in 1967, Toby arrived in Spain in 1972 after his parents decided to relocate to Torremolinos, although the family moved to Estepona, where the artist is based today.

Toby is the son of the late Douglas Govan, an established sculptor who taught his son the "magic of reading the stone". His mother was a watercolourist who taught him to see the world as a "composition".

"Edinburgh was dreary and there was very little light to be able to paint, which made my mother a little depressed. My father liked Andalucía because he heard it was quite good for foreigners and because it was still very old fashioned at the time. Franco was still in power then, but his strict dictatorship was dying out. Spain was really nice because everyone welcomed foreigners. The country was opening up a lot and tourism was really taking off, so it was actually quite pleasant," he says.

Toby, who describes himself as "an Estepona boy", went to art school in Granada and then studied photography in Madrid, which he claims helped him to have "more knowledge about art", but he says that "my main college was my father".

"My father taught me the way he used to work, and what we call 'how to read the stones' to understand the shape it contains. He was basically my tutor," the 56-year-old artist explains.

Embracing the stone

"I have my own language and this involves lots of hugs and embracing each other, but it is the stone that suggests what the outcome will be. The stone has a shape, curves and colours, and these will usually give you a sort of suggestion. You flow with the stone, that's the way I work," he says.

The rock Toby uses comes from several sources. Some comes from the mountains surrounding Estepona, while he sometimes has to look further afield to acquire the perfect piece of rock.

"Some of the rock comes from inside a mountain in Estepona, where there is a block of serpentine, but it is underground and it comes out with the river, which is where I find it. I also use a white marble that comes from Ojén, but I sometimes bring stone from other places, such as Afghanistan," he explains.

The exhibition, Touching Precious Feelings, can be viewed at the Casa de las Tejerinas (Estepona) until the end of August and includes 30 pieces. Toby, who will be there each day between 8pm and 11pm, wants to encourage visitors to touch his sculptures because, as he points out, "unless you tell people to do it, they won't touch them".


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