LIFE-SIZE WIRE SCULPTURES BRIGHTEN UP ROGERS CUP GROUNDS
When wire sculpture artist Rudy Kehkla was first approached to create life-size models of five ATP World Tour stars for Rogers Cup presented by National Bank and its new Art of Tennis theme, he was terrified. Not knowing whether he would be able to make them perfect, or whether he was capable of completing such an important task, worried the 64-year-old artist from Geraldton, Ont. “I guess I was a little bit overwhelmed and intimidated by the number of people who will see these wire sculptures,” Kehkla said. “But the more terrified you are, the harder you work and the more you are determined to get it right. This is what I think I have done.”
As spectators to Rogers Cup will surely agree, Kehkla had no reason to fear. His final results have already been a hit at the tournament and have exceeded everyone’s expectations. The five wire sculptures of Milos Raonic, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal that are spread throughout the grounds have become a popular spot for fans to stop and snap a picture. Each individual sculpture took Kehkla about two weeks to complete. While some may look at them and think there is not so much involved in their creation, there is actually plenty of work and planning associated with each one. And even though Kehkla begins the process by studying basic photos, it escalates into much further complexity. “I will study those photos and look at them close up and study the lines in each one,” Kehkla said. “I will then do a pencil sketch and then find the lines that my pencil drew and recreate it trying to envision that sketch as the shadow cast by what I am creating.”
“Trying to get the sketch right is going to take more time than the actual sculpting. There is a lot of welding and the cleaning up of each weld. Sometimes there is tweaking, sometimes they do not look quite right or maybe I have to add on a little bit more wire, or maybe shorten it up just to get the proportions right.”
While wire sculpting is nothing new and there are many artists around that attempt the craft, Kehkla is one of the finest. He says what separates him from the others is the total amount of wire that he uses on his finished pieces. “I try to use as little wire as possible to define air, to enable your mind to flesh it out,” Kehkla said. “So while I can put my hand through the sculpture it is still very specific air. Another way of thinking of it is that they are sort of like steel holograms. That is what I try to think of when I create them and then use as little wire as possible.”
As the theme for this year’s Rogers Cup is bringing to light, tennis and art are a natural fit. For Kehkla, sports figures are one of his favourite subjects to sculpt because of the whimsical movements and the impossible forms that athletes can contort themselves into. But he is also a fan of tennis and hopes the players he sculpted out of wire will be a fan of his work as well. “I have always liked Nadal but Raonic of course, he is our boy. I will be watching Rogers Cup very closely,” Kehkla said. “I hope that the players get to see these sculptures, too. I would be curious as to what they thought of them.”
Kehkla’s work can be seen near the southeast end of the site through the end of the tournament. Fans looking for one-of-a-kind art can actually purchase the five life-size sculptures of Djokovic, Federer, Murray, Raonic, and Nadal for a price of $5,000 each while tabletop versions are also available in the Tennis Matters silent auction for $800.