Posed, the figurative sculptures exhibited at Homo Sapiens offer a rare opportunity to contemplate the work of some of the finest British sculptors of the past fifty years.
These masters and mistresses of metal are curated to include an illustrious collection of the works of twentieth century artists, together with more recent talents, such as Anna Gillespie whose poignantly emotional sculptures have been placed in Chelsea Flower Show Gardens.
The works, ranging in scale from petit maquettes to over life sized, are displayed within the cool white walls and blond wooden floors of Beaux Arts’ airy ambience.
Nonchalantly standing, reflectively foetal or provocatively recumbent, each sculpture captures a scrutinised aspect of character: Elisabeth Frink’s towering and fierce Riace warrior acts as sentinel by the entrance, Lynn Chadwick’s breeze blown cloaked figures march forth whilst Michael Ayrton’s playful group relax along a jetty as Reg Butler’s Italian Girl brazenly beckons.
Many of these figures were wrought when, post-war, sculpture was transformed from ceremonially civic to tantalisingly familiar. They still confidently capture our gaze, though latterly resins have replaced bronze.
Surveying each decade, the joyful experimental poses of the 1950s have developed beyond 1970s angular austerity to return with vigour in the 1990s. Figures then mellowing towards the more sensual introspection evident in compositions of the twenty-first century.
Our obsession with expressive figuration has never fully fallen out of fashion; as a theme reflections of our own image remain convivial company, perpetually engaging, perplexing and deeply personal.