Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World
@ Tate Britain 24 June – 25 October 2015

Hepworth

It is difficult to recall the name of any other female sculptor of Hepworth’s generation, a testament to her tenacity and her talent. Her name is regularly listed with the best of the twentieth-century British based Modernists: Epstein and Moore.

For those familiar with Hepworth’s sculptures this exhibition will be a joyful reaquaintance with a dynamic artist and a vibrant period. For those to whom her name is vaguely familiar and her art almost unknown, this is a rare opportunity to see works of aesthetic beauty crafted with devotion to an exceptional career.

The men in Hepworth’s life – husbands and sculptors – offer a contextual introduction to the canon of Hepworth’s diligence. She left them when constrained. During her lifetime Hepworth’s artistic and international achievements were hesitantly recognised by her peers. Yet the purpose of this exhibition is to convince us of Hepworth’s contemporary international standing.

There are seven rooms in which Hepworth’s sculptures are measured through the evolutionary decades of her industry. Meticulously selected works and recently released archive images draw the eye along Hepworth’s aesthetic journey and the excitement of her environments from studio cocoon to international platform.

Her smaller scaled early Primitive works, including the dark nude female form of Contemplative Figure (1928), clearly demonstrate her growing skill and confidence in carving; this progresses through her studio work, towards the elegantly smooth purity of geometric International Modernism showing the clinical precision of works such as Three Forms (1935) representing her triplet children.

Developmentally, these smaller scaled sculptures reflect the vogue of the period and its people: organic forms, pierced and strung hollows, and increasing experimentalism with materials’ physical forms and its spiritual representations.

Of necessity for security reasons, in viewing these smaller works, many are sanitised by a protective veneer of Perspex which distorts their illumination and envelopes their mesmerising appeal.

The symbiotic artistry of her partnership with second husband Ben Nicholson inspired in Hepworth a clarity of focus and aesthetic fluidity that few of her peers went on to achieve. Her linear profile proliferates his displayed paintings, whilst the silhouette of her forms reflect shapes seen within his work. This room successfully conveys the resonance of their creative synergy.

As the frugal mother of four children, she balanced her domestic responsibilities with her irrepressible sculptural drive, though Hepworth’s post-war paradigm shift was amplified by the loss of her beloved eldest son in 1953. Her emotion is manifest in the disciplined control and chasm carved precision of her African Guarea woods. They command inspection of solid mass and white washed emptiness. Tactile yet untouchable, the warmth of the wood glows. Spatially displayed together these four pieces of Greek title define the quantum of Hepworth’s personal revolution.

International demand for Hepworth’s architectural work necessitated the practicality of casting her plaster sculptures in bronze, rather than fulfilling her preference for the slower delivery of carving. Bold in scale and statement, these huge outdoor works are represented by small photographic images, which perhaps lack grandeur, impact and a descriptive vocabulary of elemental energy.

By the 1960s, Hepworth drew more deeply upon her modelling skills and her intuitive ability to finesse a more feminine expression of contemporary and recollected landscapes. Visually these landscapes are brought into view through screened archived films to lift our gaze skyward across the moors, cliffs and seascapes that inspired Hepworth’s art.

In the final room, her graceful landscape sculptures such as Meridian (1958) are set against the extraordinary recreation of Gerrit Rietveld’s 1955 pavilion which seeks to replicate an external ambience, grounding both sculptures and sculptor in time and place.

Stepping outside, a singular Hepworth garden sculpture sits upon the lawn outside Tate Britain where it benefits immeasurably from the dappled, shifting light and shade of its open air placement.

Musing up Hepworth’s rightly acclaimed creativity, there is perhaps a lingering misperception of Hepworth’s work as domestic in focus, wholly unjust given the magnitude of her colossal sculptures and their prestigious international locations. Decoding this intimacy is however the tantalising essence of Hepworth’s visual communication.

FACE15 @ La Galleria Pall Mall 18 – 23 May 2015

Mick Davies - RodinAmina Ali - Susie ZamitJim Kempton - Oscar Nemon

Karen Hessenberg - Floral SunhatCreek Head - Laurence EdwardsProfessor Li Xiang-qun - Xiao Yu

Rarely are we able to gaze so intently upon the image of a stranger yet the spirited works, exhibited by the Society of Portrait Sculptors at FACE15, invite personal scrutiny.

Set on eye level plinths in an airy gallery, these are not the austere and intimidating heavy castings of history. They are vivacious renderings of personality and colour capturing the exploration of individuality.

Such a wide ranging and thought provoking selection of portrait sculptures defies outmoded expectations. Whilst aesthetically this is predominantly western art its subjects represent a diverse village of ethnicity.

This Annual Open Exhibition aims to encourage the perpetuation and quality of portrait sculptures with approximately a third of the sculptures exhibited shown by non-members who may offer their work for inclusion.

Each year a panel of seven society members selects approximately seventy works from hundreds of international submissions. The sculptures are initially shortlisted from photographs which are then selected for evaluation before the exhibits are curated for display.

Those awarding prizes have proved themselves to be progressive in their choices; they are not averse to the frisson of the contemporary.

Finger print indentations, the impression of tool incisions and the malleable contortions of metals are clearly visible in the textured appeal of these images. Having successful evoked the character of their subject, the sculptor must await the alchemy of the casting or firing process in pursuit of a surface finish that lies beyond their immediate influence.

Media have expanded beyond the traditions of bronze, plaster, stone and terracotta to include ceramics, ciment fondu, fibreglass resin, glass, jesmonite, steel, wax and the innovation of recycled tyres utilised to dramatic effect for Mick Davis’ silver sprayed Rodin.

Masterworks are included for which FACE15 has accessed sculptures by Émile-Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929): Head of Apollo (1900) and Krishnamurti (1927). In highlighting a number of the other sculptures on display, the society’s considered choices display a variety of aesthetic counter points.

Jim Kempton’s cast bronze of sculptor Oscar Nemon is diminutive and exquisitely rendered with pensive expression, whilst the other worldliness of Laurence Edwards’ matt finished Creek Head 3 oozes a raw subtle menace and distress; critically inspired by his son’s somersault accident.

Karin Hessenberg’s charming self portrait Floral Sunhat is enlivened by a muted palette of textiles and tousled blond hair. The refined elegance of Professor Li Xiang-qun’s smooth surfaced sculpture intensifies the conviction of dispassionate quiet of Xiao Yu whose poised bobbed head personifies the remoteness of youth.

Sounding an important note of political sensitivity is Suzie Zamit’s dignified portrayal of Amina Ali, a Nigerian school girl captured by Boko Haram in a timely and poignant reminder that the Our Girls campaign has not yet brought the children home.

FACE15 has been an exciting success with a three fold increase in attendance this year. This exhibition is set to become an increasingly important event in the art calendar reflecting nuanced shifts in the techniques of portrait sculpture as both well-known and previously unknown faces continue to fascinate.

Entry details for FACE16 will be posted in the Autumn on:
http://www.portrait-sculpture.org/annualopenex.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sculpture at the Chelsea Flower Show 2015

John O' Conner - Yoga poseChris Beardshaw gardenGirl

Simon GudgeonMichael Speller - concavedDavid Meredith - Shield HorseFemale health

Leading the eye towards a pleasing focal point has long been a subtle skill practised by the greatest landscape designers. Punctuating an inspired horticultural composition, sculpture defines the ambience of the environment, conveying meaning and moment.

Sculpture introduces an element of the unexpected and reveals itself with theatrical intent. When thoughtfully placed its balanced proportionality is staged to dramatic effect, evoking memory, emotion and visceral response.

Though the Chelsea Flower Show may have been challenged by the lack of financial sponsorship available for garden designers since the economic tremor of 2008, potentially empty plots have been filled by those offering complementary accessories.

This year the show offers avenues of glorious gardens together with the best works of exceptional contemporary English sculptors including: Anna Gillespie (favoured in Chris Beardshaw’s gardens), Simon Gudgeon, David Meredith, John O’Connor, Lucy Smith, Michael Speller and David Watkinson.

In doing so this venue offers a rare opportunity to compare and contrast subject, style and scale and, unlike works displayed in sculpture parks, many of the sculptures here propose a more familial intimate appeal.

These covetable works of art – many of figurative form – engage with our inclement weather to endlessly mesmerising focus.

Sculpture by the Lakes

Isis - sizedReflection - sizedSylph - sized

Swans - sizedDancing Cranes - sizedKingfisher 2 - sized

Pippin's Garden - sizedSearch - sizedThe Fruits - sized

Changing gear to reduce your speed is both a physical and metaphorical preparation as you turn beside the artists’ house, delighted that you did not miss the discreet laneside sign for Sculpture by the Lakes, the home of Simon and Monique Gudgeon.

Scrunching down the gravel driveway towards the car park, tantalising glimpses of the sculptures distract. This feels new and different, open and inviting, in stunning contrast to the traditional ravine ‘C.A.R.’ – camellia, azalea, rhododendron – gardens along the English south coast. This landscape provides a modern alternative of elegant simplicity and meticulous sight lines; a master class in the proportional placement of sculpture within a semi-naturalistic idyll.

As an open air gallery it offers symbiotic harmony between sculpture, horticulture and the wildlife that it supports. Unexpectedly, it also provides an opportunity to nurture the emotional responses compressed by life within the madding crowd. There is space to relax because visitor numbers are limited and, by considered decision, no under 14s (due to the deep water risk of the lakes, of which there are three: Artist’s Pool, Rainbow Lake and North Lake).

The rarely considered though necessary task of cleaning and waxing the sculptures, even those of more than three meters in height, is regularly undertaken so that each piece may be seen to best advantage unblemished by nature’s detritus.

Birds of exotic origin skim the lakes as they seek sanctuary after their Springtime migratory Channel passage. Sculpted wading birds of rarer species reside here permanently: Isis, Thoth and Geranos.

Simon’s gracefully sinuous sculptures are balanced by the open planes of the fields, reflected across smooth or wind ruffled water and counterbalanced by clusters of scaled trees. Some of his inspirations are ancient legends from faraway lands; though the simplicity of other names, eases the recognition of his sculptures born from the observation of more local neighbours: Barn Owl, Falcon, Kingfisher, Ravens or the woodland placed Roe Deer.

While sculpture park and garden history aficionados will recognise the use of inspiring poetic prose that echo Ian Hambleton Finlay’s garden Little Sparta in Scotland, there the similarities end.

Where plinths have been used, they are set low as platforms rather than barriers, this invites visual scrutiny of the sculptures. Works placed upon the lakes are enhanced by reflection, particularly the elegant Swans.

The viewing circuit broadly follows the edge of the lakes, in a route defined by personal preference, leading through alleys of trees and narrowed pathways spilling into more open grassland without the exaggerated manipulation of passing through sombre gloom into intense daylight.

Monique’s horticultural artistry leads the eye to frame both distant and happened upon pieces in a dynamic landscape of year round interest for seasonal visitors, for which professional advice has been sought to optimise habitat havens.

Beside a wooden built gallery two overlapping circular inked pools nestle the bird form, Reflection. This sculpture is backed by huge Phormium tenax, their spiky, strappy leaves piercing the clear blue horizon beyond.

In the garden gently undulating raised mounds of evergreens are cloud pruned and spiral to elevate the gaze towards an apex crowned with the closely choreographed ritual of Dancing Cranes. This repeated arching horticultural rhythm is intensified by the crest of the birds’ arced wings.

Sylph, one of few figurative sculptures, has alighted upon the surface of a water lily covered pond which is punctuated with the vibrancy of marginal planting. Compositionally the body laced as shimmering filigree leaves is poised in balletic stance.

Simon’s iconic monumental male and female profiles titled Search for Enlightenment speaks of the duality of theme for Sculpture by the Lakes, possibly best captured by the poet Walter Savage Landor: ‘Nature I loved, and, next to Nature, art’.

While many visitors are reticent to invade the privacy of the garden closest to the house, it is encouraged, and some of the most dramatic grass borders are found here as is the stunning collection of Hemerocallis resplendent in July and August.

Climbing roses intertwined with wisteria have begun to swath the long Walkway; though too young yet to drip with the floral racemes that promise to dapple the light within the soon to be enclosed tunnel.

Giant polished Fruits extend upon a platter dramatising the size and contours of the seemingly familiar; the edge of the bowl in which they lie is created by a circled hedge and willow tunnel.

As sentinels a muted pair of Guardian Hares are custodians for Pippin’s Garden, here a rich palette of low mound shrubs hug the contours of the built bank behind. Two pale stone paved circles are interlinked where an incised rill cascades water from the upper to the lower. Centred on the upper circle is a sundial inscribed as a memorial for a beloved lurcher.

The soft contours of stylised lawn cut borders are block planted to stage the largest sculptures, some upon gentle pillows of sea thrift – colours are thoughtfully selected so that they draw bees and butterflies yet do not detract.

There are a number of themed gardens: the Italian Garden, the Fern Garden, the Bamboo Garden, and a glorious Renaissance tapestry of Summer sedums in the Dry Gravel Garden each complimenting the situated sculptures.

Broad leaf mature trees that were here prior to the couple’s purchase of the land and lakes in 2007 and the subsequent opening in 2011 have been supplemented by countless new trees. Silver birch whips are juvenile yet though anticipated in prospect and many specimen oaks are included in a managed planting plan.

Unrestricted to solely native English species, the area beyond the garden planting is unapologetically naturalistic by design and in the selection of plants that will actually thrive when awash in silt and gravel, for as well as the lakes, the racing River Frome has carved an ox bow that murmurs the amplified acoustic of racing water channelled in a faster flowing slip-stream.

Strategically placed throughout are accessible benches named by the couple in French, ‘simply because we liked the idea’, trance inducing swing seats plumped with colourful cushions and for purchased privacy – perfect for memorable birthdays, romantic proposals and significant anniversaries – the cosy River Keeper’s Hut or Fisherman’s Caravan. Refreshments are not available though picnics are encouraged as visitors in sensible footwear set forth clutching a pre-chilled bottle and a pretty hamper.

The tranquillity of this environment affords the visitor contemplation; where Time To Reflect deconstructs from a miraged waterborne instruction into a lingering invitation to consider. For some, such a physical and serendipitous space, may invoke a kaleidoscope of introspective associations or a surge of resolution.

Historically a private fishery, these twenty six acres have been skilfully transformed through imagination, sheer toil and the desire to make a meaningful contribution, a legacy.

Neither Simon’s nor Monique’s artistry has been diluted, their’s is a cohesive partnership. Though the works of guest artists, predominantly painters, are exhibited inside The Gallery none of the art works on display, either in the landscape or gallery offends, for such controversy would rail against the prevailing philosophy of harmony found here.

The aesthetic impact of Simon’s sculptures is immediate, desirable and evident, showcased by Monique’s visionary scenery, of which it should be born in mind that its true glory will be enjoyed by a later generation.

In setting his scaled sculptures within the countryside, Simon also offers prospective art collectors the opportunity to consider how their favourite form might appear as an ‘eye-catcher’ when placed within a private or public environment.

Reminiscent of a prior age, in which another couple set about taming a landscape to display sculpture when Henry and Irina Moore created their home at Perry Green in Hertfordshire, by embarking upon this adventure Simon and Monique have begun to successfully craft the next chapter in the phenomena of sculpture parks.