Chelsea Art Fair
16 – 19 April 2015

Stag Fight 7 - sized

The Don 1 - sizedlead panel - male 2  (Small)Elsa by Pippa Burley

Beyond the imposingly formal doors of Chelsea Old Town Hall a quiet revolution of fight, fantasy and fixation awaits. Re-launched the Chelsea Art Fair delivers desirable art. Amidst the Spring assembly of exquisite pictorial florals and landscapes, molten metal has raged to offer powerful figurative forms.

Bushra Fakhoury’s furious Stag Fight is an aggressively executed ritual. Two athletic males bearing stag antlers atop of their skulls – in McQueenesque adornment – clash violently, their primordial animal skinned bodies sprung in choreographed airborne attack. This dynamic anatomical composition is grounded by trailing tails then kinetically charged upwards as their heads butt in whiplashed collision. So would it surprise you to know that its sculptor is female? (Some may be more familiar with her public work Dunamis, the man upholding an elephant, placed on Park Lane, London.)

Philip Jackson’s Venetian figure The Don stands as a formable life sized masqued mannequin of haunting poise and proportional balance. The slashed surface texture of the dark cloak heightens the drama of the smooth fingers lightly resting above the left elbow.

A lead bas-relief panel, Profile by Shaun Brosnan, echo’s the heroic form of the 1940s architectural tradition. Its rain streaked vertical patination softens the intensity of the masculine features. In contrast Pippa Burley’s enigmatic portraiture of Elsa conveys the poignant stillness of middle distance gaze – a work worthy of the pursuit of a fellow bus passenger who was persuaded to sit.

A predominantly classical aesthetic prevails, these sculptures are recognisably human in form and posture, rather than distilled to abstract simplicity. Available works are often by Members of the Royal British Society of Sculptors (MRBS) elected by their peers for their talent and testament to the quality of sculpture at this Fair.

Leon Underwood:
Figure and Rhythm @ Pallant House Gallery
7 March – 14 June 2015

Nucleus (1923)Untitled (Foetus), (c.1924-1925)Family (The Childhood of a Planet)(1936)

Atalanta-Shiva (1938)Rebel Spirit (Adventurer) 1933Forty Thousand Years (c.1960)

In preferring Leon, the more unusual, of his three given names – George Claude Leon – there is a hint of the independent pioneer within this twentieth-century artist.1

As an art teacher, draughtsman, painter, printmaker and sculptor Underwood repeatedly reinvented his style to explore the use of materials and develop original visual themes.

Manifest in chalk, terracotta, wood and bronze, Underwood’s interpretations of figurative sculptures exceed the repertoire of his less well-travelled peers. Distilling Russian, Icelandic, American, Mexican and African cultures, into a canon of diverse and unexpected works. Yet it is the simplicity of Underwood’s direct connection to our emotional resonance that draws attention.

This exhibition is meticulously curated to chronicle Underwood’s aesthetic progress through the early twentieth-century influences of Cubism, Surrealism, Abstraction and primitive art, blended with the revolutionary musical beat of the Jazz Age.

Within his sculptures elements of these stylistic genres evolve, exemplified by: the compressed angular face of Nucleus (c.1923), the tactile pebble form of Untitled (Foetus) (c.1924-1925), effervescent bubbles expelled from the mouth of the diving Rebel Spirit (Adventurer) (1933) and the innocent child of Family (The Childhood of a Planet) (1936). While the captivating duality of face and figure found in Atalanta-Shiva (1938) convey rhythmic motion.

Underwood’s specific interest in African art centred on his belief that the art of a nation embodies the essence of its cultural identity and must be preserved – a conviction that he sought to promote with his series of deity masks. Later, in contrast, the stillness of the Giacometti-inspired Forty Thousand Years (c.1960) offered a witty acknowledgement of sculpture’s heritage in deference to the replica rotund Venus of Willendorf held aloft.2

Evidence that Underwood’s talent was recognised during his lifetime can be found in the exhibit of Mindslave: The Mind in Abject Subordination to the Intellect (1934) currently to be found in a wall niche at the end of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Sculpture Gallery.3 Though, as the century progressed, the trend towards the increasingly monumental scale of landscape sculpture saw his work obscured by that of his ambitious students, including Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

Underwood’s sculptures are shrewd observations of humanity. They are smaller, more intimate, recognisable in form and liberal in expression; each work capturing his relentless anthropomorphic curiosity. Rediscovered, Underwood’s artistic mastery has provided a sophisticated legacy of syncopated sculptures.

  1. George Claude Leon Underwood 1890-1975.
  2. The original Venus of Willendorf (Oolitic limestone, 11.1 cm) found in Austria in 1908, was believed to be 40,000 years old, however it has since been dated between 28,000 – 25,000 BCE.
  3. Mindslave: The Mind in Abject Subordination to the Intellect (1934) was exhibited at the Open Air Exhibition of Sculpture in Battersea Park in 1948.

Christopher Marvell @ Portland Gallery 2015

Winged LionProud BirdMan Waiting Watching

Capturing his patient observations of the natural world, Marvell’s works eliminates extraneous detail, whilst retaining familiar characteristics. His whimsical animals, birds, and figures are scaled for interiors and contemplative garden spaces.

Marvell’s craftsmanship renders the weight of bronze as light, contemporary and tactile, washed in warm opaque rose-beige or misted-grey patinas.

Soft silhouettes define the gentle curves of these minimalist sculptures, encouraging the gaze to travel across delicate surface indentations. Scratched and pitted as features, feathers and fur, the fine serrations maintain the simplicity of presentation.

Collectively, Marvell’s sculptures convey a sense of fanciful and playful intent.

 

London Art Fair 2015 – A Sculptural Narrative

pushing against the barrier - angela hunterbroderie anglais shoes sculpturefairy light in a jam-jar

The London Art Fair 2015 offers collectors the tantalizing possibility of owning important smaller scaled works by well-known twentieth-century sculptors – Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, Elisabeth Frink, Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi – the latter being the subject of the keynote panel Conversation.

For those seeking momentum to their perspective, sculptures from the current generation of artists provide a varied narrative with a distinctly gentler curve. Works by Anna Gillespie, Christopher Marvell and Helen Sinclair reflect a variety of transitions progressing away from the abstract forms of the last century.

New works continue to be inspired by feminine forms. In silhouette, Angela Hunter’s bronze cast athletic female is Pushing Against the Barrier (2014), a pose which inspires intriguing interpretations. A strengthening of the mind, the body or both as the horizontal force of repellent pressure is palpably exerted. The arms are raised in parallel with the hands gestured to ‘halt’ defining the limit of tolerance.

The ethereal blue of Cathy Lewis’ slate jesmonite Broderie Anglais (2014) presents an infant poised between leaving her infant years and stepping, in her exquisite lace shoes, into her early childhood. Oriental teacups ornament the child’s tassel-tied hair and her jumpsuit ballons around her slender body. These impregnated textures are the tactile signature of this sculptor’s works.

An innovative mixed media video sculpture Multi-Fairy (2015) by Davy and Kristin McGuire is pure fantasy. Held within a wall mounted dark wooden box, a Duchamp referenced glass jar has a wired lid that rests upon an orange air-tight seal. Contained with are a series of Disney like butterfly-winged Tinkerbelles; each damsel deconstructs as pixelated fairy-dust at the tinkling sound of a bell, to be replaced by another of twenty five fluttering illusions.

Whether mixed media is strictly sculpture has been argued, yet such creativity does enhance capacity for pioneering collectors.