ANOTHER JAM-PACKED SUMMER EXHIBITION AT THE RA
Published June 2018
Having been to the RA’s Summer Exhibition numerous times before, I am aware of its popularity, but I wasn’t expecting the heaving masses akin to that of a Da Vinci exhibition at a 10am on a Monday morning. If you’re looking for a relaxing art buying experience , you’re unlikely to find it here. Not only is the space full of visitors/buyers/art lovers, but it is full to bursting with artwork. Unfortunately, so much has been rammed in, that the overall look is very cluttered. Add to that the walls, which have been painted in fuchsia pink, aquamarine and sky blue, and it becomes all a bit too much to take in.
On the other hand, the visual explosion of work and colour gave the atmosphere a great buzz. Also, the variety of work is enormous and rightfully displays far more sculpture than in previous years. One of the standout pieces on show is actually on display in the courtyard – Conrad Shawcross’ ‘Dappled Light Of The Sun’ consists of a group of angular steel clouds enveloping your space as you walk towards the entrance.
Inside, I was impressed by a number of sculptural works – Anthony Gormley’s small cast iron series; Tim Shaw’s ‘Erebus (Man on Fire)’ and ‘Two Dancing Maenads with Bird’, Bryan Kneale’s ‘Quince’; Dido Crosby’s (what a fantastic name!) ‘Sheep And A Goat’; Emma Broughton’s ‘Rock Pigeons’ and Ivor Abrahams ‘Taking The Dog For A Walk’. Otherwise, I felt the overall quality of sculpture was somewhat lacking. Or was it the curating of the sculpture that was poor? A few pieces looked carelessly dumped on the floor without a plinths, one table was cluttered with about 20 sculptures on it and a few wall reliefs were placed so high they may as well have been on the ceiling. A number of sculptures could have been improved with more attention to their finish and quality of materials. How can the RA accept a sculpture made of a flimsy bit of cardboard or a cracked tile? Those artists who take real pride in their work is plain to see. Stephen Cox’s ‘Bek’ series in Egyptian Alabaster for example is so honest and beautiful.
However if you’re looking for something for your wall, there is something for everyone. Far too many excellent works to mention, but my picks were Jacklin’s ‘Afternoon Skaters’, Olwyn Bowey’s ‘The Reader’; Anthony Green’s ‘A Second Marriage’ and Suzanne Moxhay’s ‘Thicket’. For me, the show culminated in a gloriously colourful and intriguing Grayson & Perry tapestry.
Ultimately though, what makes this exhibition special is firstly, that you view artwork created by artists from at all stages of their careers next to each other, on a level playing field. And secondly, all visitors are elevated from the ‘regular punter’ to art collector by being given the opportunity to buy work from this most prestigious of art galleries.
BARBARA HEPWORTH AT THE TATE: MORE THAN JUST A RETROSPECTIVE
Published April 2017
A sculpture exhibition headlining the high season of the Tate Britain’s art programme is rare. Rarer still is a female artist taking centre stage – Susan Hiller was last to feature in a major exhibition almost 5 years ago. And the artwork itself? Stunning. This exhibition really is something special.
One of Barbara Hepworth’s (1903-75) earliest sculptures, ‘Doves’ from 1927 was the first to catch my eye. It is exactly what it should be – quiet, elegant and peaceful. She allows the natural form of the stone to shine through by curving the shape of the dove wings to follow the veins of marble. It clearly shows that her talent for transforming stone was present early on in her career.
After my initial delight, I thought I might be cheated with an exhibition full of contemporaries work rather than Hepworth herself, but this was not so, and I actually found these comparisons and influences interesting, particularly that of her artist husband, Ben Nicholson. I was also unaware of the variety in Hepworth’s style – showing some Egyptian and Mexican influences rather than purely European. ‘Infant’ is an unusual piece and is reminiscent of a cat cleaning its face. The sculpture managed to be simultaneously curvaceous and yet true to the verticality of the tree trunk from which is was carved.
Some may have liked to see more of her famous ‘Mother and Child’ sculptures, but the small examples that were on display showed the perfect development of Hepworth’s concept – from pierced forms to separate mother and child forms and along with it, the complexity of their relationship. If you’re fan of her ‘String’ works, then you won’t b e disappointed – there are lots to see here. However, I’m a particular fan of marble, so the pieces such as ‘Conoid, Skeptre & Hollow III’ I found to be very beautiful. The purity of the marble harmonised with the purity of the abstract forms while the negative space between them became charged.
Influences, development and variety I have mentioned, but the exhibition is also brilliantly curated. The ‘Pavillion’ works are placed within constructed spaces made of concrete, metal and other urban materials. These backdrops work perfectly with Hepworth’s lesser known bronzes and they transport your imagination right to the location for which they were actually made, making those white cube walls, momentarily invisible.
However, by far the most stunning of all are the ‘Guarea’ sculptures – magnificent and elegant, yet warm and tactile. They’re connected to the death of her son, so their making was a sort of catharsis for Hepworth, which is subtly reflected, because they look to me like they could provide healing. I just want to close my eyes and wrap my arms around these giant conker-looking things!
BORDE HILL GARDENS GARDENS SCULPTURE EXHIBITION 2015
Published Sep 2017
As a setting to display sculpture, you really couldn’t get any better than this. Nestled in the beautiful Sussex countryside and less 10 minutes by car from Haywards Heath, Borde Hill Gardens is a place of colour, scents and creativity. Now in its 16th year, this is an exhibition of emerging and well established sculptors with over 50 works to see.
It is easy to lose your way in the many enchanting gardens, but this is what makes your visit all the more enjoyable when there is a surprise around every corner. Bronze figures stand elegantly upon plinths in the formal areas and smaller animals sit nestled amongst plants and bushes. The relationship of the sculptures to their specific location within the gardens is well curated, but not overly done, so that the visitor can follow a well laid out trail or make their own discoveries as they wish.
Viewing sculpture at Borde Hill Gardens is an idyllic experience. The Elizabethan manor house provides a glorious backdrop and the variety of plants is fantastic. However, the variety of sculptures could be a little better. Almost all of the work is representational and for the size of the gardens, could do with a peppering of larger works. There is also too much of a price difference between some pieces. Although I’m sure a number of the sculptures of less than £100 are sold and, as good quality as they are, they de-value the more expensive works of £5,000 and upwards by default. I think a minimum price of £500 is needed here.
I loved the movement of Guy Portelli’s ‘Equilleus’. It is so vivid, it is almost like a drawing running through space! I also enjoyed Lloyd Le Blanc’s ‘Bird Of Paradise Fountain’ who represents the noble and intelligent character and feathers of this bird with masterly skill.
Overall it is a thoroughly enjoyable show, a magical space in which to experience art, but for next year I hope there is more abstract work on display and as a whole, moves towards the monumental, rather than the ornamental.