Exhibition Visits: Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

This 500 acre park is host to more than 80 sculptures (I will need to make a return visit to see all of them! For example, the works by Andy Goldsworthy were a little too far to walk to on a cold, March day). Two works that I found particularly memorable were:-

James Turrell’s Deer Shelter Skyspace, 2007

This sculpture uses a disused deer shelter (who knew such a thing existed?!), which has been converted to have austere stone seating in a dark, windowless, grey, underground room. The only light is shed through a square, cut into the ceiling, through which you can see the ever-changing skyscape (again grey, on the day we visited, but with subtle variations and movements in the clouds – rather like a Rothko painting). It felt like being in a sensory deprivation room, with only the sky to look at and contemplate. As a calm place for meditation, I thought it would work, but I imagine that it gets rather busy on sunnier days. This American artist has explored light and skyscapes throughout his career, his most well-known work being the Roden Crater project in the Arizona desert, and links have been drawn to a quote from his Quaker grandmother, who said “Look within yourself and welcome the light”. I see a connection to structures made by ancient civilisations, such as Stonehenge, that celebrate alignments of the sun, moon and planets.

Ai Weiwei’s Iron Tree, 2013

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This sculpture is constructed from ninety-seven iron sections, cast from the parts of numerous real trees. The individual casts are re-constructed into the shape of a tree using traditional Chinese joints, in which the nuts and screws are obvious. The roughness of the bark and fissures in the wood are re-created. The artist has stated that his work with fragments highlights the importance of the individual in creating the whole. And that the use of found wood relates to culture being influenced by its forebears.

As we approached the chapel, in whose grounds this sculpture stands, we kept looking at real trees at a distance, wondering if they were the artwork. The non-contiguous nature of the joins and the unnatural regularity of the construction mean that it stands out as manmade, and was instantly recognisable when we found it. I found it to be almost beautiful, but not as beautiful as a real tree. For me, it said something about our inability to capture the perfection (and imperfections) found in the natural world. The rusting nature of the materials used means that it will eventually disappear, much like the natural life cycle of a real tree.

In an interview with smithsonian.com, Ai Weiwei discusses the influence that they Zhou Dynasty Chinese art has on him (2-3,000 years ago), describing it as “… the highest form in human art”. He also remarks upon the wholistic approach of these artists and craftsmen “… with philosophy, aesthetics, morality and craftsmanship – it was just one…”. Another link that the artist draws, is between his work and van Gogh’s: that artist’s approach to his work as being like a form of religious worship.

Disobedient Bodies at The Hepworth Wakefield

This exhibition is curated by fashion designer, Jonathan Anderson. It explores “the human form in art, fashion and design.”

Sculptures are displayed next to the work of fashion designers and design objects, provoking comparisons in how the pieces interact and how they depict the human body.

There were also photographs by Jamie Hawkesworth, featuring local school children wearing some of the clothing.

Wakefield Kids by Jamie Hawkesworth

Jamie Hawkesworth, part of the Wakefield Kids series 09/15

Source:- http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/gallery/23638/8/wakefield-kids-by-jamie-hawkesworth

This child wears an Issey Miyake Bamboo Pleats dress, which clearly illustrates the way the clothing affects the form and outline of the body, when worn.

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Jean Paul Gaultier, Cone dress, 1983/84

This dress was paired with Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure, 1936, carved in elm wood. Apart from the pose, I did not find much in common with these two pieces: the wooden sculpture being rounded, hard, shiny, recognisably human and timeless: the cone dress feels rather dated and very much of its time (1980s), with its exaggerated and cartoon-like female shape. Although they do show a similar abstraction, and a link to undulating landscapes.

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Issey Miyake, Lantern dress (seen at right, above), 1994

Isamu Noguchi Akari (Ceiling Model E) (at left), 1954

Isamu Noguchi, Akari (Ceiling Model 31N) (centre), 1954

These objects had an obvious connection in form, derived from traditional Japanese lamps. I found the pieces quite beautiful – sculptural, yet luminous and delicate in construction. When seen on the body, the Issey Miyake dress looks surprisingly wearable, while giving the wearer a uniquely different silhouette.

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J W Anderson, 28 Jumpers, 2017

This playful series of giant jumpers were touchable, and made a dream-like exhibit. Some had wear and tear holes repeated throughout the length, making them appear to be ‘old favourites’ from someone’s wardrobe. Their size seems to be elevating their importance and making us contemplate the everyday patterns, designs and textures to be found in our own home. It was interesting to watch visitors interacting with the objects – when one is so used to ‘not touching’ artworks in an exhibition. It underlines the tactile nature of textiles, which provoke an almost irresistible urge to reach out and feel them.

The Hepworth Wakefield

Other items on display at the museum were the Hepworth maquettes and models discussed previously in this article.

In a collaboration with Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge and artist, Anthea Hamilton, a collection of objects from the Kettle’s Yard collection have been displayed with specially commissioned pieces (such as large African, braided grass rugs, which lend a wonderful, straw-like aroma to the gallery), and a grand piano. Kettle’s Yard is the collection of modern British art owned by H S Jim Ede, normally housed in a series of modernised cottages, in which the owner lived and displayed his collection, alongside furniture and natural artifacts. He and his wife, Helen, lived there between 1958 and 1973, and donated the collection to the University of Cambridge in 1966.

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Anthea Hamilton, Christopher Wood Kimono, 2016 (indigo and eucalyptus dyed cotton, natural cotton, silk, metal)

Anthea has been inspired by a self-portrait by Christopher Wood from the Kettle’s Yard collection and has used the colour palette and pattern of triangles in the jumper shown in the painting to inform this new artwork.

I very much liked this piece, with its geometric pattern, yet handmade look, showing slight variations to each of the shapes. It has a Japanese look and feel in form, but the colour palette derived from the painting gives it a link to the collection and shows the artist’s response to what she has observed and taken from the painting.

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Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Bird Swallowing a Fish, 1914 (original plaster), Posthumous bronze cast, 1964

I love the humour and simplified forms in this piece. It takes a moment to work out what is happening, but it has a nice sense of balance and harmony. The smooth surface and monotone colour palette focus your eye on the narrative, and shapes present in the piece.

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Anthea Hamilton, Vulcano Table, 2014 (blown glass sculpture).

This striking sculpture quickly caught my attention, with its balloon-like blown glass forms apparently caught in mid-fall. The simple red and black palette forms a connection to the volcano of the title, as does the oozing, lava-like appearance. The artist has linked this piece to the Kettle collection in the way that functional items (such as the desk that the glass forms rest on) can be a new setting for displaying art (as opposed to being confined to a gallery). I applaud the idea of art forming part of everyday life and being displayed around homes, offices and public buildings for all to enjoy. In practice, there is always the problem of damage and theft to contend with!

Summary

What can I learn from these artists?

The sculptures at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park showed ways of working with nature, highlighting one aspect (eg, light) as a way of contemplating the whole of nature and our place within it.

Working with 3-D objects that will be:- viewed from all sides and angles; must be weatherproof; possibly interactive; and look at home in their environment are all aspects of sculpture to be born in mind.

The Disobedient Bodies exhibition made me consider the ways in which the human form can be an influence on art, design and fashion – acting as a canvas on which the artist or designer can paint their own ideas. I rarely use figures in my own work, but this is an area that I am interested in. I can practise drawing and modelling figures to gain confidence in representing the human figure, which opens all sorts of possibilities for future development (such as wearable art, jewellery, fashion and depicting the figure in artworks).

The Hepworth Wakefield: Anthea Hamilton’s Kimono shows how you can be inspired by one small aspect of another artist’s work (eg, colour palette and pattern). It was interesting to see how The Kettle’s Yard collection in general has sparked ideas for Anthea’s new works, and has led to new connections and evolutions to the collection. For me, it underlines the importance of studying the work of artists and designers for inspiration. One feature or quality in an artwork could trigger a new line of thought that could provide inspiration for my own work.

 


References:-

Websites:-

http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/gallery/23638/8/wakefield-kids-by-jamie-hawkesworth Accessed 13/04/17

http://www.hepworthwakefield.org/shop/print/021509/henry-moore-mini-print-reclining-figure Accessed 13/04/17

https://j-w-anderson.com/ Accessed 13/04/17

http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/collection-item/self-portrait/ Accessed 13/04/17

http://www.mapltd.com/artist/jamiehawkesworth/ Accessed 13/04/17

http://rodencrater.com/about/ Accessed 13/04/17

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/ai-weiwei-on-his-favorite-artists-living-in-new-york-and-why-the-government-is-afraid-of-him-30139964/#mFPRBcC4PhsLQlpY.99 Accessed 03/04/17

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/turner-prize-2016/about-artists/anthea-hamilton Accessed 13/04/17

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/mark-rothko-1875 Accessed 13/04/17

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/henri-gaudier-brzeska-1143 Accessed 13/04/17

http://www.ysp.co.uk/exhibitions/ai-weiwei Accessed 13/04/17

http://www.ysp.co.uk/exhibitions/james-turrell-deer-shelter-skyspace Accessed 13/04/17