WELCOME TO OUR NEW SCULPTURE BLOG!
We are delighted to be launching our blog with a fabulous new article by Dr Judith LeGrove about our 'Geoffrey Clarke: Intuitionism' exhibition and our 'Artist in Lockdown Series'.
Over the coming weeks and months we'll be bringing you insightful articles, interviews and comment on our favorite subject - Sculpture.
OUTDOOR SCULPTUREGallery Director Polly Bielecka offers a few tips on placing sculpture outdoors - May 2020
One of the unique pleasures of placing sculpture outside is seeing how the work looks each day in different light, seasons and weather conditions. If you are placing sculpture in a new garden design you'll need to think about how the garden might look like in ten years' time. Before making a purchase consider the practicalities - what is it made of, will it last, how is it constructed, does it require a plinth, how will it be secured and finally if you are concerned about investment research the artist's background.
Lynn Chadwick who created his own personal sculpture park believed sculpture should enhance a landscape and the landscape should enhance the sculpture. Placement is critical and volume and scale are essential considerations for placing a sculpture outside.
Wide open spaces can be difficult as even a monumental sculpture can be dwarfed by open horizons. Try to position with a scale reference, for example figurative sculpture often works well in more intimate spaces whereas big, bold, abstract works tend to require more space. Sculpture can add a focal point or lead the eye to a particular area of the garden you'd like to emphasise. It can lift a dull area or compliment a busy one.
If you already have a strong architectural design or a bold planting scheme (that is likely to stay!) choose a work that initiates a conversation and compliments the design both in form, colour and texture. Sight lines are also key so make sure you've considered all your approaches.
TIP: draw a few sketches of potential locations - it doesn't matter how scruffy they are it's more the mental exercise of having to think about relative scale and by sketching you'll do it almost subconsciously. If you don't like drawing print out a few photos and draw the outline of the work on top. Alternatively you can send us a photo and we can make suggestions and make a render for you of the sculpture in situ.
Beware the third dimension! It is all very well planning in two dimensions but you can only really tell what a sculpture will look like once it is in situ. Orientation of the sculpture either on a plinth or freestanding is crucial so make sure you are there for the installation and can check all the viewpoints before you settle on a final position.
Whilst sculpture is very good at 'inhabiting a space' a fine delicate piece will be lost against a busy background. When placing a work try to think of the background in all seasons. For example if it's a smaller work on a low plinth is it going to get consumed with shrubs in the spring/summer and would it benefit from being on a taller plinth.
Plinths, like picture frames, can make or break how your sculpture is viewed so don't underestimate their importance if you need one. The height and volume of a plinth is crucial for making sure you 'read' the sculpture to its best advantage. Plinths can be made from a variety of materials from bronze to rough hewn railway sleepers depending on context and budget.
Depending on the material most sculpture placed outdoors will require a little maintenance from time to time. Bronzes for example will require re-waxing to maintain the patination whereas painted surfaces will occasionally need washing down with warm soapy water.
TIP: To stop overzealous strimmers damaging your plinth or your sculpture add a border of gravel or stone chippings around the base.
We would always recommend that large works are installed by professionals as they will make sure the right lifting equipment is used and will limit the damage that could occur to your sculpture or your garden. Bear in mind access routes, widths, door frames and steps.
SECURITY & SAFETY
Security and safety are very important. Bolt down works where possible to their plinths or footings for both security and safety in high winds. Footings are particularly important for heavy works as subsidence can be an issue.
ARTICLE 1 : TALKING PRINTS1st April 2020 - Dr Judith LeGrove author of Geoffrey Clarke: A Sculptor's Prints talks about our exhibition 'Geoffrey Clarke:Intuitionism'
A talk, by way of a guided tour, written as an essay. A ridiculous idea? Unusual times call for creative measures, and this wonderful exhibition, marking 70 years since Geoffrey Clarke hit his stride as a printmaker, is one that should not be allowed to go unremarked.
Let's start with two early prints. A Self Portrait (1949), made when Geoffrey was probably twenty-four, shows him looking serious. He's dressed in a tightly buttoned collar and tie, with a neat moustache, exaggeratedly long nose, and curly hair fanning around his head. Next, in Mother and Child (1949), we see again the long face, eyes near the top, but the eyes aren't level, and there is a definite curve to the face. These are ideas Geoffrey borrowed from Modigliani, but there is also the influence of Cubism and Byzantine icons. It's a melting-pot of styles and ideas, typical of a student's thirst for knowledge.
From these early prints, I'll now rewind, to trace how Geoffrey reached this point.
Geoffrey was born in 1924 in Derbyshire. His father was an architect, who took him on his sketching expeditions to draw landscapes, which he later made into etchings. Geoffrey's grandfather, a church furnisher, visited parishes with sample books of stained glass and ecclesiastical fittings. Early on, Geoffrey could make beautiful line drawings of buildings in perspective, and aged sixteen he went to art school. In 1943 he was conscripted into the RAF, following which he enrolled at the Lancaster and Morecambe School of Arts and Crafts, which had a reputation as a springboard to the Royal College of Art.
Geoffrey's teacher at Lancaster was the painter, potter and stained-glass artist Ronald Grimshaw, who was exactly what Geoffrey needed: a maverick. Grimshaw read poetry in his classes, but he knew all about modernism, and encouraged students to use any method - even their feet - to get the effects they wanted. He was the first to discuss symbolism with Geoffrey, and remained a crucial influence throughout his life. Vital, too, was the place where Geoffrey lodged, Warton vicarage, and his friendship with Rev Eric Rothwell. This period was, effectively, his spiritual awakening - a dawning of the interconnectedness of nature, landscape and existence.
Gaining a place at the RCA, in Graphic Design, Geoffrey quickly shifted to Stained Glass. At the beginning of his second term, in January 1949, he borrowed his father's small etching press and started printmaking in the attic room of his lodgings. What happened next - ironically - is that Geoffrey got flu. And while lying there in the autumn of 1949, feverish, then exhausted, he completely rethought his artistic language. He started with pencil sketches, which he filed, carefully, in a manila folder inscribed 'Within this folder lies a new world'.
This new world was peopled with spindly figures, their eyes on external branches, engaged in preaching, juggling, tending sheep. Trees became arrows - like a child's drawing of a Christmas tree - and everywhere was the symbol of the cross, uniting man with landscape. When Geoffrey started etching again, in January 1950, his work was transformed. There was no sense of volume, but instead a linear world - a landscape of the imagination. A tiny Shepherd has two stocky legs, a triangular 'skirt', and two arms raised to clutch a cross. In Man 'Concealed' Behind Trees (1950), the depiction is even more abstract. The figure again holds a cross but stands on a table, and something strange descends from the sky - like a bristling wand.
This takes us neatly to the exhibition's title, 'Intuitionism'. For Geoffrey's diploma he was required to write a thesis. He didn't like writing, but approached the task with characteristic seriousness. First he divided his thesis in two. One half contained a précis of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, which he saw as parallel to his own spiritual quest, but the other, 'Exposition of a Belief', became his artistic creed. In it he defined his belief in abstraction and the spiritual foundation of art, and introduced the symbols in his work: the chalice, the cross, the unity of man, nature and the supreme spiritual force - he didn't name it as God, just as he rarely named his belief, explicitly, as Christian. A table represents earth, the bristling wand (also a circle, sun or raincloud) is the divine presence. And here we enter the cycle of intuitionism, as it becomes apparent that Geoffrey's whole world is a balancing act. Intellect balances intuition.
In Geoffrey's depictions of man, there is often an external divine presence, as well as a cross within the figure's head, with the idea that these inner and outer forces must be unified to reach spiritual equilibrium. Adoration of Nature (1951) exemplifies this balance. Two figures, man and woman, are planted on the earth (a table), through which a tree - representing nature - grows. Above is a sun or raincloud, blessing and sustaining the tree. And actually, if we look at the figures' arms, reaching towards the precious tree, they might be the arms of the child, reaching towards its mother, in the earlier Mother and Child.
Geoffrey's thesis, completed in 1951, is a stunning object: leather-bound, with an iron relief set into the cover, and containing actual prints of etchings in this exhibition. If he felt nervous about writing the text itself, the idea was to 'knock 'em dead' with the presentation. He was awarded a gold medal when he finally completed his studies.
But meanwhile, Geoffrey was already exhibiting. He was commissioned to makea large iron and glass sculpture, Icarus, for the Festival of Britain. Adoration of Nature was commissioned by the designer Robin Day, to feature on a piece of furniture which was part of a prize-winning installation at the Milan Triennale. Geoffrey's iron sculpture was included in the 1952 Venice Biennale, the first international showing of a young, ambitious generation that included Kenneth Armitage, Lynn Chadwick and Eduardo Paolozzi. And from that point, his career took off. Geoffrey was commissioned to make stained glass for the new Coventry Cathedral, and took part in a succession of prestigious architectural projects which occupied him until the later 1960s. For that reason, he rarely found time for printmaking.
Within his work, however, there remained two constants: symbolism and a fascination with materials. Geoffrey wrote in his thesis that 'there are many images for man'. This was before sensitivity about language, so when Geoffrey said 'man', he meant humankind, man and woman. His prints indeed include many symbols for man, but once your eye becomes accustomed, you can decode what's happening. There are families, single figures, warriors, footballers and a harlequin - taking in a dizzying array of forms. In the mid-1980s, Geoffrey revisited this imagery and developed it in cast aluminium. An etched Warrior II (1956), peering from his helmet, thus became an aluminium Tankman (1984), half-concealed within an observation hatch. Likewise, the figures in Adoration of Nature became the chunkier man and woman of Towards a Constant.
Then we have materials. Although there is a development in Geoffrey's use of techniques, there is also a creative wilfulness in his disregard for tradition. Starting with copper plates, he progressed to steel, which add texture without the use of aquatint grounds. Looking at Picasso's prints he became interested in sugar-lift. You can see this in etchings with a strong black line, which originates from painting sugar solution onto the plate with a brush. Geoffrey printed smaller etchings on his father's portable press and larger ones at the RCA. The warriors, from 1956, were taken to Paris, to be printed by Picasso's printer, Jacques Frélaut - a trip sponsored by Robert Erskine, who owned St George's Gallery and commissioned the colour version of Harlequin (1956).
But because Geoffrey enjoyed printmaking, he preferred to do it himself. Printing can be a very individual process, by varying the viscosity of the ink, the intensity of the colour, and by wiping the plate to leave thinner or thicker patches of ink. If a professional printer makes an edition, the aim is to make every print identical. But for Geoffrey each print presented a new opportunity, which could drive dealers and collectors mad. Frequently he didn't complete editions. Sometimes, later on, dealers commissioned new editions - with Geoffrey's authorisation. Comparing the two, the prints Geoffrey made are usually on thinner paper, and often have a dark, stormy quality to the inking.
This exhibition highlights printmaking, yet it also demonstrates the breadth of Geoffrey's work, crossing into design, sculpture, glass, jewellery and furnishings. There are sketches for textiles, a wallpaper sample and wonderful iron sculptures, which relate to the etchings, as well as etchings, such as Study for Sculpture (1956), which relate to stained glass. Aluminium sculptures show the casting technique he developed at his studio in Suffolk. We can also see how Geoffrey dreamed - in the tiny maquettes and plateaus which were envisaged on an environmental scale, and the exquisite jewellery, sculptures to be worn. But it all began with the etchings, and it's through these, really, that we can make sense of a life's work.
To see a film of the 'Geoffrey Clarke: Intuitionism' exhibition click here
ARTICLE 2: SCULPTURE FOR CONSERVATION - MONUMENT TO SUDAN2ND APRIL 2020
Sudan, the last surviving male Northern White Rhino passed away on the 19th March 2018, leaving only two remaining female offspring. In the final days before he died Rungwe Kingdon of Pangolin Editions and photographer Steve Russell were asked by Ol-Pejeta Conservancy to travel to Kenya to scan this beautiful beast with the idea of making a life-size bronze and a maquette that could be sold to raise funds for rhino conservation and an inspirational project that could bring this species back from extinction.
As a child growing up in Uganda, I vividly recall seeing Northern White Rhinos in the wild where they fulfilled a central role in the grassland ecology of the region and felt profoundly moved to look into the eyes of the last of their type. These amazing mammals have had the misfortune of living in one of the most war-torn areas of Africa, which combined with a ludicrous financial value awarded to rhino horn has seen their species annihilated.
I resolved that I would have to create a monument to Sudan and his species; a permanent marker of his existence, a plea for all other species we are having an immense impact on and to try and communicate something of what it felt like to be in the presence of such a magnificent animal.
However, although this monument may express something of Sudan’s physical presence, it cannot replace the living, breathing, awesome individual Sudan was. It cannot replace the extraordinary product of millions of years of evolution and the ecological keystone his species was.
It is just possible that ground-breaking new research in the field of veterinary in-vitro fertilisation could use sperm and eggs harvested from Sudan and other northern white rhinos to recreate new individuals in the future. The problems are considerable and in the meantime, the natural environment where these Rhinos lived will have been permanently altered by their absence, nonetheless, the ingenuity of humankind extends to creative ends just as it does to destructive ones and that must be applauded.
Sudan died shortly after we recorded him. Outrage and sadness were galvanised into energy and together with the digital and modelling teams at Pangolin, we have made our monument. On one side, Sudan lies on the ground his head heavy with advanced years and the weight of his iconic, relict status. On the other side, he tilts his huge head up slightly and raises a foreleg; a symbol of hope for the moment a viable embryo created with his sperm is born, struggles up and rescues his species from total extinction. Both the 3 foot and life size models will be cast into bronze editions of 25 and 5 numbered casts respectively and will be sold to help fund the valuable environmental and conservation work done by Ol-Pejeta and their parent organization, Fauna and Flora international.
To enquire about purchasing an edition of either the lifesize or maquette version of Monument to Sudan please contact Pangolin London T: 0207520 1480
Images: Courtesy of Steve Russell Studios
MAKE YOUR OWN: JEFF LOWE SCULPTURESCULPTURE PROJECT #1 - 3RD APRIL 2020
Jeff Lowe’s recent sculptures are shaped from curved sheets of aluminium, folded in and around each other, with silhouettes cut into the material, allowing a view through the outer ‘skin’ to an intimate space within. Here’s how to make your own from home…
WHAT YOU NEED
- -1 old magazine/catalogue
- -A pair of scissors
- -A pencil / pen/ marker pen
- -A handful of old buttons
- -Some Blu Tack or glue
Rip out a few pages from the magazine/ catalogue. I chose 6 pages from an old auction catalogue.
Draw the outlines and inside cutouts of your choice on the back of each page. I did 3 big outlines, 2 medium and 1 small.
Cut around all the outlines & cut out the shapes.
Connect the 3 biggest cut outs using Blu Tack. This will be the outer layer of the sculpture.
Connect the medium & small cut outs and then connect them to the outer layer using Blu Tack or Glue.
Stick the buttons at the connecting points of each cut out (and wherever else you like!)
And ta-da! You have just made your very own Jeff Lowe inspired sculpture.