Yes, I finally made it to the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, a wonderful space filled with all things Hepworth.
Barbara Hepworth – ‘Hollow Form with White Interior’, Guarea wood,
part painted, 1963
One of the things I really enjoy about her work is the positivity it encapsulates. In large part this seems to be due to the way in which she viewed the making of art, and its relationship to nature. To quote Hepworth from ‘Barbara Hepworth – A Pictorial Autobiography’ published by Tate Publishing:
“I think the very nature of art is affirmative, and in being so it reflects the laws and the evolution of the universe – both in the power and rhythm of growth and structure as well as the infinitude of ideas which reveal themselves when one is in accord with the cosmos and the personality is then free to develop.”
Barbara Hepworth – ‘The Cosdon Head’, blue marble, 1949
‘The Cosdon Head’ is the first piece you see as you enter the permanent exhibition, and it’s quite a wonderful piece to walk round slowly, watching carefully as the right hand and left hand planes meet and the two faces meet before parting again to be either one or the other. There’s an ambiguity about spatial depth which really holds the viewer’s attention, as the experience of seeing flickers between interpreting the object as comprising flat 2D faces with a 3D presence. And no photograph can capture the subtleties of the way in which Hepworth has worked the surface, which transforms it again from being a Picassoesque merging of two minimally drawn faces to hinting at real faces and real people behind them. It really does have to be seen ‘in the flesh’ to be properly appreciated.
Along with Hepworth, work by her contemporaries is also shown, including pieces by Ben Nicholson, Winifred Nicholson, John Skeaping, Mondrian, Gabo, Piper, Lanyon, Pasmore, Frost and others. One piece that drew me was a painting by Paul Nash called ‘Kinetic Feature’
Paul Nash – ‘Kinetic Feature’, 1931
I found this painting quite intriguing as I had only thought of Nash as a war artist before, and seen his more surrealist work. I’d never thought of him as being abstract, but having said that, I’m having real difficulty finding any more abstract paintings by him.
Back to Hepworth, I’ve found a quote by her which I think is really useful. It’s from a piece she wrote for the catalogue ‘Unit One’, where she talks about her own practice:
“Carving is interrelated masses conveying an emotion; a perfect relationship between the mind, and the colour, light and weight which is the stone, made by the hand which feels. It must be so essentially sculpture that it can exist in no other way, something completely the right size but which has growth, something still and yet having movement, so very quiet and yet with a real vitality. A thing so sculpturally good that the smallest section radiates the intensity of the whole and the spatial displacement is as lovely as the freed and living stone shape.”
I think the words in bold print are a good guide for any art that we make, whether in a 3D or a 2D format. Let it be the right size for the concept, but with the promise of further growth. Let it be full of movement. Let it be alive.
Barbara Hepworth – ‘The Family of Man’