The second of the 3 women artists is Barbara Hepworth. Her exhibition Sculpture for a Modern World was at Tate Britain last year.
The exhibition was not widely loved by the critics. As Jonathan Jones put it in the Guardian “Boxed Hepworth”.
Admitedly I did find it rather sterile. But I just love her work so much that I shall put that aside and instead focus on why I admire her work so much.
But I ask, what’s not to like about a woman who was born in Yorkshire and ended her life in Cornwall? What two better places could there be?
For me, like many others, her sculpture works best outdoors – where most of it was inspired.
It works not only in open landscape – like at Yorkshire Sculpture Park(http://www.ysp.co.uk/) amongst many other destinations – but also in an enclosed landscape. Not least in her own garden (http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives/barbara-hepworth-museum). The garden in St Ives where she worked and died is a constant source of inspiration and reflection for me.
And what about an urban setting? There are far too many to mention so I will only mention the John Lewis Building on Oxford Street and Single Form outside the United Nations Building in New York. Winged Figure is an awesome sculpture adorning the wall of the John Lewis building and represents “the idea of common ownership and common interests in a partnership of thousands of workers“. It appears to me to be a bird or angel like figure spreading its wings to encompass the workers and co-owners under them. The aluminium prototype of this work can be seen in the art gallery she inspired (http://www.hepworthwakefield.org/).
The Hepworth Wakefield is a fabulous place. According to the Independent and with which I couldn’t agree more : “One of the finest contemporary art museums in Europe.”
I have to confess that I’m a sucker for anything with a hole in it so am naturally drawn to Hepworth’s pierced forms. But the tactile and visual qualities of her materials – wood, bronze, marble, etc offer so much.
The hospital drawings of the late 1940s and their subsequent manifestation in sculptures shows, for me, her versatility and skill that often seem to be questioned.
Often, seeing the world through the eyes of a child is liberating. Four-Square (Walk Through) in her Sculpture Garden apparently was the best ice cream parlour in Cornwall for a couple of years where the most peculiar flavours were to be had – designed not by Heston Blumenthal but by my eldest child when she was a couple of years old.
The fact that Barbara Hepworth managed to produce so much excellent and internationally acclaimed work as well as be mother to four children – including triplets (see there’s always a 3 to be found) – is truly inspirational. Domestic demands and lack of space restricted Hepworth to small sculptures and paintings during the war but she soon found a way to obtain a studio and to scale up!. Awesome stuff Babs!