Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World
Author : Jacqueline Knox
Modernist, conceptual and influenced by nature.
Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975).
Tate Britain: Exhibition
24 June – 25 October 2015
This exhibition begins with a room full of carvings in wood. They are juxtaposed with work from other artists of the same period and it is interesting to make the comparisons between their work and the work of Barbara Hepworth. I was particularly mesmerised by her Infant, 1929 in Burmese wood. The polished wood reflects the light and thus emphasises the form.
Barbara Hepworth’s work is all about exploring the natural form. Her wood carvings appear to create space within the object. I spent ages looking through the sculptures. Further on in the exhibition there is a film about her life in St Ives and here it is possible to see her wood carvings set in the natural landscape which further emphasises their primitive qualities and their relationship to nature. This film also shows her carving a piece of wood with great passion and must be watched …..
Room 2 emphasises her studio practice and this was my favourite room of the exhibition. The sculptures are incredible in their simplicity and abstract forms. They are put into context by comparing the paintings and drawings of Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) who was to become her husband. The relationship between the paintings and sculptures is evident. Nicholson visited Paris in 1932 and saw work by Joan Miro (1893-1983) , Alexander Calder (1898-1976) and Hans Arp (1886-1966). The influence of this ‘modern movement’ is very evident in this second room, which is all about her studio work.
Barbara Hepworth moved to St Ives at the beginning of the Second World War and there she developed her own form of sculpture. It is clear in the film and her work that she was very adept at carving wood , which after the war in the 1950’s became bronze and thus her work became larger and more fragile as the bronze could be manipulated differently.
The exhibition continues with more rooms exploring modernism, equilibrium, colour and finally Barbara Hepworth’s pavilion, where her large bronze sculptures of the 1950’s are set ‘outside’ which puts them into a context of integrating architecture, nature and sculpture.
This exhibition is a ‘must see’. I will be going a second time to linger over Barbara Hepworth’s abstract forms. Interestingly, I left with a book about Ben Nicholson as I wanted to further explore the relationship between their work. It also made me want to visit Tate, St Ives which despite being a Tate member for most of my life I have to admit I have never visited! St Ives is about 6 hours by train from London Paddington so it would make sense to make it a weekend trip from London. Below is a link to Tate, St Ives.
Tate Britain is easily accessible. Take the tube to Pimlico and it is a short 10 minute walk or there is a Santander bike station just in front on the right and the cycle routes are clearly marked. Failing this there is always the reliable London black cab.