Archive for the '4.4 Figure sculpture' Category

UA1-WA:P4-p4-Exercise: Annotate a Henry Moore figures sculpture

I wrote about Henry Moore for a Research Point on abstract sculpture back in Part 3 (see 15-Dec-2013). Wanting to avoid too much repetition I’ve decided to meet this current requirement by looking at particular aspects of works previously mentioned.

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Henry Moore
Reclining figure: Angles
1980
bronze, green patina
113.3 x 219.6 x 156.8 cm; 10.8 cm bronze base
http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/6.1981/

This work was created late in Moore’s career, but the subject recurs throughout his work. Examples are included in his textile work – the large wall hanging Reclining figure of 1949 (linen printed by Ascher, see TEX 21.1 on http://www.henry-moore.org/hmf/press/press-releases/henry-moore/past-press-releases/henry-moore-textiles/henry-moore-textiles) and Reclining Figures 1944-46, which includes a body position very similar to the later focus sculpture (TEX 8.2 on http://www.henry-moore.org/pg/exhibitions/archive/2009/henry-moore-textiles-at-pallant-house-gallery).

In my earlier post I found the distortions in the body somewhat unnerving, and suggested “this work seems to have no reason or meaning beyond Moore’s interest in working with volumes and forms”. Given my more recent studies, can my previous views stand?

First I should note a potential fallacy underlying my comment on the similarity of Moore’s reclining nudes of the mid 1940s and forty years later. A superficial similarity does not mean the works come from the same interests and point of view with no development or progression (which statement itself should not imply that development or progression are necessarily good or essential).

In recent exercises I have studied the reclining nude through art history. The focus work here is part of the continuation of that history, however I believe it does not trigger many of the issues within a feminist critique. Moore’s figure is not an idealization of the female form. It is a distortion, which could be interpreted as a violent act, but I see this as more using the figure as a known starting point in an exploration of volumes. The figure is not asleep or submissive or challenging in its gaze (if one stands “in front” to give the viewpoint of the classical painting). Instead she turns to direct her gaze elsewhere, to the side and over the viewer. Personally I don’t see this as a particularly seductive or erotic figure, although I note the polishing effect of the many hands which must have touched her breast over the years, entirely removing any patina.

The distortion of the figure could be related to Moore’s interest in surrealism, in particular a concern with metamorphosis. In his sketchbooks Moore could morph bones, stones or other natural items towards a human form. There is also an element of abstraction, although in this example the human figure is still clearly evident. For Moore “abstraction was a tool, not an objective” (Causey, 2010).

moore_agnsw_09The head is small compared to the bulk of the body and the facial features generalised, but there is still a clear facial plane, lines of hair, and an interesting echo and reversal in the shaping of the hair and the nose.

Aristide Maillol La Montagne [The mountain] 1937 Lead

Aristide Maillol
La Montagne [The mountain] 1937
Lead
http://artsearch.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=116514

Earlier works by Moore can show a fragility, even an anguish, perhaps “responding to the horrors of war” (Ure-Smith, 2011). The focus work, created decades later, has instead a strength, a monumentality. It seems to me anchored, and reminds me of Maillol’s mountainous figure (see 13-Jun-2014). However transplanted to Sydney, on a flat grassy area just before the slope to the harbour, I can’t claim that Moore’s figure is reflected in its landscape.

Moore had a close and loving relationship with his mother. One could read into the long line of the backbone in the focus work a trace from Moore’s rubbing of his mother’s back after a long hard day of work. The control and power of the work, a sense of gravity and stability, could refer to their relationship. I don’t believe this Reclining Figure can be included in the “images of anxiety” seen in some works (McAvera, 2001), but neither is the work “almost entirely lacking in any interior or psychological life” (ibid) – that deliberate, directed gaze is too suggestive of volition.

Good art, Moore asserted, contains elements both abstract and surrealist, classical and romantic: “Order and surprise, intellect and imagination, conscious and unconscious. Both sides of the artist’s personality must play their part.” (National Gallery of Art Washington, 2001). Reclining figure: Angles supports a wide variety of readings, some quite contradictory, and I believe is the richer for it.

I’d like to look briefly at another work by Moore I have seen in the past year – Hill Arches. This work more clearly displays a metamorphosis, an ambiguity. Is is the bones of animals or some kind of insect? In my eyes it is an erotic work full of sexual energy and activity (see 15-Dec-2013). Forms have been hollowed out, flesh stripped away, forms within forms laid bare. However it is the varied presentation of the work which I will discuss here.

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Henry Moore
Hill arches
1973 Bronze
National Gallery of Australia
http://artsearch.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=37537

There are multiple versions of this work. The maquette shows a wider spacing of the elements, losing drama and tension (see http://catalogue.henry-moore.org:8080/emuseum/view/objects/asitem/search@/0/invno-asc?t:state:flow=86105d9a-265b-4eaf-b523-6035b3fbd633, or if that link isn’t good search for Object Number: LH 634 cast 0 ). The working model (Object Number: LH 635 cast 0) is tightened up considerably.

christanto_03The version pictured above is in a corner of the National Gallery of Australia sculpture garden in Canberra and is no.4 from an edition of 4. The work is in a little hollow, heavily shaded by trees, next to a rush-filled pond. The pond itself contains Dadang Christanto’s Heads from the North and in one of my photographs of Christanto’s work you can see Moore’s in the distance. Hill Arches doesn’t dominate space, it isn’t really framed by its environment. Instead I came across this work with a sense of discovery. The work almost blends in to the gardens, the large structure dwarfed by the trees, the colour melding with the natural surrounds.

My interpretation of the sculpture as a copulating couple was based on the angle at which I first saw it, but perhaps also by the rather out-of-the-way positioning and the sense of almost surprising the work in its private space.

I found some photographs from circa. 1985, 1990 and 1995 https://artserve.anu.edu.au/raid1/student_projects/garden/hill/hill.html. Landscaping of the sculpture gardens began in 1981 and most of the sculptures were installed in 1982 (see Piekains, 2003). In those earlier years the Moore sculpture was much more prominent, although even by 1995 it could be said “over the years, as the trees have grown, the work has appeared to sink a little into the landscape” (Hyden, 1995). The work in 2014 seems to have settled in still more, and with the increasing density of reeds in the pond it is not quite so accurate to claim “the Henry Moore sits in languid repose by the edge of the Marsh Pond, the lustrous bronze surface intentionally played off against the surface of the pond” (Piekains, 2003).

The situation of the sculpture seemed to have a strong influence on my experience of it, so I spent some time tracking down the other works in the edition.

moore_viennaOne version is in Karlsplatz, Vienna, Austria. The shot from the right is from Google Earth, and shows the work in a very formal setting to one side of an oval pool (I couldn’t even find the Canberra version, hidden in the trees on Google Earth). Photographs I found taken from various angles look completely different, influenced by the architecture of the different buildings behind – for examples see:

  • http://www.henry-moore.org/works-in-public/world/austria/vienna/church-of-st-charles/hill-arches
  • http://www.travelwriticus.com/hill-arches-henry-moore-vienna-austria/
  • http://www.aviewoncities.com/gallery/showpicture.htm?key=kveat0636
  • In the second photograph listed above the Moore work is a wonderful counterpoint to the baroque church behind, while in the third photograph it seems to float in the water like a strange ark.

    moore_usaAnother version is on its own island, part of the complex of the Deere & Company World Headquarters, Moline, Illinois – see http://www.henry-moore.org/works-in-public/world/united-states-of-america/moline/deere-company-world-headquarters/hill-arches-1973-lh-636

    The Headquarters, designed by Eero Saarinen, were the first known use of COR-TEN® steel in the architectural world. They have won multiple awards for architecture and the landscape design by Sasaki (see http://www.sasaki.com/project/177/deere–company-corporate-headquarters/). The rounded lines of Hill Arches are a beautiful complement to the low rectangular buildings, sculpture and buildings both proudly displaying their metal skeletons.

    The final work of the Edition is owned by the Henry Moore Foundation and has traveled widely over the years. Photographs I’ve found include:

  • In Kew Gardens, 2008
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Henry_Moore_Sculptures_in_Kew_Gardens#mediaviewer/File:Henry_Moore_at_Kew_-_%22Hill_Arches%22_-_geograph.org.uk_-_541811.jpg; http://www.barrywelchphotography.com/keyword/henry%20moore%20hill%20arches/i-44MfSHn
  • New York Botanical Garden, 2008
    http://nyclovesnyc.blogspot.com.au/2008/06/henry-moore-sculpture-at-new-york.html
  • Atlanta Botanical Garden, 2009.
    Their blog http://mooreinamerica.blogspot.com.au/ contains many interesting photos, including loading onto transport (January 2010) and lit at night (15-May-2009)
  • Denver Botantic Gardens, 2010 – 2011.
    http://denver.about.com/od/photogalleries/ig/Moore-in-the-Gardens-Photos/Moore-in-the-Gardens–Pond.htm
    http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_14282979
  • Hatfield House, 2011.
    http://takeonlymemories.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/henry-moores-hill-arches/
  • Perry Green, 2012
    http://thequacksoflife.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/the-henry-moore-foundation.html
  • The different versions are different. For example the Canberra version is bronze in colour, unlike the green/turquoise patina of the Henry Moore Foundation work. They are presented in very different environments – Austrian urban, Australian bush garden, American industrial park, and a wide variety of temporary homes including both formal and informal gardens. The website of the Henry Moore Foundation suggests “Moore conceived [Hill Arches] for the top of a low hill but usually sited on grass, or in water, where its reflection produced an effect he particularly liked” (Henry Moore Foundation, [n.d.]). The very title of the work suggests landscape, but Cohen has claimed of the Vienna cast “losing all pretence to landscape, its curvaceous forms come to relate to the ornate dome and the twisting triumphal columns that flank the façade. Ironically, this sculpture conceived in terms of landscape has settled effortlessly into this most urbane of settings” (Cohen, 1998). In Atlanta “The turquoise Hill Arches float on a cloud of white Euphorbia “Diamond Frost” with a rose peaking through the background. I’ve eavesdropped on our visitors, and they are enamored with this piece and the lovely, delicate white flowers that set it off” (Atlanta Botanical Garden, 2009)

    Richardson (2007) wrote: “the sculptor commented in 1951, just as he was beginning to contemplate making works specifically for landscapes: ‘Sculpture gains by finding a setting that suits its mood and when that happens there is gain for both the sculpture and setting'”. Does it matter that the artist had one intention, and that I don’t think a single one of the photographs I found had the work sited according to that intention? Obviously many people have enjoyed the works as presented. Does this indicate a strong sculpture that can hold its own and contribute to almost any environment? Does it reflect the cachet of such a well known artist? Could it bring still more to the viewer if seen its intended setting? It is probably only a minority of artworks that are designed for a particular site and are seen only in that site. It has been an interesting exercise to trace the different variants of Hill Arches.

    Finally, I’m always happy to find a textile link. Go to http://magsramsay.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/light-and-shadow-indigo-hill-arches.html to see a textile response to Hill Arches at Kew.

    References

    Atlanta Botanical Garden (2009) Moore in America 8 May [online] Available from http://mooreinamerica.blogspot.com.au/ (Accessed 15-Jun-2014)

    Causey, A. (2010) “His darkened imagination: Henry Moore” in Tate Etc. 18 (Spring) [online] Available from http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/his-darkened-imagination (Accessed 13-Jun-2014)

    Cohen, D. (1998) “Hill Arches 1973” in Celebrating Moore: Works from the Collection of the Henry Moore Foundation edited by David Mitchinson, Henry Moore Foundation: University of California Press p. 305

    Henry Moore Foundation, ([n.d.]) Henry Moore Works in Public: United States of America: Moline [online] Available from http://www.henry-moore.org/works-in-public/world/united-states-of-america/moline/deere-company-world-headquarters/hill-arches-1973-lh-636 (Accessed 15-Jun-2014)

    Hyden, J. (1995) Henry: Hill arches [online] Available from https://artserve.anu.edu.au/raid1/student_projects/garden/hill/hill.html (Accessed 18-Jun-2014)

    McAvera, J. (2001) “The Enigma of Henry Moore” in Sculpture Magazine 20 (6) July/August[online] Available from http://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag01/julaug01/moore/moore.shtml (Accessed 20-Jun-2014)

    National Gallery of Art Washington (2001) Henry Moore: Abstraction and Surrealism: The 1930s [online] Available from https://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/moore1930.shtm (Accessed 20-Jun-2014)

    Piekains, H. (2003) Sculpture Garden: Art in Landscape essay originally published in the National Gallery’s of Australia’s Building the Collection publication. [online] Available from http://www.nga.gov.au/sculpturegarden/essay.htm (Accessed 20-Jun-2014)

    Richardson, T (2007) “Henry Moore exhibition at Kew is a triumph” in The Telegraph 14-Sept [online] Available from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/3344503/Henry-Moore-exhibition-at-Kew-is-a-triumph.html (Accessed 15/6/2014)

    Ure-Smith, J. (2011) “The man behind the monuments” in ft.com 19 August [online] Available from http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/8ea55ae0-c8bd-11e0-a2c8-00144feabdc0.html#axzz352mDRShU (Accessed 15-Jun-2014)

    UA1-WA:P4-p4-Exercise: Annotate a Henry Moore figures sculpture
    Understanding Art 1 – Western Art
    Part 4: Portraiture and figure painting
    Project four: Figure sculpture
    Exercise: Annotate a Henry Moore figures sculpture

    UA1-WA:P4-p4-Research Point: Recent figure sculptures

    This research point asks me to look at some more recent figure sculptures. I’m taking a quite literal approach by reviewing photographs I’ve taken of figure sculptures I’ve looked at over the past couple of years.

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    Gaston Lachaise
    Floating figure 1927
    bronze
    135.0 (h) x 233.0 (w ) x 57.0 (d) cm
    http://nga.gov.au/international/catalogue/Detail.cfm?IRN=77438
    This work is in the sculpture garden of the National Gallery of Australia. It’s a large sculpture of a large and strangely proportioned woman, but she looks so graceful and light – an elegant acrobatic performance.

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    Rayner Hoff
    Australian Venus circa 1927
    Angaston marble
    114.5 x 33.0 x 21.0 cm
    http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/6549/
    The Art Gallery NSW (AGNSW) nominates this work as a “collection highlight” on its website. Given my last two posts it immediately challenges me on feminist critique grounds. This figure is an idealized form, an entirely anonymous torso. The figure twists to display – flaunt – its physical attributes to the gaze. I recently wrote “Szantho’s work doesn’t ask questions, explore, push boundaries, even really present a strong point of view” (see 8-Jun-2014). I believe Hoff’s work shown here does offer more.

    Hoff was exploring Australian identity in his work. This is a healthy, athletic woman who would enjoy the beach and all the outdoor activities of Australian life. The stone is from an Australian quarry and has a texture and granularity that I haven’t seen (noticed?) in other marble sculptures. It is very sensual, an erotic dream – but has sufficient naturalism and grace to move beyond a mere pinup.

    In the background of one of the photos can be seen two other works of similar period which also reflect on aspects of national identity – The idle hour by Arthur Murch (1933 – http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/873/) and Australian beach pattern by Charles Meere (1940 – http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/OA20.1965/). I really appreciate the thoughtful grouping of works in the gallery, giving context and depth to viewing of the works.

    maillol
    Aristide Maillol
    La Montagne [The mountain] 1937
    Lead
    167.4 h x 193.0 w x 82.3 d cm
    http://artsearch.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=116514
    Close to Lachaise’s Floating figure in the National Gallery of Australia sculpture garden is this female form in triangles and cones. Rather than light and floating, she is massive, mountainous, anchored in the ground of lead which still holds her lower right leg. It could be a grassy plain, her thigh rolling hills leading to the mountain range of the left leg and on to the windswept hair of the summit.

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    Marino Marini
    Rider 1936
    bronze, unique cast
    203.0 x 94.0 x 165.0 cm
    http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/113.1979/
    I have trouble connecting with this sculpture at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It is awkward and uncomfortable. Rider and horse don’t quite fit together. The photo of the legs is included because that is the first view I’ve found over a number of visits that seemed convincing.

    From the notes on the gallery website that sense of disquiet was intended by the sculptor. Marini was reacting to the Fascist regime under Mussolini, creating “a modern anti-hero whose vulnerability is very different to the traditional image of the all-powerful military hero on horseback”.

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    Margel Hinder
    Jerry (1945)
    wood
    23.0 x 23.0 x 22.0 cm figure; 25.2 x 27.0 x 27.0 cm overall
    http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/189.1980.a-b/
    martin_place_15This small wooden puzzle of a figure is so warm and inviting it took an effort of will not to take it in my hands at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It’s an amazing contrast to another work of Hinder’s that I’ve shown in the past, her Free standing sculpture outside the Reserve Bank of Australia Building – although that was tactile and inviting in its own way (see 31-Dec-2013). This seems to be an experiment in filling a cylinder with a human figure, with all sorts of lovely shapes inviting a closer look.

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    Rah Fizelle
    Veneration (circa 1947-circa 1952)
    wood (teak)
    86.5 x 29.0 x 13.5 cm figure; 91.0 x 36.0 x 22.7 cm overall:
    http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/SA1.1962.a-b/
    It seems to me that I can see a figure kneeling in worship here, although I haven’t found any confirmation of that other than that his “characteristic paintings and drawings of the 1930s are semi-abstract figure compositions” and “his art in the 1940s and early 1950s included near-abstract figures in carved wood, sandstone and pottery” (Thomas, 1981).

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    Alberto Giacometti
    Woman of Venice VII [Femme de Venise VII] 1956
    bronze
    117.0 x 16.0 x 36.0 cm
    http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/612.1994/
    This figure seems outlandish in her proportions, but still so warm, human, vulnerable. There’s a tactile, almost melting quality – I noticed a particularly prominent “Do Not Touch” sign, so obviously I’m not the only one drawn to explore this work through my fingertips rather than my eyes. To me she seems to be wanting to open her arms, to hold and shelter us. I imagine an unquenchable spirit in the wasted body.

    I was surprised to see on the AGNSW website other interpretations suggested: “Whether we interpret her as a goddess or prostitute, Egyptian cult figure or decomposing corpse, one cannot remain unmoved by Giacometti’s powerful interpretation of humanity.”

    In the background to some of these photos is a portrait by Francis Bacon. That distortion seems hard, brutal, quite unlike the ethereal nature of Giacometti’s work.

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    Antony Gormley
    Angel of the North (life-size maquette) 1996
    Cast iron
    196.5 h x 535.0 w x 53.0 d cm
    http://artsearch.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=191980
    This work in the sculpture garden of the National Gallery of Australia is a 1:10 model of the one in the UK. The National Carillon in the background of a couple of the photos was a gift from the British Government to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the national capital, but I prefer the link to the crane you can barely see in the third shot.

    The art gallery website suggests “as well as evoking a celestial messenger, the Angel of the North recalls the human/divine sacrifice of the Crucifixion”. I can’t agree. This figure stands erect, proud, head high, the wide arms or sails suggest a messenger, or a guardian, or an open embrace. I can’t see a broken body, a sacrifice. If anything this would be after the Resurrection – the Ascension.

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    Juan Muñoz
    Piggy back (right) 1996
    bronze
    183.0 cm height; 62.0 x 56.5 cm base plate
    http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/293.1997/
    Currently this sculpture is in the front vestibule of the Art Gallery of NSW. The figures are slightly smaller than life-size.

    In this Research Point I have decided to make a broad but rather shallow review – for each work I present the work, some thoughts or reactions of my own, a few remarks gleaned from artist statement or gallery signage. With this work my personal response was so different to the gallery position that I have researched a little further.

    In the gallery I saw these figures as slightly “other” but engaging and playful. They appear mischievous, perhaps having some fun in a stolen moment of time during a day of hard labour. There is some incongruity – the feet of both men are arched like a ballerina’s. How could you carry that weight and balance on your tip-toes? Why put tension in your feet when being carried? They seem to be moving into the general walkway, becoming part of the crowds visiting the gallery.

    I was very surprised to read on the gallery website that figures in this series “look as if their skin has been burned, scarred or melted”, that “the peculiar quality of the surface of the objects is remarkably similar to calcified objects from a limestone cave”, “fossilised like the figures from Pompeii or like revellers who have been interrupted by Medusa and turned instantly to stone”. The notes claim “while this may be a purely subjective response the impact of such a reading is impossible to set aside once it is uttered.” On the contrary, I struggled to find any of this in the work I experienced.

    In an interview with the artist Paul Schimmel suggested “We are unable to relate to them on a personal basis… They stand in for the figure, but you don’t read them emotionally…” and Muñoz responded “They don’t try to coexist in the same space as the spectator. They are smaller than real figures. There is something about their appearance that makes them different, and this difference in effect excludes the spectator from the room they are occupying.” (Schimmel, 2000) This may have been in reference to other works by Muñoz, but the variance to my reaction remains striking.

    I think part of this is the placement of the sculpture in the gallery. In the same interview Muñoz claimed “I use architecture to give a “theatrical” frame of reference to the figure” and “the architecture behaves as a backdrop to the figures. For example, I learned from Carl Andre that the floor was important in the activation of space. But I make optical floors because they help me to magnify the inner tension of the figure. They create a psychological space for the figure that permeates the spectator’s perception.” In AGNSW the work is placed in an area at the side of the vestibule which is designed for the display of sculpture. The work is actually placed on the decorative tiling which defines the centre of the niche. Sculpture is expected here – and instead of claiming and controlling the space it is absorbed by it.

    This loss of impact is exacerbated by the area’s use as a general walkway, and the relationship / contrast formed by the sculpture in the niche opposite – more on that below when discussing the other work, Haft by Gormley.

    It was only when seeing images of other works by Muñoz in Tim Sandys’s essay Selling the Air – The Art of Juan Muñoz, particularly a detail of Conversation Piece, that I could understand references to the horror of eyes propped open, or hollowed out, or blighted faces. Some of the elements supporting this horror, such as a blade in the mouth, aren’t included in the AGNSW work. More than that, I realised why these figures at AGNSW are so familiar to me. Growing up on the other side of the world, I first met my grandfather when I was 18 and he was around 78 – small, wizened, mischievous in a quirky, stern, erratic way, arm permanently damaged by a bayonet on the Somme … and blind. I can imagine him with his brother, Uncle Wilf, in some bizarre escapade, in a tiptoeing piggyback.

    No matter what an artist intends, curatorial decisions, and even more one’s personal experiences and memories, impact the viewer’s response.

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    Dadang Christanto
    Heads from the North 2004
    cast bronze
    each 33.0 h 19.0 diameter cm. Installation (approx.) 1600.0 w x 2300.0 d cm
    http://artsearch.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=131001

    From the signage at the National Gallery of Australia sculpture garden:
    Heads from the north is a memorial to those affected by events following an unsuccessful military coup in Indonesia in September 1965. The brutal suppression that followed had devastating consequences for the nation, leading to mass killings in late 1965 and early 1966. Dadang Christanto was an innocent victim: the eight-year old’s father was among the many who disappeared at the time. Barely holding their heads above water, the sixty-six sculptures signify lives lost and ravaged in the year 1966.”

    Standing in warm November sunshine, listening to the distant carillion’s music, I thought of the horrors of war, the futility, the ongoing cost in human lives – those lost and those living. We have so much, I wish Australia could find more generosity and warmth for refugees.

    XuChen
    Xu Zhen
    In Just a Blink of an Eye 2005
    Presented as part of the Kaldor Public Art Project #27, entitled 13 Rooms, April 2013
    http://kaldorartprojects.org.au/13rooms/xu-zhen

    Can a motionless breathing body be regarded as a figure sculpture? Is it conceptual art or performance art or any kind of art…?

    I don’t know the answers, or how useful such questions are.

    Here our assumptions, our knowledge, of physical contraints, of the material of the body, are challenged. A body which must be falling is frozen – but clearly alive.

    I’ve included this as the most sculpture-like of the various performance art events I’ve seen over recent years, as a challenge to the entire research point.

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    Antony Gormley
    Haft 2007
    mild steel blocks
    165.0 x 48.0 x 60.0 cm
    http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/74.2008/

    This sculpture by Antony Gormley is currently displayed in the entry vestibule, opposite the work by Juan Muñoz at AGNSW. The steel blocks form an oddly tender image of a man – withdrawn, perhaps shy or wistful.

    gormley_munozAs displayed the two sculptures, the building itself, the people walking through the vestibule – all combine in multiple layers of conversations and contrasts.

    Each sculpture is in a side area designed for the purpose of displaying sculptures – this area was built between 1896 and 1909, so they would have been very different sculptures, bringing in an additional sense of continuity as part of art history.

    Each work is centered in its area, contained and conforming.

    Both works are less than life-size, and that sameness reduces the impact that may have been intended in the selection of scale.

    The work by Gormley turns to one side, away from the visitors walking through, increasing the sense that it is alone in a crowd.

    The work by Muñoz is walking into the space, becoming one of the moving throng, lessening any sense of the alien or otherness.

    I think possible subtlety in Muñoz’s work is lost in this busy transitional area, while Gormley’s figure, obviously alien and out of place, cringing, maintains its impact in a difficult situation.

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    Li Hongbo
    Paper 2010
    http://www.whiterabbitcollection.org/artists/li-hongbo/

    This work at the White Rabbit Gallery is two roughly life-sized figures made from tens of thousands of sheets of paper glued together. The stacks of paper were carved into the form of human bodies using an electric saw. I’ve written about this work and others at the White Rabbit before (see 9-Nov-2012)

    The glued paper concertinas out, rather like the paper christmas ornaments I remember from childhood. One figures is exhibited with the paper still largely in place, with only the head unfolded. In the next room his twin is stretched and looped – it’s hard to accept that this was once a human form.

    biennale_16_li_hongboI have thought that this work is primarily an exploration of materials and technique, and that the human form chosen by the artist was simply an interesting shape with which to work. However Li Hongbo’s Ocean of Flowers in the 2012 Biennale of Sydney was based on the silhouettes of weapons – a shocking incongruity which makes me wonder about meanings underlying Paper.

    balasubramaniam
    Alwar Balasubramaniam
    Nothing from my hands 2011-12
    Installed at the Museum of Contemporary Art at the 18th Biennale of Sydney
    http://www.mca.com.au/news/2012/09/05/last-chance-use-mca-insight-18th-biennale-sydney/

    This work is another to challenge the nature of figure sculpture, given the figure is notably absent. Balasubramaniam has said “these works are an effort to define the space in which one’s self ends and the other begins.” Made of fibreglass, wood and synthetic polymer paint, the works are based on casts of the space between the artist’s hands. There is a loss of identity at the same time as the (past) presence of the other is made apparent.

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    Robert Barnstone
    once removed 2013
    cast glass
    20cm x 10cm x 30 cm
    Sculpture by the sea Bondi 2013

    The artist states “these glass feet are a ghostly reminder of the presence of people past.” Installed on the rocky cliffs of Sydney, I think those bare feet must have been those of the original inhabitants, watching as the ships of the first fleet sailed past on their way to the harbour. The fragility of the glass echoes the fragility of people, the brief impression we make in the sweep of time.

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    Elyssa Sykes-Smith
    a shared weight 2013
    recycled timber
    120cm x 93 cm x 70cm each (2 figures)
    Sculpture by the sea Bondi 2013

    One of the things I most enjoy seeing at Sculpture by the sea is work which uses the unique surroundings. These figures by Sykes-Smith were set into a small cave-like fissure in the cliff face. They seem to be supporting the weight of the rock, soil and buildings above. The figures seem aware of each other, working together in this unequal task.

    vozzo
    Vince Vozzo
    moon buddha 2013
    sandstone
    130cm x 136cm x 59cm
    Sculpture by the sea Bondi 2013
    The artists statement: “For over 35 years the artist has had an obsession for the perfect human face. This spiritual and divine search has led to the creation of many different versions of heads and faces.” The huge, smooth, still face contrasted with the rough rock around and the ever moving and surging sea below. This is the last modern work I am presenting here, and it seems fitting to have returned to the idea of the perfect human form – the goal of the early Greek sculptors and so many since.

    Other works not included here but previously shown in this blog are:

  • untitled (old woman in bed) by Ron Mueck (see 4-Jun-2012) (2000-02);
  • Buck with cigar by Marc Quinn (2009), mentioned a number of times (see 5-May-2013);
  • works by Henry Moore (see 15-Dec-2013).
  • There has obviously been a huge range of approaches to figure sculpture over the past 100 years, with differences in materials, size, purpose … – and this is only those I’ve seen in a couple of years Canberra and Sydney. However none of these could really be called focal points in the cities. They are in exhibitions, or galleries, or sculpture gardens. I’ve been unable to find anything that could be described as permanent urban focal point, apart from war memorials (having made a semi-conscious choice not to include these in my survey).

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    Sydney has such focal points, but not modern. Queen Victoria oversees a busy junction just outside the Queen Victoria building in Sydney. Created by John Hughes this work, part of a larger monument, was unveiled in 1908 in the grounds of Leinster House in Dublin. By 1929 there was a drive to remove it as “repugnant to national feeling, and that, from an artistic point of view, it disfigures the architectural beauty of the parliamentary buildings” (The Irish Times, 1929). After various vicissitudes the work arrived in Sydney in 1987. I just wish I had taken a photograph of her in bright clothing as part of Sydney Statues: Project! in 2010 (see http://sydneystatues.wordpress.com/statues/queen-victoria-qvb/ ).

    The second focal work shown above is the Archibald Fountain by François-Léon Sicard, erected in 1932. It stands in a large space of meeting paths in Hyde Park in the centre of Sydney. Now I’m actually writing this up I realise that the work falls within my “past 100 years” – a trick of the mind, as it is such an iconic work that I have known all my life.

    hillThe City of Sydney public art program seems to focus on moments of unexpected beauty (see http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/explore/arts-and-culture/public-art). Forgotten Songs by Michael Thomas Hill (completed 2011) is one lovely example – a delight hidden in the laneways behind Martin Place.

    References

    Sandys, T. ([n.d.])Selling the Air – The Art of Juan Muñoz [online] Available from http://www.timsandys.com/essay_dissertation.htm (Accessed 13-Jun-2014)

    Schimmel, P. (2000) ‘Juan Muñoz interviewed by Paul Schimmel’ September 18, 2000 in Benezra, N. and Viso, O. (2001) Juan Muñoz Chicago: University of Chicago Press [online] Available from http://press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/042901.html (Accessed 12-Jun-2014)

    The Irish Times (1929) Quoted in Fallon, D. (2013) Story of the statue in front of Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building [online] Available from http://www.insidehistory.com.au/2013/07/statue-of-queen-victoria/ (Accessed 13-Jun-2014)

    Thomas, D (1981) ‘Fizelle, Reginald Cecil Grahame (Rah) (1891–1964)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fizelle-reginald-cecil-grahame-rah-6185/text10629, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 10 June 2014.

    UA1-WA:P4-p4-Research Point: Recent figure sculptures
    Understanding Art 1 – Western Art
    Part 4: Portraiture and figure painting
    Project four: Figure sculpture
    Research Point: Recent figure sculptures


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    Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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