Friday, 23 September 2011

Barbara Hepworth

Another of my favourite artists is Barbara Hepworth. She was an amazing sculptor and when she moved to St Ives with her husband, Ben Nicholson, in 1939, she led a movement of St Ives artists which included her husband, Naum Garbo, Patrick Heron and Peter Lanyon, all of which were heavily influenced by the cornish landscapes and light in their various works. Hepworth later lived and worked at her Trewyn Studio which is now owned by the Tate and is preserved as the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. It was here that Hepworth died in May 1975 and which has been preserved largely as it was then. A lot of her sculptures are in the beautiful tropical walled garden and her studio is still full of her tools and partly finished works.

I have visited the gardens many times over the past decade; first with my grandparents (my grandfather is an artist and his work and passion have inspired me over and over again to pick up a pencil, or experiment with different kinds of media) and then with subsequent boyfriends and now my husband. I can't visit the garden without my sketch book and have spent many an hour battling with perspective, shading and texture trying to bring her sculptures to the page. I love looking at art but I find it very soothing and that I get far more out of viewing art by trying to render it on my sketchbook.

This work has always been one of my favourites. The work is called something like figure for landscape and I find the shaping and texture of the bronze to be very appealing. There is also something about the colour which draws me back time and time again, to this and many other of her bronze works. I feel that she really manages to capture both the physical and the landscape to which this works belongs through the curves around the space between them. A similar work to this stands outside the university building in which husband and I attended lectures and alongside which we had a wedding portrait taken.

This time though, I concentrated on two different works. The first is entitled something like four square walk through and is an enormous bronze work comprised of 4 block pieces with holes in, balanced on top of each other. It literally is big enough to walk through but the fascinating thing I find about it is that whilst it *is* roughly symmetrical, it is (to me) nigh on impossible to get the perspective right, especially as you are always underneath part of it when drawing.

This is the piece from the angle that I was drawing today. Those top parts are actually an approximate equi-distance apart at each side but from this particular angle appear unbalanced. I also particularly like the way that the colour is from this view.

This is a photo from my sketchbook of today's effort. The colours haven't come out very well and in 'person' so to speak this sketch looks less black and white and more tonal. I used conte chalk pastel pencils and charcoal. I'm not overly happy with it but as a quick sketch goes, it could be worse.

This is a watercolour taken from earlier in my sketchbook from a previous visit and is from a slightly different perspective. Same side but from the front right corner rather than almost straight on. I think the water colour almost captures the bronze better. It certainly looks less ominous and more sympathetic to the landscape in which it sits which the charcoal doesn't really capture.  

The second piece that I had a bash at today is called sphere with inner form and is a smaller bronze piece which is dark on the outside and greenish on the inside and is basically exactly what the title says it is. Here it is in photo form, from roughly the angle that I sat at when I was drawing. The light reflecting in the photo is much greater than it was when I was drawing.

Again, the method in which I have transcribed the drawing from my sketch book to the screen makes the work look a bit darker than it does on the page and some of the detail, particularly on the middle darker patch has been lost but essentially it is what I drew. Here I used oil pastels and again this was a quick sketch, maybe 20 or 30 minutes. I found that studying the form to gauge particularly the way the light reflected off the various surfaces really enhanced my appreciation of the work. 

 I think that particularly these spherical sculptures are very influenced by the landscape in which Hepworth was working. The light in Cornwall, particularly St Ives and the bays around it seem very reminiscent of these colours and the way the shapes within shapes seem to echo the beach and cliffs, with the cliffs hugging and protecting, surrounding the beaches within themselves.

Photos by me [Sculptures by Barbara Hepworth - drawings by me]


Joan Hunter Dunn said...

Oh Rachel this lovely post reminds me of our honeymoon in St. Ives... We loved Barbara Hepworth. Really interesting to see your art work too.

Rings Ireland said...

Love the post, similar sculpture in Clontarf in Dublin Ireland. Was there a few years ago and thought initially it was from there. Stunning piece.