Roger Eliot Fry – why knowledge isn’t always a good thing

There is no feeling of inner life and all traces of sensibility in the handling have been polished away.  Surely that must be Brian Sewell commenting on a contemporary conceptual work? Did not Roger Fry die in 1934? This quote is part of Fry’s consideration of this 4500 year old Dynasty IV portrait of King Chefren, which he acknowledged has great realism and is one of the finest works of the period. Later versions of the same subject deteriorate further as the vital plastic rhythms disappear: It is pure and quite unintelligent craftsmanship. Description, decoration and mechanical finish have become the … Continue reading Roger Eliot Fry – why knowledge isn’t always a good thing

Portrait sculpture – conscious, subconscious, unconscious?

Worthing Museum had an interesting sculpture exhibition on in 2011/12, featuring the Latvian-born Dora Gordin (1895-1991) – she later changed this to Gordine – who settled in London after studying music and art in Paris. It is co-curated with Dorich House, where the artist lived and where the Gordine archive continues to reside in the care of Kingston University’s Brenda Martin. I’ve got a soft spot for Worthing’s permanent collection and visiting after a year’s gap since exhibiting there, it was lovely to see the work of one artist in the top gallery space. Gordine’s portrait heads sometimes seem to have … Continue reading Portrait sculpture – conscious, subconscious, unconscious?

Stone: whose work is it anyway?

I receive letters like this once a fortnight. They effectively promise to do sculptors’ hard work for them at a very reasonable cost. I send a small model or maquette to China, and it will be factored to my dream size in granite or my chosen material; hardness no object. Permanence guaranteed. All from the comfort of my chair. This process is behind much of large work  in stone today – the anodyne Borough works of  statuary as well as large works by non-stonecarving artists who (perhaps) are using stone as an addition to their oeuvre, to tap into the huge … Continue reading Stone: whose work is it anyway?

Composition and flow

The Picasso etching Le Repas Frugal (1904) demonstrates in two dimensions how the subconscious or intentional actions of the artist can assist the viewer’s eye around the composition without too much effort. The joints of the fingers and arms lead one’s eye from one character to the other and back again. Whether a contrivance or not, it helps focus on looking at one’s own work, especially where the composition is complex – i.e. more than a few elements – as that complexity can mask understanding of the formal characteristics of the work. Sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska noted ‘The connoisseur loves one spicy … Continue reading Composition and flow

Leonora Carrington on intellectualising art

It is sad to hear Leonora Carrington has died aged 94. Her recent sculpture (in the link, seen here in the exhibition which she lived long enough to see open), is seemingly interpreted from the imagery of her earlier paintings. For me, it does not have the power of her two-dimensional work or earliest sculpture. Nevertheless, for the British artist who lived in Mexico City for sixty years and was adopted as one of their own, there appears to have been a growing demand for it. The Guardian journalist Joanna Moorhead is a relative of Carrington. She produced a touching film which was … Continue reading Leonora Carrington on intellectualising art

Smooth, yet not complete

One perennial issue with clay sculpture seems to be the pre-occupation with the smooth – perhaps aimed at some form of ‘finish’ – with less attention to the completeness of the sculptural form or plane, by which I mean where the surface should attempt to be visually consistent – read as one – in whatever texture or idiom is used. A shiny rubber ball is a smooth, complete sphere. A single  compound curved plane exists – a simple and yet complex sculpture. An orange’s form is relatively complete whilst not being overly smooth. Its surface has a regularity in its irregularities that … Continue reading Smooth, yet not complete