New Year’s day at the Hepworth

It’s nice to have a good break over the Christmas holidays, but after a few days stuck in the house I start to get itchy feet. So on New Years day we decided to go out for the day. It was a pretty miserable day – wet and windy – so a walk in the countryside didn’t sound too appealing. So, particularly as we the roads to be quiet as many people would be nursing their hangovers, we decided to drive over the M62 to the Hepworth Wakefield. We’d been before in August, but there was plenty to see and there had been a few changes, including a new temporary exhibition “The Unquiet Head by Clare Woods.

There were some changes to the exhibits in the first couple of galleries. The “Cosdon Head” had gone from Gallery 1 – back to Birmingham no doubt – and in Gallery 2 there was an exhibition of drawings selected from Wakefield Council’s collection. I particularly liked the drawings by Henry Moore from his time as a war artist and by Barbara Hepworth. There was also a small lithograph by Picasso.

Henry Moore Pit Boys

Henry Moore drawing of Pit Boys during the Second World War - picture source Hepworth website

The Clare Woods exhibition displayed a number of large paintings, created using strongly coloured enamel paints applied to aluminium, in three of the gallery’s rooms, which were created specifically for the Hepworth. Most of the paintings are extremely large. Some are more than six metres high and others ten metres wide. Given their size these large paintings were made up of several panels joined together.

Clare Woods at THW

Clare Woods at the Hepworth Wakefield - picture source Hepworth website

According to the Hepworth’s website

Clare Woods will explore her interest in the power and history of rock formations in the British landscape, and its various manifestations in the works of artists such as Hepworth, Moore, Sutherland, Piper and Nash.

Her work is abstract, but those in the first and third rooms clearly represent rock formations like those found on windswept moorland.

Her use of enamel paints was interesting as she’s not the only modern artist working in that medium. George Shaw, who was nominated for the Turner Prize last year (many people think he should have won), creates pictures using Humbrol enamels, more typically used to paint model aircraft. His subject matter and style is quite different to Clare’s. He paints very realistic, photographic, images of the housing estate in Coventry where he grew up, very different from the abstract works in the exhibition. Clare’s paintings are dominated by strong, bright colours whereas George’s are painted in more subdued, earthy tones. Yet there are parallels. Besides using similar media, both artists are inspired by landscapes, even if they are different, and both work from photographs –

Clare Woods’ paintings are derived from her photographs of undergrowth and vegetation, which are taken at night, often in desolate, contested or overlooked locations such as areas of scrub or deep woodland. (Source here)

There’s a parallel with another artist too – David Hockney who, for the last few years, been creating paintings of the East Yorkshire landscape, many of them, like Clare’s work, very large in scale and painted on several individual canvases.

I like abstract works  particularly those inspired by the landscape. However, I actually preferred the smaller works displayed in the middle room, with images that resembled heads.

There’s a short film about the exhibition on Youtube

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