David Smith at the YSP


David Smith: Sculpture 1932-1965 is YSP’s headline exhibition for 2019 and their principal contribution to the inaugural Yorkshire Sculpture International. As usual with their main exhibitions there are a large number of works in the Underground Gallery, with more outdoors, outside the gallery and up on the large lawn.

Smith challenged sculptural conventions and was the first artist in the USA to work with welded metal, becoming known for his mastery of steel. Although hugely influential to the development of abstract sculpture internationally, few of his works are held in non-US public collections, so he is rarely shown in Europe.


Smith was an innovator – he was the first artist in the USA to work with welded metal, rather than carving or casting. He wasn’t the first to do this, he was influenced by Picasso and the Spanish sculptor Julio González, but he took the idea and developed it. He was also influenced by Russian Constructivism, Piet Mondrian, and Alberto Giacometti’s biomorphic forms. He influenced others too, including the British sculptor, Anthony Caro.


His works are industrial, influenced by his experience of working as a welder and riveter in a car factory  during a summer job and during WWII he worked as a welder for the American Locomotive CompanySchenectady, NY assembling locomotives and tanks.


At first, Smith used an oxyacetylene torch, but during World War II he mastered electric arc welding at the American Locomotive Factory.   He ran his studio in Bolton Landing, upstate New York, like a factory, stocking with large amounts of raw material and working to a routine, just like a factory worker (albeit one who worked long hours!).


As well as welding, he used other industrial processes, bending and forging metal.


And creating finishes using angle grinders, to score the surface of the metal, and paint.


In 1962, he was invited by the Italian government to relocate and create sculptures for the Festival of Two Worlds. He was given a warehouse and a team of artisans who helped him in producing 27 pieces in 30 days. After his time there was over, still buzzing with ideas, he had tons of steel shipped back to Bolton Landing to keep working. 


There’s an interesting article about his life, working methods and creative process by his daughter, here.

The One and the Many


The reason I’d decided to wander over to Fitzrovia while I was in London last Wednesday was that I wanted to take a look at a sculpture by a favourite contemporary artist, Peter Randall-Page, which is sited in a new development, Fitzroy Place, off Mortimer Street. It’s right next to the Fitzrovia Chapel, a Grade II listed building was the former chapel of The Middlesex Hospital.


The One and The Many’, is sculpted from a 24 tonne naturally eroded granite boulder and inscribed with many of the world’s scripts and symbols. 


The scripts carved on the work are all related to cosmology and the material/poetical formation of the universe. I shot a few close ups.


Translations of all the scripts can be seen on a website devoted to the sculpture. The website also includes some photographs of the artist at work on his creation.

Elisabeth Frink: Fragility and Power at Abbot Hall


Last week we went to have a look at the latest exhibition at Abbot Hall in Kendal. It’s devoted to the work of the sculptor Elisabeth Frink.

We’re quite familiar with her work – there’s a good selection of her sculptures, including the three Riache Warriors, at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and I’ve seen other sculptures in various locations including Tate Modern, Paternoster Square in London, Chatsworth and Merrion Square in Dublin.

The Abbot Hall exhibition has 50 works from throughout her career on display, including sculpture, maquettes and works on paper. The majority are in the main galleries on the first floor but visitors are greeted by a Riache Warrior in the lobby and there’s a Walking Madonna in one of the downstairs rooms in amongst the Georgian furniture.

As usual, no photos allowed, but these are a selection of Press images.

This is an early work Portrait of a young man (1962)


There were several of her animal sculptures, including Harbinger birds


Many of Frink’s sculptures I’ve seen in the past are statues or busts of men and there were a number of the latter in the exhibition including Easter Head


and this rather disturbing and frightening Goggle Head, one of a series produced while she was living in France from 1967 to 1970 and which were influenced by events in Algeria and other parts of North Africa.


The Goggle Heads were inspired by media coverage of Moroccan General Mohammed Oufkir, who had been accused of ordering the assassination in Paris of the exiled politician Ben Bark, and was usual seen in photographs with his eyes hidden by sunglasses.

Goggle Heads are no longer warriors or soldiers but sophisticated criminal types, their identities hidden behind polished goggles, displaying a bullish arrogance and suaveness. The double edged point of these glasses however, is that these men lack vision and they mask a vulnerability, as Peter Shaffer wrote: ‘the constant wearing of dark glasses always speaks of impotence to me: a fear of having scrutiny returned – the secret terror of the torturer’ (Southeby’s)

The first room in the exhibition features work by sculptors and other artists who were working around the same time has Frink, including Barbara Hepworth, FE McWilliam, Lynn Chadwick Bernard Meadows, Kenneth Armitage and Reg Butler. Apparently, the latter was dismissive of Elisabeth Frink, believing that women could not be successful as sculptors. Well, he got that wrong.

“Mystery” sculptures at Chatsworth

We spotted a number of sculptures we hadn’t seen before while wandering around the gardens and woods during our recent visit to Chatsworth.

This giant pink shoe Pop Art sculpture is by Michael Craig-Martin and was one of 12 of his works exhibited at Chatsworth in 2014


This baby elephant is by Barry Flanagan and was shown in the 2012 Beyond Limits exhibition


We couldn’t find out which artists had created these next two sculptures. Any information welcome!!!



Sculpture in Lyme Regis

Later this year, Lyme Regis will be holding its annual Arts Fest.

In preparation for the main event, the organisers have started to install a Sculpture Trail featuring works by local artists, with additional pieces to be added during the summer. We saw quite a few of them as we explored the town during our holiday.

This work was the first we spotted as it was just down the road from the cottage where we were staying. It’s on the display in the garden of the cottage at 1 Mill Green


Fish Boy by Gerta Berlin

These works are all on show in Langmoor Gardens


Wolf by Clare Trenchard


Skateboarder by Gerta Berlin


Ripple by Michael Fairfax


Trapeze by Clare Trenchard


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Lost Identity by Gerta Berlin


Cirrus and Cumulus by Michael Fairfax



A work inspired by the local landscape, located on the South sea wall


A Landscape in Transition (from Nlack Venn to Stonebarrow) by Michael Calder

You can download a map showing the location of the sculptures from the event website

Hi Jimmy!

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I saw this sculpture towards the end of my walk along the Clyde and back through Anderston during my recent visit to Glasgow. Made from plasma cut sheet steel, a technique that’s used in the traditional local industry, shipbuilding, he three figures represent “local heroes” – Tom Weir (a climber, writer and broadcaster), James Watt, of steam engine fame flanking a modern figure representing former communist and shop steward Jimmy Reid.

Born in the Gorbals in 1932, Jimmy was one of the leaders of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Work-in which took place between June 1971 and October 1973, a  response to the decision of Ted Heath’s Tory Government to shut the yards.

In a speech to the shipyard workers he said

We are not going to strike. We are not even having a sit-in strike. Nobody and nothing will come in and nothing will go out without our permission. And there will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying because the world is watching us, and it is our responsibility to conduct ourselves with responsibility, and with dignity, and with maturity.

The campaign was successful and the Government backed down, keeping the yards open. Alas, few are left today.

Jimmy left the Communist party, joining the Labour Party. Later, disillusioned with “New Labour” he defected (sadly) to the SNP. He died in August 2010.

W G Collingwood’s War Memorials

Walking back to the car park after our walk up Easedale last Tuesday, I spotted this distinctive cross in the park next to the access road.


The monument is Grasmere’s war memorial and my first thought was that it looked like it had been designed by W G Collingwood. A little research on my phone confirmed my suspicion.

William Gershon Collingwood was an antiquarian and artist, born in Liverpool, who was secretary to John Ruskin. Collingwood designed a number of war memorials for towns in the region, including Coniston, Hawkshead, Ulverston and St Bees. In some cases the monuments were carved by his daughter, Barbara.

The secretary of the Grasmere memorial committee was Rev Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the founders of the National Trust, who lived at Allan Bank. Rawnsley was a close friend of Collingwood and it may have been his influence that resulted in him being given the commission.

During our visits to the Lake District we’ve spotted a couple of Collingwood’s other war memorials. In Hawkshead

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and Coniston.

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He also designed Ruskin’s Memorial in Coniston churchyard, the other end of the church from the war memorial.

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All these monuments resemble Celtic crosses. However it is more likely that Collingwood, the author of Northumbrian Crosses of the Pre-Norman Age, was inspired by the Anglo Saxon crosses of Northumbria which were similar in design to the Celtic version with abstract designs including interlacing, animal symbols and often with a ring surrounding the intersection. Before the Norman invasion Anglo-Saxon art and decorative designs were similar to what these days we consider to be “Celtic” style.

The Hawkshead cross is very similar to the Anglo Saxon cross at Gosforth in Cumbria and the Ruskin memorial is clearly inspired by the Irton cross (also in Cumbra)

(Image source here)

Collingwood and members of his family are also buried in the churchyard, in graves very close to that of Ruskin.

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