Another New Year’s Day at the Hepworth

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It seems to becoming a tradition that we travel over to Wakefield to visit the Hepworth Gallery on New Year’s Day. Well, if going there two years on the run counts as establishing a tradition! We’ll have to see what happens next year. In any case driving over the M62 on the morning of the first day of the year is a lot easier than normal as there was relatively little traffic on the roads and the Hepworth is worth the journey.

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We visited the gallery twice in 2012, the last time in September when we saw the excellent Richard Long exhibition and the post war British painting and sculpture in galleries 2 and 3. There were two new temporary exhibitions – one of Barbara Hepworth’s hospital drawings of surgeons at work and two rooms showing To Hope, To Tremble, To Live Modern and Contemporary Works from the David Roberts Collection.  The title derived from a quote from Rodin “The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live. Be a man before being an artist!”

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The exhibition of post war drawings and sculptures was still on, but was definitely worth another look and we enjoyed looking round the the Barbara Hepworth sculptures in room 1 and the permanent exhibitions of Hepworth’s plasters and works by artists from the St Ives  school (although even here there were some changes). The Hepworth also have some exhibits outdoors and these included Upper Mill a work by the illustrator James Pyman. We spent a good 3 hours there, including having our dinner (a tasty, and slightly different, hot pot of vegetables) in the cafe.

(Some works from To Hope, To Tremble, To Live Picture source: Hepworth website)

The Hepworth hospital drawings  were stunning and I think they deserve their own, separate, post. I was much less taken with the exhibition of works from the David Roberts collection. I entered  with hope, but very few of the works made me tremble and most of them failed to move me. I liked some of the works on display, Man Ray’s photograph Ady (1935) of his mistress, Adrienne Fidelin, a dancer and model from Guadeloupe, Ricky Swallow’s Standing Mask (soot) 2010, Tony Cragg’s Wild Relatives (2005) and Eduardo Paolazzi’s Picador (c1955). But most of the of the other works went over my head. I could admire the skill of the artists, and their obvious intelligence, but I wasn’t moved by them. So it wasn’t a completely successful exhibition for me. Nevertheless, I think it is important to explore different types of art, rather than just stick to the “safe” and familiar, as it makes you think and it’s how you discover new artists and works.

So overall a good day out, well worth the drive over the Pennines, and a good way to start the New Year.

Anish Kapoor–Flashback at the YSP

On Saturday we went over to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park – our second visit this year. The Miro exhibition is still on, but one of the main reasons for our visit this time, other than to get out on a nice day to enjoy some fresh air and exercise as well as some world class sculpture, was to see “Flashback”, the exhibition of works by Anish Kapoor in the Longside gallery in the park. The exhibition has been touring the country, and I saw it last year at Manchester City Art Gallery, but J hadn’t seen it and I thought it was definitely worth seeing again. There were some differences compared to the Manchester exhibition; there was no “pregnant wall” and there was a work that wasn’t on display in Manchester – a spinning bowl containing coloured water that reflected its surroundings creating interesting, swirling patterns – unfortunately I didn’t note down what it was called.

Photography wasn’t allowed in the gallery, but there are some pictures of the YSP exhibition on the artist’s website, here.

One of the things I like about Kapoor’s work is that it’s a blend of art, science and engineering. His major works, “Cloud gate” in Chicago and his “Orbit” tower at the London Olympics site are as much engineering constructions as works of art. The Flashback exhibits are interesting works of art, but examine them closely and some of them also illustrate some scientific principles.

To perceive shape and depth we need shadows and reflections. Kapoor has used a very dark blue pigment on two of his works to fool the eye. Void (1994) is a hemisphere attached to the wall. It looks as if it is a solid object, but can you be sure? Adam (1998-9) is a stone block, the height of a typical human. On the front there’s a dark blue rectangle that looks rather like a piece of felt that’s been stuck onto the surface of the stone. But is it?

In one corner of the gallery there are three large circular, concave mirrors, two of them silvered and the other a blood red colour. It’s a work entitled “Her Blood” (1998).

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The work provides a good demonstration of how concave mirrors display images. Stand close and the image (although distorted as they are not designed to provide a perfect reflection) is the right way up. Move away and when you’re a critical distance away the image flips so that it’s upside down. A good science lesson for art lovers! But there’s another surprise. It was interesting to watch people standing close to the mirrors who were obviously confused, looking around. They could hear voices although no one was near them. The mirrors were also parabolic sound mirrors. Sound waves were gathered by the dish and focused in front of the disc. It was particularly noticeable when the observer was stood at the critical distance – the focal point.

For me, the way the works were displayed meant they weren’t as effective as when they were shown in Manchester. The natural light pouring in through the large windows at the Longside gallery did spoil the optical effects associated with some of the exhibits to some extent. And Her Blood had their own room  in Manchester whereas at the YSP they were propped in a corner of the room and I don’t think this did the work justice. But I still enjoyed seeing the exhibition again. And I have to comment on the friendly and helpful staff in the gallery, one young lady in particular who took some time to talk to us about the work and share some stories about the exhibition.