Barbara Hepworth – Within the Landscape is the latest exhibition showing at the Abbot Hall gallery in Kendal. We called in to see it on the way back home from our recent holiday in the Lake District. As the Gallery’s website tells us
Apart from Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective at Tate Liverpool in 1994, this is the first significant exhibition of her work in the North West for over sixty years
A large number of her works, mainly sculptures but also some prints, were displayed in the rooms on the first floor which are used for the gallery’s temporary exhibitions, but there were also three larger sculptures on the ground floor. There was also a display of photographs of and related to Barbara Hepworth in another one of the rooms upstairs.
Oval Form (Trezion) 1961-3
Abbot Hall doesn’t allow photography but they do have a number of photographs of the some of the works on display on their website. Some of the pictures used in the publicity for the exhibition show sculptures outdoors and this made me expect that some would be sited at Blackwell, as was the case with their exhibition of works by Lynn Chadwick last year, but that isn’t the case. they’re all indoors at the gallery in Kendal – except for the sculpture owned by Abbot Hall which stands on the lawn in front of the entrance to the Gallery (picture above- nothing to stop me snapping that one!). A pity, as the larger works, in particular, would be enhanced by being located outdoors in changing, natural light, rather than in the stark light of the gallery. And on the lawn at Blackwell it would be possible to observe the work from all angles, a problem with some of the works indoors and I noticed that a number of visitors had commented on this in the Visitor’s book. I have to say I agree with them, but a relatively minor quibble as I enjoyed the exhibition very much. It had a good selection of works, many of which I hadn’t seen before as they had been loaned by private collections.
This later work, Summer Dance (1972) greeted visitors to the Gallery as it was located in the entrance hall. It’s a very typical Hepworth work with large “curvaceous” pieces “punctured” with large holes. At first I though it was carved from wood, but on closer inspection it was apparent that it was cast in metal. The surface treatment was particularly attractive. A light silver on the front, but a darker bronze colour on the back.
There were examples of works in other media – stone, wood and thin metal plate, the latter sometimes twisted and manipulated into complex shapes, such as Forms in Movement (Galliard) (1956), made from a single copper sheet.
This is another one made from thin sheet metal, but in this case incorporating the strings which are a common feature of her work.
Stringed Figure (Curlew), 1956
I rather liked this simple work, Disc with strings (Moon) from 1969
From a private collection, one of the loan conditions probably accounted for it being displayed in a perspex box. This led to some interesting effects due to light being refracted through the joins in the box and illuminating parts of the sculpture.
The smooth, curved forms of many of Hepworth’s sculptures, like this one carved from Nigerian wood, are crying out to be touched and caressed – strictly forbidden of course!
Configuration (Phira) (1955)
There were several stone sculptures too, including this one, a large piece carved from a distinctive two-tone coloured Ancaster stone
Rock Face (1973)
It stood out for me as it’s large rectangular form was rather “masculine” and rather different from the curvaceous works she typically produced.
There were also a number of prints which we’d seen before as they were on loan from the Hepworth in Wakefield who had them on display until recently (and where I snapped some photos).
So another excellent exhibition at the Abbot Hall. a good survey of Hepworth’s oeuvre, showing works in all the main media she worked in with a good number that are not normally on display to the public, so there was something new even for someone who is very familiar with Hepworth’s work. It is manageable too. A good number of works, but not too many to take in during a visit and enough to make me want to go for another look in the near future. I understand that the Tate are to hold a retrospective of Hepworth’s work next year. I’m sure that will be good too, but it’s likely to be much larger and more overwhelming. That’s one of the things I like about Abbot Hall – good exhibitions which leave you feeling satisfied but not overstuffed and overwhelmed which is often the case with the “blockbusters” in London.