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.