Elisabeth Frink: Fragility and Power at Abbot Hall

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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)

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There were several of her animal sculptures, including Harbinger birds

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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

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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.

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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.

Horse and Rider

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I spotted this statue of a horse and rider on the corner of Dover Street while I was walking down Piccadilly during my recent visit to London. It looked like it was by Elisabeth Frink. A little research confirmed that it was – Horse and Rider from 1975. Interestingly, it’s a Grade II listed building!

Horse and Rider was commissioned by Trafalgar House in 1974 for their site on Dover Street at its junction with Piccadilly. It was modelled in plaster and then cast in bronze in the Southwark studio Frink took on having returned from France in 1973. Frink described it as an ageless symbol of man and horse.

Stuck in front of a branch of Café Nero, none of their patrons were taking any notice of it!

In the grounds at Chatsworth

Here’s a few more photographs that I took in the garden and grounds during our recent visit to Chatsworth

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Autumn colours were very evident

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Besides the Beyond Limits exhibits, there are a number of permanantly sited contemporary sculptures in the Gardens.

We reckoned that this piece is by David Nash

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A quick Google revealed that we were right. It’s called Oculus Oak and was only installed in October last year (2015).

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We came on it by accident and as we are both fans of David Nash it was a pleasant surprise.

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This work (Forms that Grow in the Night (2009)) is also by Nash, but we had seen it during our previous visits.

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We hadn’t seen this retriever before, thoughDSC00853

Walking. Madonna (1981) by Elisabeth Frink

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and Richard Long’s Cornish Slate Line, an attractive work by another favourite artist.

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I don’t know who created this sculpture of a wild boar – well sited in the woods near one of the small lakes.

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Outside the gardens in the grounds of the estate, walking back to our B and B we passed this bench. It was built by younger members of the Derbyshire branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain (DSWA) using dry stone walling techniques.

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Last year there was a different bench in this location. It seems that building a bench is an annual event as part of the Chatsworth Country Fair.

A little further down the path we could see a structure out in the field – in fact we’d spotted it in the morning while we were making our way to the house and gardens from our B and B. So we went to have a closer look.

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It’s a sculpture made from oak and lead, by Tim Harrison entitled Pegasus

Modern Art at Chatsworth

In the past the aristocracy acted as patrons of the arts, buying and commissioning works by contemporary artists and building large collections. The current Duke of Devonshire has continued this tradition. Walking through the gardens at Chatsworth we came across a number of modern works.

This couldn’t be by anyone else but Richard Long. The Cornwall Slate Line is imaginatively sited running parallel to the canal.

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There are several works by Elisabeth Frink. War Horse is appropriately sited in the stables courtyard.

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This is her Lying Down Horse

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Here’s a copy of one of her heads – I’ve seen a few other versions of this

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This is a bust of Elisabeth Frink, a tribute by fellow artist Angela Conner

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This Art Nouveau style gateway is in the hedge near the maze. I couldn’t find any information on it’s creator.

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This is unmistakeably by Barry Flanagan. The drummer – a version of which stands outside the entrance to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin.

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A site specific work by David Nash, made of charred wood – Forms that grow in the night.

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This is Dejeuner sur l’Herbe by the British sculptor, Allen Jones

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There’s modern art displayed in the public areas of the house too. ‘This is Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain’ by Damien Hirst which is currently on semi-permanent display in Chatsworth’s sseventeenth century chapel. At first glance it looked as if it was contemporary to the chapel itself. But closer inspection revealed subtleties that gave the game away,such as the wooden table the statue is standing on.

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This is a piece by Anthony Caro.

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Another work by Alan Jones his life-size sculpture Carefree Man stands in front of Chinese Ladders by Felicity Aylieff . The form and design of this pot is inspired by the structure of bamboo scaffolding used by builders in China.

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Liverpool Cathedral

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The Anglican cathedral in Liverpool stands at the opposite end of Hope Street from the Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral. The two buildings couldn’t be more different. The Catholic a Modern temple of glass and concrete while the Church of England created a massive Gothic edifice of red sandstone – the fifth-largest cathedral in the world. It was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott who was also responsible for Battersea Power Station and the traditional red telephone box.

It took almost a century to build. The foundation stone was laid in 1904 and it was finally consecrated in1978. But finishing touches must still have been made after this as an apprentice stonemason I knew after I’d started work around that time used to do some work on the building as part of his training. Although it was almost complete when I was at University in Liverpool, and was effectively in use, I only recall going inside once, when I was showing a Spanish student around Liverpool.

The outside is relatively austere for a Gothic cathedral. No flying buttresses or particularly distinctive features other than the massive central tower. Inside, however it’s everything I’d expect from a Gothic church – relatively slender pillars and pointed arches holding up a ribbed roof and lots of stained glass windows.

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Volunteers fro churches in the Liverpool diocese keep the interior stocked with arrangements of freshly cut flowers.

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The Lady Chapel was] the first part of the building to be completed, being consecrated in 1910. It’s lower down than the main part of the building and so to reach it visitors have to descend down a staircase. The chapel, which is bigger than many churches, is particularly ornate with some very attractive stained glass and very Anglo-Catholic in style.

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One aspect of the chapel, but only really noticeable when climbing the steps to get back up to the main part of the cathedral, are the stained glass windows that celebrate notable women. This is one of them.

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Quite unusual as, other than the Virgin Mary, Christian theology is dominated and the associated iconography, is dominated by men.

Some of the windows in the east end of the main church also celebrate ordinary working people, the sort of craftsmen who would have constructed the great medieval cathedrals

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As with the Catholic equivalent at the other end of Hope Street, there are works of art scattered around the building.

Outside, above the main entrance, is a statue by Elisabeth Frink

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Below the large stained glass window in the east wall is a work by Tracey Emin

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Here’s a closer view

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And closer still

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Most of the pictures didn’t hold much interest for me. However, I liked this simple, but very effective, memorial to the former Bishop of Liverpool, David Sheppard which is near to the entrance to the Lady Chapel at the north west corner of the building.

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It was created by Stephen Broadbent, a sculptor based in Chester who has created quite a number of public works displayed around the North West – including some other public works in Liverpool.

I also liked the sculptures on the font

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Who let the sheep out?

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This bronze sculpture of a herdsman driving his sheep to market (Paternoster) was created by Elisabeth Frink and is located in Paternoster Square in London, close to St Paul’s cathedral.

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Badly bombed during WW2, the area was re-built after 1961 to a plan by William Holford. That development wasn’t popular and was demolished in 1996 and then re-built to a design by William Whitfield.

The statue was commissioned for the original post-war Paternoster Square complex in 1975 and was replaced on a new plinth following the redevelopment. It probably commemorates a livestock market in the area. However, Paternoster means “our father”, and the shepherd and his flock are used symbolically in Christian belief, so given the proximity to St Pauls I wonder whether it is meant to have some religious meaning?

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Merrion Square, Dublin

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Merrion Square is one of the main squares on the South side of Dublin. It’s lined on three sides with very elegant large Georgian town houses with Leinster House and The National Gallery and Natural History Museum on the other side. In the centre of the square there’s a railed off garden. When the square was first built it would have been reserved for the exclusive use of the wealthy residents of the houses. But today it’s a very pleasant public park.

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On Sunday after a fairly rough crossing, the boat docked in Dublin Port a little later than scheduled at about 5:30. There was a strong breeze, but it was sunny, so I drove over to the Square and parked up. The on street parking is free there on a Sunday. I spend a pleasant hour or so having a wander round the square and park.

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The Square was originally laid out after 1762, when it would have been on the very edge of the city, and was completed by the beginning of the 19th century. Famous residents have included Oscar Wilde, who lived for a while at Number 1, the poet W. B. Yeats, Irish patriot Daniel O’Connell and the physicist, Erwin Schrödinger.

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The buildings are very typical of the simple Georgian town houses found in this part of Dublin. However, I don’t think that is as interesting architecturally as some of the other streets nearby and I think that Fitzwilliam Square, a few blocks away is more attractive. The main attraction of Merrion Square for me is the park. It’s not very large but is pleasantly laid out and there are a number of statues and monuments that add interest when strolling around the lawns.

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This is Eire by the Irish American sculptor Jerome Connor.

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The Tribute Head by Elisabeth Frink is dedicated to Nelson Mandela and was unveiled on 18 July 1988.

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The oversize ‘Jesters Chair’ is a memorial to Writer, Satirist, Actor and Comic Dermot Morgan,  best remembered for his role as the immortal Father Ted in the TV series of the same name.

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This somewhat rather gruesome group is the Victims, by Andrew O’Connor, Installed in 1976, it’s dedicated to the victims of war.

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This is a bust of the Irish patriot Michael Collins, Commander in Chief of the Irish Free State Army during the Irish Civil War.

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The most well known monument in the square is this statue of Oscar Wilde which stands in the corner of the park, opposite the house where he used to live.

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Nearby are statues of a pregnant naked woman, representing his wife, Constance, which I think is particularly attractive

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and a male torso

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The last two stand on plinths where sayings by Wilde are inscribed, that were selected by notable Irish men and women,