New Year’s Day at the Hepworth 2019


It’s become a tradition for us to drive over the Pennines to visit the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield on New Year’s Day, and this year was no different. We set off mid morning, driving over a quiet M62, and arriving around midday. The main exhibition at the moment is devoted to the Hepworth Sculpture Prize. This is a biannual competition and this was the second time it had been held.

After an initial quick reccie of the exhibitions we grabbed a bite to eat in the cafe before taking a proper look round. We also took advantage of the free guided tour of the Hepworth Prize exhibition, which gave us a better understanding of the works and some insights on the artists’ methods and intentions.

The Hepworth Prize recognises a British or UK-based artist of any age, at any stage in their career, who has made a significant contribution to the development of contemporary sculpture. The entrants don’t have to be of British origin, but must be working here.

There was a room for each of the five shortlisted artists –Cerith Wyn Evans,  Michael Dean, Mona Hatoum, Phillip Lai and Magali Reus, featuring new and recent work. Each artist has their own very different style – some, inevitably, more easily accessible than others.

Probably the easiest works to relate to were those by Mona Hatoum. She
was born in Beirut to Palestinian family in 1952 and now lives in London where, in 1975, she was stranded there because the war broke out in Lebanon. (Oh my goodness – a refugee!). And most of her works in the exhibition were influenced by conflict around the world.

This piece, with a circle on the floor made up of black marbles, rather reminded me of the work of Richard Long


This globe constructed of rebar (steel bar used for reinfocing concrete) with scattered lumps of rubble. No doubt meant to represent the destruction of buildings by conflicts around the world


A theme continued in another globe. This one with an outline of the continents made from neon filled glass tube. It was meant to light up, glowing red, to represent the “hot spots” around the world. Unfortunately there was a technical fault on the day which meant it wasn’t working and removed message and meaning.


Another work, from a distance, looked liked decorative glass vessels. Closer inspection revealed them to be in the form of hand grenades.

The beauty of her sculptures was in contrast to their message. Conflicts around the world has an impact on people, who, understandably, are keen to flee to find a better life, often enduring considerable risks to life and limb in the process. Over Christmas we had so called “crisis” of a handful of refugees doing just that trying to cross one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in flimsy boats. It’s a pity that there’s a deficit of compassion in a country turning in on itself and erecting barriers.

After the visit, we were able to vote online for the Sculpture People’s Choice. Perhaps, not surprisingly, Mona Hatoum was the winner. Her works were accessible, pleasing to the eye and with a message. On our first walk round the exhibition she would probably have been my choice too.

In the adjacent room, Phillip Lai (who was born in Malaysia)

highlights the various chains of making and consuming materials today, and for accumulating and disposing of objects.

There were several high shelves with piles of foam mats and hand-casted plastic ‘basins’ with smears of cement, an installation featuring a pile of colourful clothes and a large aluminium counter top with two oversized objects.

I found it difficult to relate to these works. They didn’t really say very much to me and even the explanation of the artist’s methods and intentions during the guided tour didn’t really change my perception.

The winner of the prize was Cerith Wyn Evans (with a name like that he was clearly Welsh!).

His works combine ideas and influences from art, history, philosophy and science in order to transform our perception of the world around us. He is perhaps best known for his elegant neon text works that mine a particular fascination with language and light. 

His winning sculpture combines thirty-seven crystal glass flutes in two overlapping arcs. 


Air is pumped through the flutes through plastic tubing from a pair of “breathing units” following an algorithm, producing eerie musical sounds that reverberate around the room, and can be heard throughout the other exhibition spaces in the Gallery. Light shining on the structure cast shadows on the wall and floor.


It was a simple, attractive piece and the sounds added an additional element, and was easy to like. But it wasn’t my favourite work.

Magali Reus was born in Den Haag, The Netherlands in 1981, and currently lives and works in London. Her sculptures

are accumulations of images and things – she draws on objects she finds around her, recombining them into something strange and unfamiliar. Although a keen observer of the physical world, Reus avoids using readymade objects, instead each element of her sculptural jigsaws has been meticulously fabricated using a mixture of technological and traditionally craft-based techniques. 


On first inspection I wasn’t sure what to make of her works. But closer inspection showed that a number of them were abstract representations of people, with sombrero hats and other items like a boot and a wine bottle.

The final room showcased a large work by Michael Dean, originally from Newcastle.


At first glance the work looked like a jumbled mess of objects scattered around the gallery – coins, padlocks, crushed cans, plastic bags, building materials and crime scene tape. But closer inspection revealed connections and meanings that weren’t initially obvious.

A pavement of concrete slabs lead across the room that visitors were allowed to stand and walk on. Looking closer showed that the slabs were oversized tongues. Other cast body parts – crossed fingers – were scattered around the work.

There were messages too, if you looked closely. The pile of pennies represented 24 hours’ worth of minimum wage and the plastic bags contained a single person’s three-day emergency food bank allowance.

The plastic tape, based on the that used to cordon off crime scenes and the like, had different wording than expected.


The locks on the giant heart symbol, made from rebar, perhaps represented some optimisim


During our first walk around the exhibition I wasn’t so keen on Michael Dean’s entry. But after a second look and closer inspection and discussion with the young guide during the guided tour, it grew on me and I could see lots of depth and meaning. Even though it wasn’t as “pretty” and accessible as other works in the exhibition, this was the one I gave my vote to for the
Sculpture People’s Choice .

On a final note, interestingly, during a time when the “will of the people” includes a dislike of immigrants and outsiders (and hostility), 3 of the 5 entrants had been born outside the UK, emphasising the enterprise, ideas and different perspectives people originating elsewhere can contribute to our culture. Unfortunately, too many people disagree. Sad times.

Photography at the Hepworth

Last Saturday we drove over to the Hepworth in Wakefield to take a look at the latest exhibitons. We’d not been for a while – our last visit was our annual “pilgrimage” on New Year’s day. Being named after Barbara Hepworth, the Gallery exhibitions are often devoted to sculpture, but not exclusively and Currently they have three exibitons featuring photography.

The main exhibition Lee Miller and Surrealism is a survey of the work ofthe American photographer, best known for her association with Man Ray and her photographs taken during the Second World War, both on the Home Front in the UK and then, later, in France and Germany. It includes some of her photographs togethor with selected works by Surrealist artists, attempting to explore their influence on her.

The Hepworth website tells us that

Arriving in Paris in 1929, Miller quickly became Man Ray’s apprentice, muse and collaborator, becoming part of the Surrealist network.

During World War II, Miller was employed by  British Vogue  as a freelance war correspondent, capturing thought-provoking images of Hitler’s secret apartments and the harrowing atrocities of wartime living with her particular surrealist eye.

No photography was allowed in this exhibition but a limited number of images can be viewed on the Hepworth website.

The second exhibition was Hot Mirror, a survey of work by the contemporary Dutch artist and photographer Viviane Sassen.


Most of the images included in the exhibition were from her series ‘Umbra’, ‘Flamboya’ (photographs taken in Kenya), the ‘Pikin Slee’ series, from a remote village in Suriname, ‘Oarasomnia’, a dreamlime exploration of sleep.

There were similarities with the Lee Miler exhibition as the works on display included black and white documentary style photographs and there were clear Surrealist influences in many of the images. Even many of her photographs of “real” subjects had an abstract and often surreal quality. Here are some of my favourites.





In the centre of the gallery there was a room and walking inside you entered an immersive work Totem, 2014, which

places the visitor inside a surreal landscape.

with a changing series of images projected on the wall and reflected in mirros to produce a type of giant kaleidoscope effect.

The third photographic exhibition, Modern Nature: British Photographs from the Hyman Collection, “does what it from says on the tin” featuring around 60 photographs taken from the end of the Second World War up to the present day. The photographers included some favourites of mine – Shirley Baker, Bill Brandt and Martin Parr. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch any decent photos of the photos (!) due to reflections in the glass.

The Hepworth is always worth a visit and that was certainly the case the other Saturday.

New Year’s Day 2018 at the Hepworth


I’m still far from finished writing up our trip to Australia, but I’d thought I’d take a short diversion to report on our trip to the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield on New Year’s Day. It’s become a bit of a tradition for us to drive over a quiet M62 to visit this excellent gallery. Last year we didn’t make a subsequent visit so it’s a while since we were last there – well, 12 months exactly!


There had quite been a few changes with new exhibitions in four of the galleries and a temporary exhibition of work by the Polish artist Alina Szapocznikow which was coming to the end of it’s run.

Gallery 1 featured a range of works from the Wakefield collection, including the beautiful elm sculpture by Henry Moore shown above and works from Barbara Hepworth, and Nuam Gabo,


The next two galleries concentrated on works by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, both born locally in Castleford and Wakefield respectively.

In the first room, works by henry Moore included this unusual (for Moore) bronze head Open Work Head No. 2 (1950)


some of his drawings of miners from local pits during WWII


and a series of lithographs of Stonehenge that he had personally donated to the Wakefield collection.


The next, large room, was a comprehensive survey of Barbara Hepworth’s work including sculpture, drawings, prints and even her library of books


We had a brief look around the next two rooms which  explore Hepworth’s working methods and display examples from the Hepworth’s collection of her plasters as they’re on permanent display and we’ve seen them many times before. But the next two rooms had new displays – more works from the Hepworth’s collection


and an exhibition Daughters of Necessity by British artist Serena Korda, featuring some of her own works displayed together with ceramics from the Hepworth’s collection. The Hepworth website tells us

Working with ceramics for several years, Korda combines her experimental approach to the material with her interest in the acoustic properties of objects. For The Hepworth Wakefield, Korda has created a new work, Resonators, comprising five large, richly glazed vessels with openings at each end. Visitors are invited to interact with the work by placing their ears to each vessel to hear a range of bass-like tones.


The exhibition also features a new presentation of Korda’s ceramic sound installation Hold Fast, Stand Sure, I Scream a Revolution, which was premiered at Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art in 2016. This work is made up of 29 individual porcelain mushrooms suspended from the ceiling, which will be played as bells in public performances during the Ceramics Fair in early May 2018.


I really liked these works which were a combination of art, science and music.

There were some beautiful ceramic pieces selected by the artist too



The temporary exhibition Alina Szapocznikow: Human Landscapes was an extensive survey of the work of this Polish artist and

highlights how the artist’s work developed from classically figurative sculptures to her later ‘awkward objects’, which are politically charged and overlaid with Surrealist and Pop Art influences. (Hepworth Website)


 features more than 100 works created between 1956 and 1972 including drawings, photography and sculpture, incorporating Szapocznikow’s characteristic use of cast body parts, many of which she transformed into everyday objects like lamps or ashtrays.


Hopefully, I’ll find some time to write up more about this.

New Year 2017 at the Hepworth


The first day of 2017 we drove over the Pennines to Wakefield to visit the Hepworth, just as we’ve done on New Year’s day for the past few years. It was a while since we’d last been over to the Hepworth and there had been a few changes.


In Gallery 1, there was an exhibition – A Contemporary Collectionfeaturing a sample of works from the Wakefield Permanent Art Collection.


The collection was founded in 1923, and housed in Wakefield Art Gallery from 1932. The Hepworth website tells us that

Wakefield Councilman Alfred Carr stated that the purpose of the collection was ‘to keep in touch with modern art, in its relations to modern life’. In its first decades, the collection acquired works of art by important British artists of the early twentieth century who had championed art as a reflection of contemporary experience.

A very enlightened approach which allowed the Borough to accumulate an excellent collection of Modern and Contemporary art.

Some of the works on display in the exhibition included Construction in Space with Rose Marble Carviing (Variation 2)  1969 by Naum Gabo



and paintings by John Piper (Entrance to Fonthill)


Roger Fry –  Boats in Harbour (1915)


and Ben Nicholson –  1933 Piquet (1933) which is similar to a painting owned by Manchester City Art Gallery


I liked this painting, Painting 22.3.1969 (1960) by an artist, John Hoyland, I’ve not come across before. Always good to make a discovery!


I also liked a couple of paintings of Cornish tin miners by Graham Sutherland done during his time as a War Artist. Quite similar to the pictures by Henry Moore of coal miners and people sheltering in the Underground during the Blitz and very different than the Surrealist paintings usually associated with the artist. Unfortunately they were displayed by a reflective glass that made it impossible to take a half decent photo. (There’s an example of one of his tine miner works here.)

Gallery 2 was still showing works on loan from Kettle’s Yard that we’d seen during our visit in June.



 Gallery 3 was also still featuring works from the Cambridge gallery but since June the exhibition had been “reimagined” by by 2016 Turner Prize nominee, Anthea Hamilton,

an artist renowned for her art-pop, culture-inspired sculptures and installations that incorporate references from the worlds of art, fashion, design and cinema.


The combination of old and new works, reorganised and displayed imaginatively made for a very interesting and enjoyable exhibition


The main exhibition was devoted to the Hepworth Sculpture Prize. There was a room devoted to each of the four shortlisted artists Phyllida Barlow, Steven Claydon, Helen Marten and David Medalla. Again I hadn’t been sure what to expect but found the exhibition very interesting. There was quite a lot to see and it deserves it’s own post, I think.

Industrial Yorkshire

Three paintings of industrial landscapes from the exhibition of Yorkshire: Hepworth, Moore and the Landscape exhibition currently showing at the Hepworth, Wakefield.

Millscape, Batley by Cynthia May Kenny with the rows of terraced houses in amongst factory buildings could be in almost any industrial town in the North of England or Midlands.

Millscape Batley Cynthia May Kenny (2) 

Industrial Landscape, Wakefield by Druie Bowett who was born in Ripon and studied in York. She died in 1999. This painting dominated by power station cooling towers and electricity pylons has both figurative and abstract aspects

Industrial Landscape Wakefield Druie Bowett (2)

as does Paper Mill, Men and Paper Bales by Prunella Clough

Paper Mill, Men and Paper Bales, Prunella Clough (2) 

Perhaps not surprising as the Tate’s website tells us

Her early work is characterised by the proletarian subject-matter of labour and the urban landscape described within a narrow tonal range. Towards the end of her life she became regarded largely as an abstractionist, but her work always retained a figurative base

Kettle’s Yard at the Hepworth

A few years ago we visited Cambridge for a short break. One of the highlights of our stay was a visit to Kettle’s Yard, an art gallery with a difference – ‘a living place where works of art could be enjoyed’..

To repeat what I wrote at the time, Kettle’s Yard

… used to be the home of an eccentric Englishman, Jim Ede and his wife Helen. They moved to Cambridge in 1957 and bought four dilapidated cottages on the edge of the town centre, knocking them through to create a single house.

Trained as an artist, Jim had previously been a curator at the Tate Gallery in London and through his work became friends with Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth Henry Moore and other leading members of the Avant-garde art scene. Moving into their new home in Cambridge they filled it with works of art they had collected from their friends and other artists. Jim’s mission in life was to spread the word about Modern Art and held “open house” weekday afternoons during term time for students from the University, local artists and anyone else interested to see his collection.

Cambridge is a difficult place to get to from up in the North West of England. Not that far by distance but an awkward journey, so we knew it was unlikely we’d visit again unless we decided on another short break in Cambridge. So when I heard that the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield had an exhibition featuring works from Kettle’s Yard’s collection, we decided to drive over to Wakefield to have a look.

Kettle’s Yard is closed at the moment while they’re building a major extension (I hope that doesn’t spoil the unique character of the place) so a good number of works from their collection has been lent to the Hepworth and will be on show until the beginning of September. Following that, in a second presentation, from 15 September, artist Anthea Hamilton will reinstall the exhibition and also include new work that she has created in response to the Kettle’s Yard Collection and House, and a number of works by other artists that she has invited to participate.


One of the unique aspects of Kettle’s Yard is that the works of art are scattered around the house. There are pictures, sculptures and various other objects displayed throughout the building. Paintings by important artists are hung everywhere – including in the bathroom and toilet! And they’re not always displayed in conventional locations – some paintings hung low down close to the floor, and could only be viewed either by kneeling down or by sitting in one of the many chairs scattered around the house. There were also displays of objects including glass, ceramics and natural objects, including collections of pebbles artistically arranged.

It wasn’t really possible for the Hepworth, with it’s modern, open, airy gallery spaces, to recreate these aspects of Kettle’s Yard. There was an attempt in the smaller of the two galleries devoted to the exhibition – a reading area had been created with a couple of chairs with and objects arranged in a cabinet and they had incorporated some items of furniture and displays of pebbles and other objects. But it wasn’t really the same.

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However, they were successful in displaying the art works. The nature of the gallery means it’s possible to stand back and view the pictures and sculptures without adopting an awkward posture!

So, on to the art works. There were so many excellent works that appealed to my personal tastes, so here a just some of them.

There was a good selection of works by Ben Nicholson, who was a friend of Jim Ede, showing different styles and aspects of his practice.




Including a textile work


There was also an attractive painting by Winifred Nicholson – his first wife – who deserves to be remembered more as an artist in her own right than who she happened to be married to for a few years. (I’m looking forward to an exhibition of her work that’s due to start at the Abbot Hall Gallery in Kendal in the near future).

Cyclamen and Primula was painted in 1923 in Switzerland and is very typical of her work – pastel colours used to paint flowers standing on a windowsill with a landscape in the background.


There were a large number of paintings by Alfred Wallis.


Jim Ede obtained much of the work of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska from the estate of Sophie Brzeska following the premature death of the brilliant French artist and Kettle’s Yard has the largest collection of his work. So, not surprisingly, there were quite a few of his sculptures included in the exhibition.

A Bird Swallowing a Fish



An early Torso


The little Dancer, a favourite of mine

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This Constructivist sculpture was one of three works by the Russian artist Naum Gabo that I spotted on display

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(Construction in Space : Suspended)

The other two works were abstract prints that reminded me of pictures of outer space – unfortunately reflections in the glazed frames made them impossible to photograph but they can be viewed on the Kettle’s Yard website. I particularly liked Opus 9 (W/E 57)


(Image from Kettle’s Yard collection website)

A stone ware jar (The Heron) by William Staite-Murray

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The Kettle’s Yard Collection website tells us that

It is said to have been broken by David Jones while visiting Ede’s home in London, and it was subsequently mended in gold by Staite Murray himself, adopting a traditional Japanese technique.

and the cracks filled with gold were visible on close inspection. (This was pointed out to me during an enjoyable and informative conversation by one of the gallery invigilators).

I liked this text based work, Quia per Incarnati by David Jones, an engraver, printer, poet and essayist, who was associated with Eric Gill’s communities of artists and craftsmen in Sussex and Wales in the 1920s


All in all this was an enjoyable exhibition. It can’t, and doesn’t, recreate the quirky atmosphere of Kettle’s Yard. But it provided us with an opportunity to revisit art works that would be otherwise difficult to see and  look at them in a different way in a more “conventional” setting. And it also brought back memories of our visit to Jim Ede’s house.