One of the exhibitions currently showing at the Manchester City Art Gallery focuses on sculpture created during a the period from just before the First World War to the present day. Covering three rooms on the first floor of the modern extension, it features works from the Gallery’s own collection together with others from the Whitworth Gallery, currently closed for refurbishment, and the Arts Council.
explores some of the imaginative ways in which the sculptural form has been re-invented from just before World War One to the present day. It does so by combining sculpture with two-dimensional works of art and designed objects to create some unexpected but visually stunning juxtapositions.
The first room – The Human Condition – concentrates on the human form. Some of the works on show are figurative, some abstract and some a bit of both.
This relief by Eric Gill is very typical of his work. A clear depiction of a human form, a religious subject, finely carved.
The development of the abstract representation of the human figure can be seen in a piece by by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and early works by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.
This ceramic head by Stephen Dixon (Liu Xiaobo 2012), created in honour of the Chinese human rights campaigner and recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize
and this crystal skull replete with flashing interior lights by Tony Oursler
were both very popular, attracting a lot of attention from visitors.
As well as sculpture the exhibition includes some “two dimensional works” some inspired by sculpture, some ideas for sculpture and some by sculptors including Henry Moore.
The second room – Abstraction – did what it said on the tin featuring abstract works by artists including Anthony Caro, Alison Wearing and Barbara Hepworth – this is her Sphere with Inner Form (1963)
I particularly liked a couple of aluminium reliefs
Relief (1965) by Jean Spencer, which could almost have been a fabricated industrial component
and, especially, the sensuous, curved forms of Icarus (1967) by John Milne.
I’m a sucker for simple abstract sculptures like this (Rotterdam Relief, 2005, by Toby Patterson) made from a transparent perspex panel and which uses light and shadows to great effect.
The final section – Transformation – concentrated on works made from everyday objects. They included this abstract beast by Lyn Chadwick,
and this work Ridged Vessel, (2014) by Claire Malet. which was commissioned by the Gallery.
It’s not immediately obvious but this remarkable piece started out as a commercially produced olive oil tin.
I collect used steel cans and scrap copper with which to work. Each vessel is worked entirely with hand tools. The interiors are gilded with genuine gold leaf and copper leaf, bringing a distinctive richness and volcanic appearance to my work. I take an experimental approach to working with metal, allowing the medium to suggest a direction and often pushing it to the limits of workability, accelerating decay. This has led me to discover techniques that produce qualities similar to those found in nature. Through this process I aim to transform a mundane man-made object into a form to be treasured. The result is a fusion of intentional form and the natural characteristics of the medium.