Elisabeth Frink: Fragility and Power at Abbot Hall

T9NSDeYQ.jpeg

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)

rniJFbtw.jpeg

There were several of her animal sculptures, including Harbinger birds

IMG7INSE

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

DhAoUdNA.jpeg

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.

aPd7vbBQ.jpeg

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.

Eduardo Chillida in the Rijksmuseum Gardens

This year, the sculpture exhibition in the Rijksmuseum gardens features the work of the Spanish Basque artist Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002). He was originally a footballer, playing in goal for Real Sociedad, San Sebastián’s La Liga football team, but serious injury cut his career short.

He studied architecture before becoming a sculptor, and some of his works certainly have an architectural quality.

His work combines modern abstraction with traditional artisanal techniques for working materials, in particular forging iron. He frequently made his numerous and celebrated public works from large-format steel, using the material in a bold and spectacular fashion, with utter disregard for its innate constraints. Chillida believed that ‘To construct is to build in space.’ (Exhibition website)

DSC04674

DSC04675

DSC04676

DSC04680

DSC04683

DSC04687

DSC04689

DSC04693

DSC04698

DSC04701

Chiharu Shiota: Beyond Time in the Chapel at the YSP

P6033166.JPG

As well as the sculptures on show around the magnificent Country Park, the YSP has a number of really excellent indoor exhibition spaces. One of our favourites is the old Georgian Chapel building which is a really beautiful space and the YSP use it for some inspirational installations.

P6033159.JPG

The current exhibition features a work created by the Berlin based Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota. Many of her works are large scale webs of threads, often filling entire rooms, that frequently incorporate everyday objects such as keys, , dresses and shoes. . The main work in the Chapel is one of these. Beyond Time is a web of white thread almost filling much of the space from floor to ceiling, (2,000 balls of thread were used to construct it),  and incorporating photocopied pages  of sheet music from the YSP’s archives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

P6033170.JPG

The artist usually uses crimson or black  thread, but in an interview for the Studio International website explains why for the Chapel white thread has been used

“For purity. And death.” White is the colour of mourning in Japan, which seems appropriate, given the simple gravestones and marble memorial slabs embedded in the site. But it also represents renewal.

Visitors can walk around and through the installation and view it looking down from the seats in the balcony

Photographs can’t do it justice. It needs to be seen and experienced

Giuseppe Penone: A Tree in the Wood at the YSP

P6043235.JPG

Last Sunday we decided to drive over to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. A new exhibition had opened the previous week that we wanted to see and it’s always nice to combine seeing good contemporary art with a walk through the Country park, especially on a sunny day.

The new exhibition is devoted to the work of an Italian artist, Giuseppe Penone. I’d seen an exhibition of his work in the gardens of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam a couple of years ago so was familiar with his work. Rather like David Nash, much of his work is created from trees, often integrating with other natural materials like rocks and marble. Like Nash he also casts trees and wood and bark in bronze.

As usual with the major YSP exhibitions, works were displayed both outdoors around the park and gardens and inside the Underground Gallery.

Pathway 6 (1986) – a bronze work of a human like figure made of bark growing out of a tree

img_71741

Bifurcation (1991) – a bronze sculpture of a tree trunk with a handprint from which water flows – I’d seen this one in Amsterdam

img_71751

P6033127.JPG

Stone veins between the branches (2015), another work I’d seen in Amsterdam. A bronze tree trunk supporting a large granite block which has two smooth faces while the other two bear the drill marks made during the extraction of the block from the quarry

img_7192

Lighting Struck tree (2012) – yet another work I’d seen  in Amsterdam

img_7223

One of the first works we saw in the Underground Gallery was  In the Wood (2008). Here the artist had taken a block of wood and cut into it, carving back to a single tree ring so it appears as if a young sapling is emerging from the block.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The centrepiece that straddled the three rooms in the Gallery, Matrix (2015)was a large pine tree split in half along it’s length and then with the middle carved out following a tree ring. The two halves facing each other.

Other works in the first room were two marble works. Body of Stone – Branches (2016) has bronze branches that seem to be growing out of the stone

img_7239

In a companion piece – Body of Stone – Grid (2016), the marble is covered by a metal grid which appears to eat into the stone

img_7238

The works in the second room included With Eyes Closed (2009), a picture in which the artist’s eyes are rendered in thousands of acacia thorns.

img_7184 and Skin of Graphite (2012) where graphite has been used to reproduce the pattern on the surface of the artist’s skin. Inspired by a visit to a Yorkshire coal mine in 1989, the work was produced by taking an impression directly from his skin, projecting the pattern formed onto a larger canvas and tracing over it, so magnifying the pattern.

img_7183

Moving into the third room, the back wall was dominated by To breathe the shadow (2008) consisting of a collection of laurel leaves held in a mesh cage, with a bronze sculpture of a branch and an impression of the artist’s face in the centre

P6043218.JPG

P6033145.JPG

The left wall was covered with a drawing, Propogation (1998/2018) with an enlarged impression of the artist’s fingerprint at the centre

img_7185

Another marvellous exhibition. We’re never disappointed by all of those we’ve seen at the YSP since our first visits about 10 years ago. And there was more to see (and write up!). The days always seem to disappear when we’re there. I’m certainly not a Telegraph reader, but looking at the review on their website I have to agree that

It all adds up to perhaps the best day out in British art. 

A walk along the Helsinki shore

 

Thursday evening after work during my stay in Finland I decided to take a walk along the sea shore. I headed down towards Eira, a wealthy district  which, according to Wikipedia “has some of the most expensive and sought-after old apartments in Helsinki”, many of them built in the Jugendstil style.

IMG_6540.jpgIMG_6538.jpg

This building with the tall tower and metal spire, is the Mikael Agricola Church, which was designed by Lars Sonck, well known for his Jugenstil buildings, including the Kallio church I’d been to look at a couple of days before.

IMG_6536.jpg

I felt that it had a very modern look, despite being designed in the early 1930’s. If I’d have guessed I’d have said it was probably built considerably later towards the end of the 20th Century. Its relatively plain appearance (at least from the outside) is very different from Sonck’s Kallio church.

Reaching the sea I followed the shore, passing a number of islands just off-shore.

 

IMG_6541.jpgIMG_6542.jpgIMG_6543.jpg

Further along, I could see the fortress island of Suomenlinna, which I planned to visit the next day

DSC03780.JPG One of the regular ferries that sail from Helsinki appeared, sailing out past the island towards Tallinn, Stockholm, or some other destination

DSC03772.JPG

I passed this statue

IMG_6550.jpg

The Statue of Peace by Essi Renvall. According to the artist

the statue’s female figure is the spirit of peace returning after a war with a new, peaceful heart.

Up on the Observatory hill, overlooking the bay, was this sculpture, The Shipwrecked by Robert Stigell,

IMG_6551.jpg

which

depicts a shipwrecked family. The father, the central figure in the group, holds a small child in his arms and is calling for help. He is waving a scarf and looking towards their rescuers. Another child, a small boy, is stuck in what remains of the ship. The mother has collapsed and is lying on the raft. The work does not depict a particular shipwreck nor is it historical; Stigell was merely interested in exploring the sculptural dynamics of the subject.

Carrying on along the quay side, I soon reached Esplanade and I was able to take a look at one of Helsinki’s most famous public monuments, Havis Amanda by Ville Vallgren

DSC03789.JPG

A naked female figure in the centre of a fountain – according to the artist

the central female figure, who has risen from the sea, symbolises Helsinki and the birth of the City. Upon her unveiling the Swedish language newspapers in Helsinki and the sculptor himself started to call the sculpture ‘Havis Amanda’.

There are several other sculptures in the Esplanade gardens, including two by Viktor Jansson , the father of Tove Jansson, the author of the Moomin books

Tove Jansson modelled for her father for the mermaid.

Diverting off Esplanade I spotted this modern sculpture I in Kasarmitori, a rectangular square where the Finnish Defence Ministry is located in a former Neo-Classical Barracks designed by Carl Ludwig Engel.

DSC03797.JPG

The modern sculpture by Pekka Kauhanen stands in front of the ministry and is The National Memorial to the Winter War  and was only installed in November 2016.

I made my way back to Esplanade park. This sculpture is  located at the end of the park, close to the Swedish Theatre

IMG_6629.jpg

Fact and Fable, memorial to Topelius by Gunnar Finne

consists of two allegorical female figures: ‘Fact’ with the flame of truth on her palm, and ‘Fable’ with the crown-headed bird of fable resting on her fingers. The figures face opposite directions: ‘Fact’ looks down the Esplanadi park while ‘Fable’s’ gaze is turned to the sidewalk off Pohjoisesplanadi’.

Reaching the end of Esplanade it was only a short walk back to my hotel. I’d walked a fair distance and it was time to find a café for a drink and a bite to eat.

The Sibelius Monument

IMG_6524.jpg

The Wednesday evening while I was in Helsinki was generally sunny. I’d planned a visit to HAM, the Helsinki Art Museum which was just round the corner from my hotel. When I’d finished looking around the exhibitions it was still sunny so I decided to take a walk over to the Sibelius Monument.

Designed by Eila Hiltunen, who was the winner of a competition organised by the Sibelius Society. The monument is sited in Sibelius Park, close to the sea, in  the Töölö district.

It’s made up of approximately 600 hand-textured acid-proof stainless steel tubes of various diameters, welded together in a wave like pattern. The abstract form resulted in some controversy when it was first installed on September 7, 1967.

IMG_6522.jpg

Personally, glittering in the sunshine, I rather liked it.

Close by the Monument there’s a sculpture of the face of Sibelius, added by the artist in response to some of the ctiticisms

IMG_6527.jpg

It’s a “must see” for visitors to Helsinki, so during the daytime is likely to be surrounded with swarms of tourists arriving by coach. However, on a sunny evening I had it almost to myself.

A walk to Kallio

On the Tuesday during my stay in Helsinki my wife had flown back home so I had the rest of the week on my own. I was working during the day but the course I was running finished at 5 I had the evening to occupy myself. I’m not one for sitting in hotel rooms just working and as it was light until late, I took the opportunity to explore the city.

A prominent landmark in Helsinki is the tower of a church up on a hill in the Kallio district. It can be seen from all over the city. I knew that it had been designed by the Finnish architect Lars Sonck, who is well known for his Jugendstil style buildings, so I decided to wander over to take a look. I could have caught the tram but decided that it was within walking distance and I needed some exercise!

I walked past the front of the railway station and then cut across past the Finnish National Theatre to the Kaisanemi park. The trees were still bare of leaves, Spring not having quite arrived in Helsinki. Heading diagonally across the park, I passed this statue, Convolvulus, by Viktor Jansson, the father of Tove Jansson, the artist and author of the Moomin books, who modelled for the sculpture. The pose made me think that she was practicing karate or Tai Chi!

IMG_6462.jpg

After crossing the bridge over the Pitkäsilta bridge I turned left, walking along the waterside. A little way along on my right I could see the Paasitorni, also known as the Helsinki Workers’ House, a Jugendstil building designed by Karl Lindahl, built from granite, which opened in 1908 as conference and leisure premises for the working class. It’s very characteristic of the Finnish National Romanticism Jugendstil style.

IMG_6420.jpgIMG_6452.jpg

On the square in front of the main entrance to the building I spotted this statue of two boxers by Johannes Haapasalo.

DSC03726.JPG

Cutting back round to Siltasaarenkatu, I walked up the hill towards the church. It’s an imposing granite structure standing on top of the hill and, like the Paasitorni, built in the Finnish National Romanticism Jugendstil style.

IMG_6463.jpgIMG_6446.jpg

It’s an impressive building; solid and imposing but with some delicate decorative touches.

I had a look inside, but it looked as if a service was about to start to I snapped a few photos but felt it would be inappropriate to look around.

I spent a lttle time wandering round the nearby streets. Kallio, although originally a workers’ district has become gentrified and has something of a bohemian reputation.  I was also surprised by the number of “massage parlours” close to the church so Kallio clearly has a “red light district”, but not as blatant as Amsterdam.

IMG_6429.jpg

Heading back towards the city centre, near Paasitorni, I turned right and walked along the shore of Eläintarhanlahti

IMG_6453.jpg

 

and then over the railway bridge to Töölönlahti. These are both seawater lakes connected to each other and the sea by narrow straights. I walked south along the eastern shore from where there were views across to the Opera and Finlandia Hall.

DSC03752.JPG

DSC03751.JPG

It was only a short distance back to my hotel.