Thursday, 22 December 2011

Sculpture: The Figure in the Landscape

There’s a gem of an exhibition at the Winchester Discovery Centre, called The Figure in the Landscape. It brings together works by sculptors who are all responding to the landscape, and shaping their responses through different materials methods. One striking feature of the show is how individually each artist responds to the land and its elements. For Barbara Hepworth, ideas of community are essential: the dolmens of Cornwall evoke individuals, linking culture across time; and the landscape itself is a palimpsest of human communities, a place where land, mind and spirit are integrated. Henry Moore, represented here by a small reclining figure, turns figures into landscapes: we seem to catch the human form as it is shifting through some metamorphic process into the contours of mountains and hills. Some artists are drawn to the pure forms and geometric patterns of the land: Tim Harrisson captures concentric ripples in marble in Double Vision, while Peter Randall-Page’s Entomology II arranges ceramic shapes in a symmetrical leafy pattern, like a picture of the fractal series underlying natural phenomena. Charlotte Mayer and Lotte Glob respond to seismic forces and the rough textures of the earth in their work, which somehow imbues inert matter with a feeling of potent force and the character carved into it over great passages of time.  

Sculptures are not only finished products, They also tell a story of a process which, when we know about it, becomes part of our apprehension of the work. Keith Rand’s abstract constructions are the end result of walking, absorbing and exploring the downlands of Salisbuy plain, while Chris Drury – represented here by a video of an iceberg – is another walker, whose work offers traces of journeys, captured in different media. Simple images can have multiple resonances: Roger Stephens’s Shore, made up of three marble forms, irresistibly suggests a group – a family – looking expectantly … where? Out to sea, or from sea to land? Or from past to present? From one work to another we become conscious of the quality of the different materials – marble, chalk, bronze – and  their suggestive, expressive qualities. In the synthetic world of the modern city, it is refreshing to have an exhibition like this to bring us, so to speak, back to earth. The Figure in the Landscape is curated by Rachel Bebb of The Garden Gallery, Broughton.