I went along to the very interesting Leeds study weekend run by Gerald Deslandes. I think I am still absorbing the vast amounts of information he went through on the influences of artists over the ages, so I am not going to review those lectures here. What I was going to look at here was our visit to the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield on the Sunday.
What was very interesting to me about this gallery is that it was more about the working processes and models than the final works, due to the Hepworth family gift of Hepworth’s plasters to the museum. As someone who wants to get into making sculptures, this was fascinating. There was a great focus on texture in her work, especially on work line “Figure (Archaean) 1959”, but even on the more “mechanical” work like “Winged Figure 1961-2”, where texture has been added to sheet aluminium using Isopon, a polyester resin filler (used in car repairs by the looks of it).
Most of Hepworth’s sculptures are designed to be viewed from all angles and often provide discoveries of new elements as you move around the piece. Many of them are reminiscent of standing stones or ancient sculptures or water-worn rocks – they all seem to have a great age.
It was interesting to see how she colours the plasters by painting them in the colours of the patina she wants in the final bronze casting. Interestingly, reading the Tate interview linked to above, this was also done to highlight blemishes before sending them away to be cast, or to colour them for exhibitions.
I also like the way that the sculptures often show her working methods, the impressions of her fingers, the lines from her files, etc. These marks are part of the sculptures and they wouldn’t work the same if they were perfectly smooth. Others in comparison such as “Two Forms 1937” carved out of marble are very smooth.