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architecture canals outdoor sculpture Yorkshire

A Week of Culture – Part 4 – The Hepworth Wakefield Gallery

Part Four of our culture week sees us visiting the new Hepworth Wakefield Gallery within the city of Wakefield in Yorkshire. Wakefield has been graced with a new gallery partly dedicated to the work of Barbara Hepworth as it was the city of her birth.

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We had seen photographs of this newly constructed gallery and had wanteded to visit since its opening. The building itself is an imposing grey structure based on slightly irregular cubes and cuboids. A long dramatic walkway over the canal took us over moored barges with their wood fires adding the aroma of burning wood to the misty damp atmosphere.

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From the walkway we spied this character hanging from a crane in the metal reclamation yard alongside the canal. He is made up of all sorts of scrap materials and from a distance he looks as if he is made of huge sweets – liquorice allsorts.

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As we got close to the entrance we realised just how vast this gallery is with its grey slabbed sides rising up above us.

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Inside, the building is equally dramatic with deeper greys and black being the dominant colours in the spaces outside the gallery rooms themselves, which as expected are all of a stark white. The outside surfaces are matt in sharp contrast with the shining interiors.

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With all these straight lines and monochrome surfaces that constitute the fabric of the buiding the art work on show would need to be good and well displayed to brighten the visitors’ experience along with some comfortable seating on which to sit and appreciate the art works. People also make a difference and we received a warm welcome from the smiling face behind the reception desk.

The first gallery contained a couple of pieces by British sculptor Henry Moore – Reclining Figures. They looked good with plenty of space around them and with bright even lighting. But our warm welcome from the receptionist was somewhat negated by the steward in this room who called across at me “You are not allowed to touch them!” when I was pointing out a particularly nice curved line. Sadly because of this we didn’t stay so I failed to photograph Moore’s work. We put it down to bad training and moved on quickly to the next gallery where a delightful surprise awaited us.

We were taken aback as we were confronted by a crazily overcrowded room set. This was the collection of William Alfred Ismay. At first it looked a jumble of worthless pieces of junk thrown together in what is often put forward by some artists as sculpture. We once saw a garden shed in a gallery  full of old dusty tools looking as if it had been lifted from a vegetable patch and dropped in the gallery – it even had a radio playing. The gallery presented it as an important installation and went on to propound its value as a work of art. We didn’t buy into that and we had a feeling we might be in for a similar experience here. But no! Here was a collection accumulated over decades by a local Wakefield librarian who became an obsessive collector of quality ceramics. His home became filled to the brim with them covering every surface even the table at which he ate his meals, leaving a little gap just big enough for his plate! A close look among the jumble of items led us to discover pieces from potters whose work we recognised. Most of the well-known 20th century potters and ceramists were in fact represented. Wandering around the room set became a voyage of discovery picking out beautiful pieces from amongt the cheap white goods of his era. The pieces were displayed on pieces of Ismay’s furniture and the whole set up was like looking into his house with the walls stripped away.

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In the gallery where Ismays collection was displayed we were again made to feel uncomfortable. A black line surrounded the display and a sign asked visitors not to step over it. Sadly as we walked around the young room stewards followed our every move keeping a close eye on our feet. This must again reflect their training because when we engaged them in conversation they were very pleasant, knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

The third gallery we entered was spotlighting the work of American artist Dana Schutz. This is the New York based painter’s first UK exhibition. Her large extremely colourful work did not appeal to either myself or Jude as we found them disturbing in an unpleasant way. This gallery though did give them the space needed to appreciate them coupled with excellent lighting. If you were a Schulz fan you would have appreciated how good they looked in this setting. You can see the hard surface of the bench here. It didn’t invite you to sit and peruse the paintings and did nothing to soften the hard lines of the building and whiteness of the room. Comfortable benches which invite the visitor to sit and consider a piece in more depth are sadly lacking throughout the gallery.

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We moved through galleries displaying the work of Albert Wainwright whose work varied a great deal, from simple book and magazine illustrations to landscapes of Northern England and the occasional poster. Photography was not permitted in this room.

We moved on to Galleries 4,5 and 6 where the work of Barbara Hepworth was on show. Her work suited the style of gallery with their huge walls of glass which let the light stream in. The views out of these windows were out over the river towards the city.

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We were pleased to see a full sized prototype of the well known piece “Winged Figure” which was designed to grace the John Lewis store in Oxford Street. We think of Hepworth as being just a sculptor so it was interesting to see some of her 2-D graphic works. It was a great privilege to get really close to this iconic piece and see the variety of textured surfaces.

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It was strange to see some of her work in glass cases but I can appreciate that these particular pieces are delicate.

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Enjoy this set of photos showing the variety of Hepworth’s work.

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If we look at the following set of 5 photos we can see they feature a similar simple circle. The first photo is a close up of the last piece in the set of photos above, then we have a photo of the whole of a different piece of work followed by a close up of it. The final shot looks as if it fits with them but all it is is a shot I took accidentally as I walked through the gallery. I was carrying the phone set on camera mode facing down and inadvertently took a photo of the floor with a circle of an electric socket cover. Strangely in keeping!

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We finished our visit by going back outside to look at the rest of the building itself and a few pieces displayed on the grassed areas alongside, including more of the Barbara Hepworth “Family of Man” pieces some of which we had already enjoyed at the sculpture park.

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We were also able to view the old mill building, The Calder, which will hold exhibitions in conjunction with the Hepworth Wakefield. These old warehouses present a stark contrast to the modern geometric architecture of the new gallery close by.

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So that is two parts of the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle visited which just leaves the venues in Leeds, The Henry Moore Institute and the Leeds Art Gallery, to discover sometime in the future.

Categories
landscapes outdoor sculpture Yorkshire

A Week of Culture – Part Three – My Favourites at the YSP

For this third post in the Week of culture I promised to share with you some of my favourite  scultptors who have created pieces to display outdoors. Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the ideal setting with its acres of grounds which was an area of parkland associated with a grand house. The sloping hillsides, the lake and woodland areas provide ideal settings for pieces of outdoor sculpture for both pure sculptors and land artists.

On our visit this winter the favourites we enjoyed were Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, David Nash and Richard Long.

I shall begin with a piece by Richard Long simply because this is the first time we have ever seen any of his work. Much of his work is based on a line, a walk or circles. He is the best known British land artist famous for his work made while walking. He has been honoured with a CBE for his art, the land art, sculpture, photography and paintings and in 1989 received the Turner Prize. At the sculpture park we had to walk along the shores of the lake through woodlands before we found this piece. The photo was taken on my i Pad so do not do the piece justice. The stone pieces were of red sandstone.

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My second artist to feature is David Nash who has a few pieces permanently at Yorkshire Sculpture Park but we have also seen  a massive exhibition of hs work here a few year ago after his year as artist in residence there. Both pieces we saw on this visit are in the woodland with one on the banks of the lake on the shore between the wood and the water.

The first of his works we found was entitled “71 Steps” and it climbed a hillside up through the wooded slope. The first few photos are to set the scene.

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Close by we spotted these beautiful pieces of wood and tree sculpted by Mother Nature and reflected in the water. They were flowing out into the lake.

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The second of the David Nash pieces was closer to the water’s edge between the trees and the biscuit coloured leaves. Just like the steps the wood had been scorched by burning. Sadly the camera on my i Pad couldn’t cope with the contrasts so the beautiful colour of the dried reeds has burnt out.

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On a piece of rough ground close to the lake we came across a builder’s store where old bricks and building stones were being kept whilst work was being completed on an old chapel in the grounds. We couldn’t help but wonder what a good land artist would have created using these pieces! Close by mother Nature had created a piece of her own land art based on a fallen tree.

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Barbara Hepworth’s work is well represented here at the sculpture park as her pieces called the “Family of Man” are displayed most sympathetically on a sloping piece of sparcely planted woodland. On the way to find these pieces we passed this interesting sign where the face of our Labour Party leader had been added. Similar photos of faces had been pasted to trees but the weather had got the better of these.

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I have included some close up photos of a few of the pieces by Barbara Hepworth to show where the hand of the artist has left her marks. I enjoy studying the texture of any piece of sculpture as it can be as important as the overall shape of the work.

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The bark of this tree caught my eye as we moved between the Barbara Hepworth pieces. It was the texture that attracted me and the pattern of diamonds sculpted into the bark. Even the carved graffiti seemed to add to the character of the tree, telling a part of its story.

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You can see from the photo of Jude below that the weather was not making wandering around the site too easy. The ground beneath our feet was very slippery. This meant that when we came to seek out the work of Henry Moore we found it difficult to get to them as the ground was impossible to walk on due to the steep sloping land where they were situated.

But we can enjoy this one piece.

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For part 4 of this week of culture we move on to the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery in the city of Wakefield itself.

Categories
gardens open to the public landscapes outdoor sculpture photography Yorkshire

A Week of Culture – Part 2 – Yorkshire Sculpture Park

At least once a year we go to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park so it was bound to be one of the venues on our cultural holiday. It is always a cold place and often wet and windy. We were bound to have rough weather as we were visiting in January during a particularly wet, windy winter. Thank goodness for the coffee shop which provided us several opportunities to warm back up. We arrived before it opened and became so absorbed in the special nature of this place that we left as the grounds were closing.

The four featured artists in early 2014 are Angie Lewin, Tom Price, Dennis Oppenheim and Awar Kanwatr, but as always there are resident pieces all around. Most of the pieces are sympathetically displayed around the grounds in the open grassland, under trees, alongside the lake and on grassed slopes. There is also a gallery where work can be displayed. It is a stunning building with galleries that provide beautiful display spaces. The first of the photos below show the building from the front whereas the second shows how it fits into the slope of the garden hidden by its green roof. All the lawn here is in fact the roof of the galleries.

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The original red-bricked wall of the walled garden and its bothy are still here providing unusual display spaces. Alongside the wall we found these “sound benches” part of an exhibition of work by Amar Kanwar, a combination of film and installation.

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The Bothy Gallery itself featured some of the work of sculpture Tom Price. Small bronzes are here to enjoy close up and a huge 9 feet tall figure entitled “Network” was to be searched for in the grounds. I found his work fascinating so it was a wonderful experience being so close to his pieces and his subjects are contemporary people worked in the traditional medium of bronze.

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We have enjoyed the work of some great artists here in the past, David Nash, Andy Goldsworthy etc and the artist we were primarily focusing on during this visit was Angie Lewin. We usually come here to look at the work of sculptors or land artists but Angie Lewin is an artist and designer who works in watercolours as well as prints using the techniques of a woodcut, lino cut, screen prints and lithography with much of her work being used as book or magazine illustrations. The natural world is her main stimulus especially skeletal seed heads against the sky. I love her work finding it fresh and lively as well as original.  Enjoy this little montage of her work.

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To be given the opportunity to view her sketchbooks was a delight and I was tempted to purchase a book of her work after seeing so many beautiful pieces.

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But of course there was lots more to see, including a few pieces we seek out in the grounds on every visit. Works by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, James Turrell and Antony Gormley.

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As we returned to the centre after enjoying our wander around the grounds we discovered another interesting and unexpected piece of work. Every space available is used to provide original and effective display galleries, in this case even a stairway. These little ceramic creatures in a piece called “Infestation” are the work of Anna Collette Hunt and provide great entertainment as you climb the stairs.

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This day’s cultural visit was to be the first of two days at Wakefield. The following day we went in search of the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery within the city itself. These two venues are two out of the three that make up the “Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle”. After this cultural holiday we will just have the one of the three corners of the triangles left to see, the city of Leeds. This comprises the Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute. We will soon be planning a few more days away to discover what that venue has to offer. To find out more about the triangle of galleries visit ysculpture.co.uk.

To re-visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park when I share my favourite sculptors with you see my next blog in the “Week of Culture” series of posts.