I’ve seen dozens of, nay hundreds if not several thousand, works of art in recent weeks at numerous exhibitions. Let’s deal with some sculpture first.
Stanny Farm, on a bend in the R.Alde opposite Aldeburgh, Suffolk, from time to time hosts rather up-market art exhibitions for invitees with supposedly up-market pockets. The exhibitions’ setting is unambiguously striking in a classic example of what to do with a large, redundant agricultural building, in this case a very spacious barn. The two photographs give some idea of the vast space available. The sculptures, mainly re-used bits of iron and other metals mainly welded into suggestively anthropomorphic shapes, are by Andrew Sloan in an exhibition entitled ‘The Nine Muses’ (open to view by appointment).
On an even (much) grander scale is this summer’s Henry Moore exhibition, Nature and Inspiration, at Houghton Hall in north west Norfolk, open into the autumn.
Most striking, I thought, is Large Reclining Figure 1984 stretched out in all its fibreglass curvaceousness on the lawn in front of the west (rear) front of the Hall. The first view (right) is from the far end of the avenue flanking this lawn; the second view (below) is from the central, ground level doorway looking, like the sculpture, west down that avenue.
The counterpart sculpture outside the centre of the east (front) front of the Hall, also looking down an avenue, is the bronze Three Piece Sculpture: Vertebrae 1968-69. This view is back towards the house from the east, showing the tripartite nature of the sculpture. What a setting for two mighty, and mightily impressive, works; though it has to be said that the architecture stands up well to the visual challenge.
Further out in the grounds to the west, the park-scape is dotted with sculpture, some by Moore and some now resident here from earlier exhibitions, for example by Long, Turrell and Whiteread.
The Arch 1963-69 (below left) stands fibre-glass tall at the centre of a geometrical plantation (with avenues of course):
The bronze Mother and Child: Block Seat 1983-84 (above right) sits similarly at the junction of avenues in another plantation on the south of the western avenue.
Indoors are various smaller works. Personally I thought the state rooms with their rows of stately portraits looked better when hung with Damien Hirst’s dot compositions last year. The outstanding Moore-related piece tells of his inspiration rather than his accomplishment: it is the splendid elephant skull that was, to a degree, his muse:
If I’m honest, the best part of the visit was to enter once again the wonderful large walled garden, immaculate as ever and annually more coveted by this increasingly ex-gardener. As for the Moore exhibition, I was glad to find I was still impressed even though in one sense, I suppose because I have grown up and lived with the Moore genre of sculpture for more than half a century, these mighty works were strangely familiar, little lambs rather than mighty elephants.
That could not be said of the last stop in this quick gallop round some sculpture exhibitions. Look at this:
This extraordinary sculpture by Thomas Houseago is called ‘Beautiful Boy’; it is in ‘tuf-cal, hemp and iron rebar’, which perhaps someone can translate for me. Context is all; and yes, it’s the RA’s Summer Exhibition once again, announced by (the statue of) a garlanded Sir Joshua Reynolds on the main promo-poster and just below the crotch of the ‘Beautiful Boy’ in this photograph (no suggestiveness intended though I admit the angle of the photograph was not accidental).
For me, far and away the most interesting part of the Exhibition (see next blog for indoors) is the Courtyard installation, here in its own words:
For once, I agree very much with the official blurb, so need add very little. The whole Houseago assemblage in the Annenberg Courtyard is fearsome as well as fearless, and indeed in some respects a little sinister, even scary:
Look at the owl-like figure to the left and other anthropomorphic figures in the background. In the foreground, and dominating the Courtyard, is Large Walking Figure I (Leeds), a monstrous bronze which I have exploited with a low angle photograph so that the sky is background to the empty, ghoul-like eye-sockets and nasal passages. It was my conceit to angle it so that it looks as if a Union Jack is coming out of his left ear: a slight cheat may be, but there is plenty of other political undertone in this splendid show. This is my sort of sculpture, powerful and pertinent – and very lookable at. You can look at it for free until 12th August.
In utter contrast is this very ‘soft’ art-work of reeds and yarns, perhaps making a sculpture. It is called ‘Path’. Its context is in the next post: