23 June 2011

Sculpture in Gloucestershire

There are currently two opportunities to see some modern British sculpture in Gloucestershire (SW England) – at Quenington and at Chalford, 18 miles (30km) to the west.

The Quenington Sculpture Trust has been running shows of contemporary sculpture in the riverside gardens of Quenington Old Rectory since 1992. The 10th show, Fresh Air 2011, which started on 19 June, features about 170 items from over 100 contributors, all in the delightful setting of Mr and Mrs Abel-Smith’s garden. Thanks to their support, what started as a local event has now become a significant biennale of sculpture with coverage in the national media.

Soaring Figure by Rick Kirby

Fragment by Jilly Sutton
Gallery Pangolin at Chalford is the showcase for the sculpture foundry, Pangolin Editions. The foundry had a long relationship with the sculptor Lynn Chadwick (1914-2003) and to mark the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain, when Chadwick’s talent was first recognised, the Gallery is showing Strange Beasts Lynn Chadwick and the New Generation.
Beast VII by Lynn Chadwick

Lorraine Robbins, the curator, asked five young artists to produce responses to Chadwick’s work and these are displayed alongside the relevant piece. Robbins gamely made her own contribution intended as a reaction to Chadwick’s Beast VII, commenting:
What strikes me about Chadwick's work and this piece in particular, is a real maleness in its welded angular construction, emphasising hard geometric shapes. In her book, The Nude in Art, Lynda Nead suggests that ‘if the male signifies culture, order, geometry ... then the female stands for nature and physicality.' She also posits that within the ideal, muscular, male body there lies a fear that it may revert to ‘its own female formlessness' or 'the beast within'. Beast 43 started as a desire to physically become Chadwick's beast. I wanted to perch heavily and precariously on a plinth, an unsavoury intruder in the gallery. In making the cast I chose to wear a bra and G-string, (a garment described by Roland Barthes in his essay 'Striptease' as the ‘ultimate triangle'), the flimsy, ornate triangles of underwear forming a distorted echo to the simple, masculine forms of Chadwick's Beast VII.
Beast 43 by Lorraine Robbins
We are left to draw our own conclusions as to the significance of Robbins' head being concealed by an empty box of dog biscuits, in contrast to the ravaging mandibles of Chadwick’s creation. Beast 43 was still on sale when I visited – I hope it finds a buyer at £2000 before the show ends on 15 July.

Fresh Air 2011 closes on 10 July.

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