An afternoon in the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden geared my brain for observing the landscape in Cornwall, where she spent much of her life. Apparently Hepworth pioneered the idea of the pierced object in abstract sculpture, an idea developed famously by Henry Moore. The Tate’s notes on this piece “Sphere with inner form” describe the “smooth thin shell, punctured by circular and oval openings, covers the crusty inner form, which is also pierced. The warm brown patina of the outer surfaces contrasts with the green of the interior faces and the inner form”. I reflected on these comments “she drew attention to the relationship between ‘an inside and an outside of every form … a nut in its shell or of a child in the womb, or in the structure of shells or of crystals, or when one senses the architecture of bones in the human figure'”. Is this a particularly female perspective or simply a mark of a great artist, who can express the vitality beneath the surface?
I began my sketch drawing freehand with the brushpen and then with fountain pen loaded with india ink. It was later that I worked colour back in, using watercolour, and conte crayon both as a resist and as an opaque layer on top.
The Tate’s notes on Hepworth’s 1966 piece “Spring” draw attention to its ovoid shape, in short, it is an egg. This relates to ideas of nature’s cycles and rebirth (and therefore also death or dormancy too? The notes don’t say this). As with “Conversation with Magic Stones“, this idea had been developed through multiple versions, with previous iterations carved in wood, the painted smooth shell contrasting with the coarse grain of the interior. I loved that the pierced interior is strung through and through with threads. I wanted this to make music – a stone lyre.
I walked round this piece “Bronze Form (Patmos)“, holding open the shutter of the iphone camera, distorting it so I could see three sides together. The critical feature of this sculpture is the enclosed space, within the bronze shape that folds over it like a wave. It was inspired by her time on the Greek island of that name.
My immediate response to Bronze Form was to see, not the space within as Hepworth intended, but the outer shell as the twin-arched saurian skull, that heavy block of bone evolved to develop piercings and pillars, lightening the load and providing a framework for powerful muscles.
I wrote on the page “Sculptures built of space and pillars, like huge distorted saurian skulls. Others solid but holes strung with strings like a stone lyre”. I reflected that these shapes seemed natural “set against the more unnatural forms of the the cultured plants” in the garden.