some large sculptures and a few small sketches

I took the opportunity this weekend to visit Snape Maltings by way of going to see a new exhibition by SOS artists Elizabeth James, Clare Rizzo, Carol Pask and Hilli Thompson in the Pond Gallery. It’s a mixed show, with paintings, prints, ceramics and textiles. It’s a good space to exhibit but the steep stairs make access difficult for the less physically able.

Whilst there, I also had a stroll around the outdoor sculptures at Snape… these images were taken with a mobile phone, around the moment the breeze picked up and it began to rain…


Three ‘figures’ from The Family of Man by Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth was a friend of the Suffolk-born composer Benjamin Britten and his partner, Peter Pears. She also stayed in Happisburgh in Norfolk in the 1930’s with the sculptor Henry Moore and the painter Ben Nicholson (who later became her second husband). These three totems were offered a gift to Britten (who established Snape Maltings as the main venue for the Aldeburgh Music Festival) in the 1970’s. I am sure there used to be a Henry Moore sculpture sited at Snape too, perhaps on the vacant plinth across from the main music hall…

There was a very good exhibition devoted to Hepworth, Moore and Nicholson and their connection to Norfolk at Norwich Castle in 2009. Both Hepworth and Moore were inspired by their beach finds at Happisburgh (pronounced haze-burrh), in the figurative forms of weathered flints, but more notably the sea-smoothed pebbles (which they collected and often carved). Hepworth, writing to Nicholson in 1931, tells of finding ‘a most beautiful stone [...] I am so pleased with it I have packed it’;  in 1937 Moore writes in The Listener: ‘Pebbles show nature’s working of stone. Some of the pebbles I pick up have holes right through them.’ So there you have it, a shortcut key to British sculptural abstraction – truth to materials and derived from natural forms…


Migrant (2003) by Alison Wilding, located in a wide ditch before the expanse of the reed beds

Alison Wilding’s installation ‘Migrant’ perhaps needs no further explanation (they are grounded and yet outcast), but I like how the two forms allude to hooded figures as much the steely vehicles in which they might secretly travel – and the surrounding vegetation will, over the course of the seasons, alternately reveal and then hide a sense of quiet movement in the landscape…


Perceval by Sarah Lucas (photographed looking east to accommodate the wider vista)

‘Perceval’ is a life size replica of a Shire horse in painted bronze (one of a edition of five), pulling a cart containing two supersized concrete marrows (making a connection to Lucas’s other work), a work that also replicates a familiar British, and now very kitsch, ornament. Perceval also makes an allusion to the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and so many other literary associations abound.

Sarah Lucas is one of the original YBAs (and old friend of Tracey Emin), and is known for subversive (and often lewd) mixed media works that mock cultural, social and gender stereotypes. This work seems very polished in comparison (with some irony) for Lucas, who is known for combining low-tech, crude objects and materials in her smaller sculptures (tights, kapok, wire, plaster). This sculpture is undeniably Duchampian in its conceptual influences, elevating the commonplace ‘trashy’ object into a more sophisticated artform, alluding to the British preoccupation with issues of class, taste, sentimentality, nostalgia and our relationship to the (pastoral) landscape. I could also mention Constable, but Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst come to mind instead…

I did some quick panoramic landscape sketches of the ‘greening’ Suffolk countryside this weekend …

Here are four of them (14cm x 40cm) in a very small sketchbook – and for some visual contrast, are shown with corresponding photographic snapshots of the same (or near as possible) ’street view’ from Google Maps (I did not have a camera)…


[field, looking south west - graphite pencil on paper]


[same field, looking south - watercolour on paper]


[old airfield runway with rapeseed field and green wheat - watercolour and pencil on paper)


[road towards village with church and poplars - watercolour and graphite pencil on paper]

These images are courtesy of Google Maps, cropped to correspond to the above landscape drawings…

This is not exactly an awe inspiring landscape to draw, but a sense of distance clears the mind – the clear horizons and expansive skies compensate in contemplative terms…