Exploring London

Barbara Hepworth in Battersea Park

A lot of things have happened over the past few weeks. One of them is that my friend has come to stay for a while, along with her puppy. My cat is less than happy about this arrangement, but after spending the first few weeks inside the wardrobe, she’s now finally emerged and seems to be grudgingly accepting of the canine addition.

Of course, with increased puppy comes increased walking, and a week or so ago we took the dog for a long walk across London. We ended up in Battersea Park, where I stumbled across a Barbara Hepworth sculpture overlooking a lake.

Barbara Hepworth is my favourite sculptor, partly because I find her works beautiful, and partly because of the philosophy behind them. I like to read her words and then look at her art, and think about the relationship between the two.

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“I prefer my work to be shown outside. I think sculpture grows in the open light and with the movement of the sun its aspect is always changing; and with space and the sky above, it can expand and breathe.”

“Full sculptural expression is spatial – it is the three-dimensional realization of an idea, either by mass or by space construction. The materials for sculpture are unlimited in their variety of quality, tenseness and aliveness. But for the imaginative idea to be fully and freely projected into stone, wood or any plastic substance, a complete sensibility to material – an understanding of its inherent quality and character – is required. There must be a perfect unity between the idea, the substance and the dimension: this unity gives scale… Vitality is not a physical, organic attribute of sculpture – it is a spiritual inner life.”

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“There is an inside and an outside to every form. When they are in special accord, as for instance a nut in its shell or a child in the womb, or in the structure of shells or crystals, or when one senses the architecture of bones in the human figure, then I am most drawn to the effect of light. Every shadow cast by the sun from an ever-varying angle reveals the harmony of the inside to outside. Light gives full play to our tactile perceptions through the experience of our eyes, and the vitality of forms is revealed by the interplay between space and volume.”

“I am the form and I am the hollow, the thrust and the contour.”

“‘Abstract’ is a word which is now most frequently used to express only the type of the outer form of a work of art; this makes it difficult to use it in relation to the spiritual vitality or inner life which is the real sculpture. Abstract sculptural qualities are found in good sculpture of all time, but it is significant that contemporary sculpture and painting have become abstract in thought and concept. As the sculptural idea is in itself unfettered and unlimited and can choose its own forms, the vital concept selects the form and substance of its expression quite unconsciously.”

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