Parallel Lines 4

by Carla Scarano D’Antonio

A new and challenging exhibition is on display at the Lightbox main gallery in Woking on correspondences and relationships between sculpture and drawing.  The exhibition features 10 pieces from the Ingram Collection by well-known sculptors such as Barbara Hepworth, Anthony Caro, Eduardo Paolozzi, Kenneth Armitage, Michael Ayrton and others. Their works are the point of departure for other artists who gave their responses to the sculptures in drawings. The exhibition aims to highlight and investigate how drawing and sculpture relate, reversing the traditional process where sketching the subject comes before sculpting. This usually happens when the same artist is the producer of both the sketches and the sculpture. In this case artists from the Royal Society of Sculptors gave their responses to the given pieces.

Bringing different art forms together allows a better understanding and a deeper exploration of art pieces. The works on display are rightly positioned at the centre of the room and provide a range of interesting examples of contemporary sculpture. The artists represented at the exhibition achieved their success in the 1950s and were famous throughout the rest of the 20th century. They were linked to avant-garde movements that developed before the second world war and they knew the major artists who worked in Paris, such as Picasso, Jean Arp, Brancusi, Braque and Giacometti. Their work was greatly appreciated in Britain as well as internationally. Some of them took part in the Venice Biennale and all of them were featured in important exhibitions in Europe and America.

Sculptors such as Barbara Hepworth, Anthony Caro and Eduardo Paolozzi were pioneers in their art. Dame Hepworth worked directly on the material without preparing sketches or maquette and was influenced by the work of Henry Moore, whom she met at Leeds School of Art. She was an eminent figure at the school of St Ives with her husband Ben Nicholson. Her sculptures are abstract and are influenced by the forms and landscape of Cornwall where she lived from 1939 until her death in 1975. The ‘Sculpture with Colour and Strings’ (conceived in 1939) has a simple shape reminiscent of an egg or a shell where the outside and the inside communicate through the strings. The responses to her work analyse this concept focusing on the strings most of the time; their intersecting lines create connections, maybe relationships. The responses also explore the round shape of Hepworth’s sculpture, deconstructing it in spirals that emphasise the possibility of a different development.

‘Ghost Boat’ (2003) by John Behan inspired a great number of responses in different styles and techniques, testifying to the stimulating quality of the Irish artist’s work. His almost archaic sculpture is clearly linked to his Celtic background. The oars are like sticks propping the boat physically and metaphorically, holding up the shape and forming a barrier that the various artists interpreted in different ways. It can be a real oar, or they barely sketched them, drawing intersecting lines; others ignored them, developing different forms. The responses in drawings are interesting in their variety; they deconstruct Behan’s work and re-propose it from a different point of view giving a wider perspective.

Anthony Caro’s ‘Writing Piece – Hand’ (1978) shows his vitality and original assemblage of found objects using different materials that put the artwork in direct contact with the viewer. The responses are mostly figurative reproducing the sculpture in different techniques from charcoal or ink sketches to laser cut acrylic, etched cards. The results are intriguing and develop Caro’s work in different possible artworks that acquire a unique quality.

Other noteworthy examples are Geoffrey Clarke’s ‘Man’ (1951) where one of the responses is a reclined woman’s nude, or ‘Maze Music’ (1972) by Michael Ayrton that inspired round figures in an embroidered hoop.

One of the most important pieces is Eduardo Paolozzi’s ‘Hermes II’ (1995). The Scottish- Italian artist was a precursor of Pop Art in his surrealist, ironic collages and innovative graphic works. The sculpture on display comments ironically on the classic figure of Hermes wearing a miner’s hat, featuring a big nose and a broad grin. The responses highlight the hard geometric lines emphasising its form.

Other interesting pieces are Kenneth Armitage’s ‘Walking Group’ (1951) and Leonard Underwood’s ‘The Pursuit of Ideas’ (1959). The former seems to comment humorously on the simplicity of an everyday walk forming a group sculpture that has a classic quality; the latter has a great dynamicity in the flying figures that convey a dreamlike feeling. These characteristics are reflected in the drawing responses as well.

One of the walls of the exhibition room is decorated with an installation made by Gary Colclough, ‘Fracture 2019’, especially produced for this show. It takes inspiration from the art pieces on display. The artist links watercolours painted on the wall with lengths of teak that symbolise frames. It is another stimulating way to respond to the sculptures.

This exhibition is a refreshing way to look at drawing and sculpting, making intersections between the two art styles and proposing different approaches that allow the viewer new developments and concepts of artwork. This prompts the possibility of multiple perspectives that analyse, reveal and create.

Parallel Lines: Drawing and Sculpture, The Lightbox, Woking, 22 June – 25 August 2019

Parallel Lines 5