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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Sculpture Exhibition St. Pancras Church Crypt Gallery 7-25 July 2009

A review by Phillip Worth with Carol Calver's own note on her work.

Life can be hard for sculptors. The materials they work with are challenging and often physically demanding, and much hard work and special skill are required before they can begin to realize their vision. And that is not the end of the story; once work is completed outlets for display have to be found, no easy matter considering the space required – and that’s not to mention difficulties of transportation. Together these are reasons enough why Owen Legg’s initiative in negotiating this particular venue is warmly welcome. It provides an opportunity for some of our most skilled artists to display their work in the mystical atmosphere of an ancient church crypt. And a splendid and imaginative show it is – all credit to our committee under the leadership of its dynamic young chairperson.

Now a brief word about each exhibiting artist:

CORAL BOWER: Passionate about the human form in all its miraculous beauty, whether still or in motion, Coral has produced seven vibrant figures, variously reclining, seated and moving. There is nothing ‘statuesque’ about these sculptures. The emphasis in all cases is on the human body as a living, functional organism inter-acting with its environment. Two heads, besides, show great individuality and sensitive handling.

OWEN LEGG: This versatile artist has his inexhaustible invention and gift for the unexpected well on show. Never taking himself too seriously Owen can turn his attention with ease from ‘Fishy Tables’ and ‘Fishy Chairs’ to ‘Sand Castles’, the latter constructed, one gathers, on the Britanny coast, preserved (somehow) and brought back to the UK – presumably in the back of his car (awkward hand luggage on a flight!). Children would love these things – and you can pay no greater compliment to any art work.

LORETTA WINDSOR: I’m sure that Loretta must be a fan of Andy Goldsworthy in that, like him, she works in partnership with Nature’s own products and does not simply copy them. Her botanical studies have an artless charm, and she crowns her display with a boldly patterned landscape which seems to preside over and symbolize everything else. Her attention-grabbing poster to the East of the church indicates another direction in which her skills may be developed.

HEATHER BURNLEY: Heather has contributed much to the active life of FPS over the years, enriching our shows with her sensitive portrait studies. Apart from her matured craftsmanship she has the vision to empathize with her sitters so that there emerge living personalities. The studies of a distinguished academic and a fresh-faced, tousle-headed boy are in delightful contrast.

KATIE MORITZ: Katie presents the fascinating spectacle of a gifted young artist at an early stage of her development, attempting all kinds of themes and media of expression. The feeling that one gets with her work, varied as it is, is the sheer enjoyment she derives from the act of creation. And this enthusiasm is apparent when she readily talks you through the pieces she has on display. I was particularly impressed by ‘Aslan’, the all-powerful lion which dominates C. S. Lewis’ ‘Narnia’ series for children (and grown-ups!) Most artfully contrived in different materials it gazes magisterially at you from the wall of the crypt, back-lit by myriad light bulbs.

GRACE KIMBLE: It is characteristic of the ebullient energy of our new chairman that not only can she combine an important job at the Natural History Museum with the demands of her leadership of FPS but also manages to sustain a regular flow of art and craft work for our exhibitions. Her series of figures in clay are intriguing, while her study in acrylic of the owl is, simply, beautiful. Rendered in subdued colours against a dark background this bird is truly a denizen of the night - one can hear it as well as see it!

JOHN MCKENZIE: John is one of those who would not label himself ‘painter’ or ‘sculptor’; if a descriptive were needed ‘artist’, only, would be appropriate. This would cover the many exciting modes of expression which he has explored, whether in oil, clay, alabaster, or bronze, examples of which are on rich display here. Having acquired the fine skills you would expect anyone to collect from the Edinburgh College of Art, his artistic spirit is free to roam far and wide – a man for all seasons! It would be difficult to select for comment one piece from his impressive display, but the study ‘Loretta’ in alabaster has, for me, an unusual quality of serene, feminine beauty. As a Festival wonk I shall certainly be searching out John’s work in Edinburgh in August.

ROY RASMUSSEN: Considering the fecundity and brilliance of his output there can have been few more self effacing people in the history of art than Roy Rasmussen. The truth is that, throughout his long association with FPS as its director, Roy laboured tirelessly and selflessly to support other artists and promote their work – I for one was a beneficiary of that. What is, perhaps, not well known is that he spent most of his life as an employee working on hand-crafted car bodies, panel beating them into shapes guaranteed to satisfy the exacting demands of wealthy purchasers. And what a lucky day for us that he carried his rare skills over into metal sculpture of unusual and distinctive beauty. ‘Technocrat’ in this show is an example, but his London home and studio are full of a lifetime’s production. A one-man retrospective overdue?

KAORU BLACKSTONE: The Italian sculptor Alberto Giacometti once remarked that, during a period in his career when he was producing only small scale works, he could accommodate the entire output of three years in his trouser pockets! Be that as it may, posterity has established that output as being among his finest productions. Moral – small is as beautiful as any other size. Kaoru’s tiny sculptures have an appeal which might have been lost had they been wrought on a much larger scale. This appeal can be attributed as much to their delicacy of craftsmanship as to their conception.

DON WELLS: A regular contributor to FPS shows for many years Don has always maintained the highest standards of workmanship in his beautifully executed sculptures. Using wood shaped and honed to the finest of finishes he produces magical figures of arresting simplicity and design in the tradition, one suggests, of Brancusi, Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth. This is the kind of art one turns to to rest the soul, dazzled and often troubled by the restless kaleidoscope of human life.

PETE MURRY: As a link with Don Wells’ work, Pete Murray is also an artist who favours abstraction to express his inner life forces. Although his titles imply figuration one suggests that this is secondary to the initial creative drive. The impression conveyed is that of restless energy born of twisting, interlocking shapes and vibrant, juxtaposed colours that more than meet the viewer half way. But don’t be nervous, subscribers to the blog – Pete will handle your submissions with expertise and care!

CATHY PREST: Like Coral Bower, this artist responds to the human body as a living, moving organism but more, as a miracle of nature, its myriad parts in perfect balance. Two of her pieces on display, ‘Curve of Inspiration’ and ‘Touched’ are in real life proportion while two – ‘Liberty’ and ‘Reaching Out’ are stylised, their lines simplified and exaggerated to suggest physique and motion. But all have a sensuous, even erotic quality. And the main attribute of these pieces and of the best sculpture generally is that, although static and timeless, they are in perpetual motion. Life enhancing for their owners!

MALCOLM FRANKLIN: Like Don Wells and (to an extent) Owen Legg this sculptor favours abstraction, that is, he does not rely on representation of things in the perceived world to give his work impact. Lines and masses in their infinite variety justify themselves to the world. Yet this is but a first impression. Malcolm delivers a much more subtle message than this because, on further study of his images, a strongly organic feel is manifest, rendered in decidedly mechanistic forms. This is an artist whose work needs much more than a passing glance. As you study it the line between man made and organic structures seems to fade – both have a common origin in the scheme of things.

CAROL CALVER: Carol has five works on show – a pity, because they are striking pieces well up to the standard of the rest of the exhibition. Nude studies, partly painted, they have a quirky, provocative quality which is all their own.

CAROL CALVER writes:
"My passion is sculpture, using my main source of raw material, grogged stoneware, sometimes using glazes and stains.

My work is mainly figurative, some with a hint of of humour. my ideas are from everyday thoughts and staements, sometimes overgeard, so the title often comes first and the work begins from there."

And this will be an appropriate note on which to end this review. We have here a show notable for the individuality of its exhibitors. All artists of impeccable technical skill, they each have a distinctive language so that collectively they give visitors a rich visual and intellectual experience. This exhibition has been an excellent initiative by FPS, set up with imagination and vigour. May it become a regular feature of our future programmes.