Friday, 17 February 2012

Sculptural Energy is the Mountain

Last night I listened to a talk by Andrew Nairne, Director of Kettle's Yard entitled Gaudier-Brzeska: from drawing to sculpture

 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska
Sketch of 'Bird Swallowing a Fish', 1914
I found myself scribbling notes as I listened, of things beautifully said or that I agreed with expressed in a new way.

In the end my small scrap of paper was full both sides and in all the gaps with my scribble and I resorted to listening again to the talk.  Kettle's Yard - Live has an archive of all the Thursday Lunchtime talks it gives which are available free through Spreaker.

The talk coincides with the current exhibition, running until 1st April - Henri Gaudier-Brzeska: Vorticist!

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s career as a sculptor was regrettably short. Born in France in 1891, he was killed in action in 1915, aged just 23. Yet in the three and a half years preceding his departure for the trenches he managed to create a remarkable and innovative body of work.

Gaudier moved to London from Paris in early 1911. There he worked alongside prominent figures such as the poet Ezra Pound, the sculptor Jacob Epstein, the painter Wyndham Lewis and the philosopher T.E. Hulme. With them, in 1914, he created Vorticism, Britain’s first avant-garde movement. Through a selection of sculptures and related drawings drawn from the permanent collection at Kettle's Yard, the display explores Gaudier’s Vorticist work, arguably his most significant contribution to the development of modern sculpture.

Andrew spoke vividly about the Gaudia story, of Vorticm and Blast, Ezra Pound, T. E. Hulme, Jim Ede and Savage Messiah and the relevance of all these connections - but right at the start of the talk he asked us to consider this sculpture, Bird Swallowing a Fish, as though we had no prior history or knowledge of Gaudia or his work, and this was simply a new, contemporary work which we were asked to look at.

This connects rather nicely with the Art and Society thinking of Clive Bell (Bloomsbury Group) at the time, 'let everyone be an amateur .. '  we can all respond to art and have a view.  

Work that has a sense of energy (an inner, compressed energy) and life, an intensity and purity, yet a balance, stillness and beyondness, will stand the test of time and have an enduring relevance.

It was good to be reminded of words in the Vorticist Manifesto:

Sculptural Energy is the Mountain
Sculptural Feeling is the Appreciation of Masses in relation
Sculptural Ability is the defining of these masses by Planes

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