Thursday, April 15, 2010

Henry Moore

Henry Moore 7 by Steve.wilde

There is an aura that surrounds a Henry Moore sculpture. They were perhaps dimmed a little by the limited space in Tate Britain and the busy crowds that seemed to come and pay their respects to a great sculptor.

But it is a spellbinding exhibition of sculpture and drawings all the same. Although the larger pieces seem to demand a large space, in the last Gallery called Elm - we seem to join the six huge figures in an intimate communion. The room is light and the graceful curves and natural grain of the wood draws us in. We are in a warm and familiar space here as Moore works again on his main theme. And walking among them we are transfigured by them. I felt honoured to be a passing shadow wandering through this space.

But I loved it all. The early work inspired by Sumerian art, the later abstractions and surrealist experiments. Then there are the disturbing subterranean drawings taken from war photographs of Londoners sheltering in the Underground during the blitz. They conjure up images of the holocaust. And the later disturbing post war figures, menacing and threatening, the hard unforgiving Helmets, fallen Warriors and in contrast the domestic Rocking Chair figures,and finally the Elm figures. They form a kind of synthesis of all the work displayed.

Often I am confronted by a gulf between a work of art and me. There is a conceptual distance between us. It is a good thing. It is as it should be. Whether it is music or poetry, film or painting, I am faced with the works strangeness and separateness from me. I often feel excluded from it and there is a tension a struggle for meaning and understanding. But not this time. I felt sort of at home with his work. Perhaps the raw impulse of his art makes his work universal and accessible. After all there is something childlike and playful here.

Oh yes and what I also found addictive about the figures was there elemental quality. I wanted to touch them, to stroke them and perhaps even to hug them. Too embrace them within my own arms. Even the stone figures had a drift wood quality about them. Sea water washing them over and over again with the ebb and flow of ancient oceans. Except that its not water but a single man's mind, a single man's hands - just amazing.

What I didn't expect. And what I think you cannot get from looking at a print or photograph of the work is the material from which his work is formed. The colours and textures are a narrative by themselves. They tell there own story - an ageless one of England and its own geological history. Moore has not destroyed that narrative but added his narrative to the older story of the rocks. They are entwined with each other. They tell a spiritual story. They are a love story. And I loved every bit of it.

The exhibition is on at Tate Britain until August.


Anonymous said...

Hello David - nicely summarized. His work is amazing, some of his larger pieces are on permanent display at the Yorkshire sculpture park. They do make a lot more sense outside.

What I really enjoyed about this exhibition was the chance to see the smaller exhibits i.e. mother and child and the world culture pieces. In particular his concern with the human face and his ability to capture very subtle expressions through the tilt of the head or the positioning and shape of the eyes and eye sockets .

As we discussed yesterday - I am always intrigued by the way common themes that resonate through the art world at any one time. i.e. his work is very much a comment on modernity and there are huge resonances with others of the time such as Miro; Giacometti and Pacaso. But I also found his work very personal and his amazing attention to detail regarding the human body made me think of the fragility of being human.

Like you - I loved every moment of it.

Anonymous said...

I have had a chance to read your blog and Debra's comment and can only say I agree with you both.

You both far outweigh me in being able to express your feelings about art and putting it into perspective.

David, I liked your last paragraph very much but also had similar feelings as you about the whole exhition. His work is amazing. I also liked (as did Debra)the smaller exhibits but like you thought the elm sculptures outstanding. I wanted to touch them, as I did many of the other scuptures. However, the best way to see Moore sculptures is out of doors in huge spaces. I hope one day to visit the Yorkshire sculpture park. Mum

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