For the centenary of Lynn Chadwick’s birth, Blain Southern gives the artist a nice gift by organising a large survey of his work across the gallery’s three spaces in London, New York and Berlin. The British sculptor, who died in 2003, is seen as a key figure in post war British sculpture. In perfect harmony with his time, he was one of the first to incorporate industrial materials, such as steel, bronze or wood, in his works . He used to describe his sculptures, halfway between figuration and abstraction, as ways to study movement and position. The beautifully designed exhibition succeeds in giving a complete overview of Lynn’s remarkable work and paying a much deserved tribute to the late sculptor.
The London exhibition is divided into three main sections. The first room, which content can be seen from the outside of the gallery, showcases monumental bronzes from the 1950’s and 1960’s. At first sight, we are striken by the rough appearance of the sculptures which look like empty shells of some surreal and extinct species. The unpolished look of the metal and the visible armatures help creating this raw and industrial look. However, after a while, life starts flowing from them.
Although some metal works are still present in the second room, the main attraction lies in the presence of a colourful display of high pyramids. Unlike all the other works presented in the exhibition, those pieces are purely abstract but, even to construct such simple abstract forms, Lynn Chadwick explained he had to take the man as a starting point. In the end, the balanced proportions of these geometrical forms leave us with a feeling of calm and serenity.
The third room presents us with a selection of smaller works. Those tiny sculptures are maquettes he used as drafts for larger works he was about to realise in the 1990’s. Displayed on a simple white table, the sculptures reminds us of little origami items. And even made of strong stainless steel, they seem as fragile as paper figures. To a certain extent, those tiny geometrical pieces summarize well his entire body work: full of ambiguity, both abstract and figurative, alive and dead, strong and vulnerable.
“It seems to me that art must be the manifestation of some vital force coming from the dark, caught by the imagination and translated by the artist’s ability and skill. Whatever the final shape, the force behind is… indivisible. When we philosophise upon this force, we lose sight of it. The intellect alone is still too clumsy to grasp it.” (BBC Home Service, 1954) *
“The important thing in my figures is always the attitude – what the figures are expressing through their actual stance. They talk, as it were, and this is something a lot of people don’t understand”. (HTV West, 1991) *
* Quotes from the Blain Southern Gallery website.
For more information about the artist and the exhibition, please visit the gallery’s website.