patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘Henry Moore

Rest and motion at Castleford Civic Centre

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Piet Mondrian suggested that humanity seeks rest within motion, or “repose through movement”[1] and he found an example of it in dance, referring possibly to the foxtrot, he said “each movement is immediately neutralized by a countermovement which signifies the search for equilibrium”[2].

Taking part in the ISTD dance medallist competition (ballroom, latin and sequence) at Castleford Civic Centre on 11 March, I thought that my own foxtrot seemed to have too much repose and not enough movement! Maybe I was feeling too relaxed after looking at the Henry Moore reclining figure on the way into the centre.

 

The reclining figure figures a lot in Henry Moore’s oeuvre, and he donated this one in 1980 to Castleford, the town where he was born, the Civic Centre having been officially opened a decade earlier on 24 March 1970.

 

The Civic Centre, a fine example of modernist architecture, designed by Derek Goad, is an optimistic looking building if ever I saw one, even now when it seems to reflect an optimism about the future that is a situated in the modernist period, when perhaps we believed more honestly in “a steady advance from the poor environment of the past to the more pleasant and brighter surroundings of the future”[3]. One of the features of the building is its facing in precast concrete panels manufactured from a limestone aggregate chosen for its weathering properties: “it has been found to get naturally lighter in colour with exposure to the atmosphere so counteracting the darkening process caused by the atmosphere itself”[4]. Apart from the darkening beneath the windows this hope, this countermovement does seem to have been realised.

 

I find it a hopeful place also by association, because of the activity (medallist competition dancing) for which I have been here a few times now. I go in filled with hope anyway! Sometimes I come out feeling even better than when I went in, other times less so. I first started to become interested in the building when I looked across the dancefloor/theatre and saw the wall sculpture, comissioned for the opening in 1970, silent, static, yet visually rhythmic (movement through repose perhaps). The dynamic rhythms of the dancefloor seem to be echoed in the sculptural forms.

The artist is Diana Dean, who was working with abstract geometric form in both painting and sculpture at the time, and the work, made in stainless steel, is entitled Symmetry in Opposition. I could wonder to what extent the title also echoes that idea of equilibrium found in the Mondrian quote above. Dean explained to me that at first the two projected squares were facing inwards with two corners touching, and then this changed to the outward projection which is why she called it Symmetry in Opposition.

Here are some photo’s of what it looked like in 1970.

 

I wonder if I also find Mondrian’s notion of the neutralisation of opposites in the contrast between the stasis of the final form Vs the activity of its making.

Dean moved to Canada in 1975, where she focused on painting and moved away from abstraction, the geometry hidden, as it were, within the structure, supporting the figuration. When I contacted her recently she replied saying “I felt it was quite synchronistic to receive your email this week as I had just begun a portrait painting with geometric patterning appearing in the carpet and all perspective lines in the room going to the left eye of the sitter. Maybe I am moving towards a new form of geometric abstraction again”[5].

A psychological reading might suggest that we are witnessing a “return of the repressed”.

(Thanks to Diana Dean and Derek Goad for supplying information and pictures for this blog post)


[1] Piet Mondrian. ‘Natural Reality and Abstract Reality: an essay in Trialogue Form’ (1919-1920) in Mondrian:

Natural Reality and Abstract Reality edited by Martin James (1995) p.27 quoted in Dancing with Mondrian by Annette Chauncy, in The International Journal of the Arts in Society vol 5, no.3

[2] Piet Mondrian. ‘The New Plastic in Painting’ (1917) in The New Life the New Art – Collected writings of Piet

Mondrian edited by Harry Holtzman & Martin James (1987). P.43, quoted in Dancing with Mondrian by Annette Chauncy, in The International Journal of the Arts in Society vol 5, no.3

[3] Opening ceremony brochure

[4] Opening ceremony brochure

[5] Personal email from the artist

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The Myth Of Tomorrow – Taro Okamoto (via Tokyobling’s Blog) and public art and Henry Moore

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This wonderful blog seems to have provoked a lot of interest.

The Myth Of Tomorrow - Taro Okamoto Sometimes the thing about art in public places is that you just don’t think about it. Even though art has long since been stripped of it’s moral-building and society-building status (Duchamp and his art-antics took care of that back in 1917) public officials still feel it necessary to enrichen our public spaces with what they consider to be worthwhile art. Here’s one I have managed to miss for a very long time indeed: Taro Okamoto’s “The Myth of … Read More

via Tokyobling’s Blog

Public art gets walked by seems to be one of the themes (it doesn’t have to be very public for that to happen. In a workplace near me there is a lot of good art on the walls by important UK artists – largely ignored, see previous blog).
In the comments section of the Myth Of Tomorrow blog there is a piece by Visartstudio including a good story about a Henry Moore sculpture in Toronto

…works that have become significant have done so by digging into our psychological reality and insinuating itself by a process of educating the imagination. Case in point The Archer by Henry Moore in Toronto Nathan Phillips square was supported by the extensive collection of Moore donation to the AGO… More significantly a pop song
Down By The Henry Moore – Murray McLauchlan (1974) summed up Toronto’s relationship to this now significant piece of art. So much so when it alleged removal was used in the first day with out art protest, the controversy drew near 100,000 people into Nathan Phillips square. Digging a bit deeper the art fit the square and became a cultural anchor that suited the site and the Toronto’s city Hall building and has become a bench mark of how Torontonians felt about there city, there future and themselves…

I was in Castleford UK other weekend, at a dance competition in the Civic Hall, and in front of the building is a piece of public art, a Henry Moore sculpture. It is unmistakably Henry Moore so in the pouring rain I wandered across the grass to get a better view.

Henry Moore Draped Reclining Figure 1952-53 © Copyright David Pickersgill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

© Copyright David Pickersgill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

I knew that Moore was born in the Wakefield area, but not that it was actually Castleford. The piece also serves as a memorial.

Written by Andy Parkinson

June 24, 2011 at 7:19 am

Constructivism casts its shadow in Leeds

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At last I got to see the show Construction and its Shadow at Leeds Art Gallery, that had appeared on the Abstraktion blog a few weeks ago.

constructivism and systems

Constructivism and its Shadow at Leeds Art Gallery, May 2011 - finishing soon

When I mentioned to the museum attendant how good I thought it was she seemed pleased that I liked it (we all like to get a ‘like’ every now and again). She said that most people who comment say that it’s rubbish.

What? Most of this work is ‘old’, the exhibition is a reminder of a tradition. Surely, the fact of abstraction has lost its ability to shock, surprise and elicit “a child could have done that” by now. Especially this work, most of it is quite complex and I would have thought difficult to dismiss. Well, I have been wrong before!

In my continuing quest to see abstract art outside of London, I had a good day in Leeds. At the Constructivism exhibition I was particularly interested in the work by Jeffrey Steele. Later, I noticed that at the seminar I missed, about the influence of the British Constructivist and Systems groups, Jeffrey Steele had been speaking and I wished I had been there.

Jeffrey Steele

Jeffrey Steele, SG 1 62, Oil on Canvas

In the permanent collection of contemporary art (post 1880 I think was their definition) I saw a Robyn Denny that I haven’t seen for ages. When I saw it, I remembered hat I had seen it before, at Leeds many years ago. I also imagined that, back then I saw a big John Hoyland painting, but if I did it wasn’t there today. (Just checking the catalogue I downloaded from the gallery website, there is a Hoyland in their collection. I would have liked to see that)

There were three impressive John Walker paintings, as well as some by Terry Frost (not his best), and one by Gillian Ayres (Helios 1990, not my favourite).

There were some interesting paintings in the other collections, I particularly enjoyed looking at an Ivon Hitchens landscape.

Then, visiting the cafe was an art experience itself, not the food necessarily (which was good and reasonably priced), but the environment of the Tiled Hall

tiles

Tiled Hall 1

tiles etc

Tiled Hall 2

Floor

Tiled Hall 3

tile hall ceiling

Tiled Hall ceiling

tile hall ceiling 2

well, this is definitely the ceiling

On the way out I did wonder whether you could see too much Henry Moore (!)

Leeds

Henry Moore figure outside Leeds Art Gallery, looking away from the gallery

Henry Moore Leeds

Henry Moore figure outside Leeds Art Gallery, looking towards the gallery

perhaps not.

Leeds, Henry Moore Institute

Henry Moore Institute

We did go into the Henry Moore Institute attached to the Gallery (nice building) and looked at interesting photographs and sculptural pieces by Jean-Marc Bustamante, but in a hurry, because it was very nearly 5pm and they were getting ready to close.

sheep love sculpture

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At YSP the other day (see yesterday’s blog), I was amazed at how much the sheep seemed to appreciate this Barbara Hepworth (or is it by Henry Moore?)

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Sheep can’t read the sign that says “please do not climb on the sculptures” but they do seem to be able to read the non-verbal ‘sign’ that says “walk around me”.

Written by Andy Parkinson

May 1, 2011 at 8:23 am