Sculpture for a Modern World
Early in this exhibition there is a Henry Moore marble ‘Snake’ that speaks entirely of limbless Garden of Eden serpent-ness sitting in a cabinet with a spare and elegant John Skeaping ‘Fish’ and a Barbara Hepworth lumpy green onyx ‘Toad’ (1928) which casts no light on her future as a successful sculptress. The lithesome snake, folded and knotted, sits in balanced, smug perfection and it is as much as I can do not to smash the glass and leg it out of the Tate with this beauty. However, Hepworth moves on from toads and delivers.
Some of Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture plays tricks with the body and mind, changing the viewer’s scale as they peer inside the work, the mind following in unconscious obedience. These pieces I find the most powerful and mysterious.
‘Corinthos’ (1954). Carved from guarea wood polished to a glowing conker finish, painted white inside accentuating the textured, chiselled surface and shafts of light within this other intriguing realm. As you look inside, this interior becomes the world and the body adjusts to feel its vastness as human scale diminishes to experience a dream-like, mysterious landscape in which you stand diminutive and alone to encounter a universe both partly recognised, immense and strangely new.
These pieces never fail to intrigue and excite the imagination and the exhibition is worth visiting for them alone.