Out of Place
Dean Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
Until 26 June
This exhibition is formed from art works collected by Margaret Gardiner, who died in January of this year.
The collection is centred on works by the sculptor Barbara Hepworth. It also includes work by Ben Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, Naum Gabo and Margaret Mellis, who together made up the core of the St Ives arts circle in Cornwall during the 1930s and 1940s.
This was a period when huge political polarisation was taking place. It saw the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy, the Spanish Civil War and the Jarrow hunger march in Britain.
The group produced avant-garde works throughout these great social upheavals which were optimistic in their outlook.
Hepworth’s sculptures stand out. She had a unique response to materials and a fascination with the relationship between people, the human figure, sculpture and the environment.
She offered her work as a hopeful and uplifting response to the anxieties and violent events of the 20th century.
Hepworth’s six sculptures on display invite you in via your eyes but more temptingly your hands. The urge to handle and caress each piece is frustrated and heightened by the gallery’s “do not touch” signs.
Hepworth was revolutionary in her attempt to “bring truth to the piece” by “direct carving” (sculpting directly from natural materials).
Previously artists would make a clay mould and then get a professional sculptor to carve the final piece.
Her other revolutionary introductions were putting “holes” through the sculpture, painting the insides and using steel string. Much of Hepworth’s work reflected her experience as a women, which she felt was the prime reason male critics failed to understand her art.
Two of Hepworth’s “egg shaped” sculptures are exhibited — Involute II and Oval Sculpture.
Involute II tries to encapsulate a feeling of rebirth or renewal of hope in peace and social regeneration, as the Second World War had ended and the welfare state was being introduced. Hepworth’s belief in the ability of human interaction and the environment to create a world of peace and social cooperation is reflected throughout her work.
Although this is a small exhibition, the lack of quantity is more than redeemed by the quality of inspiration. This free exhibition is a must to go and see.