Abstract vs Figure 1952 – 2019: Pinsent Masons, London
Arthur Fleischmann (1896 - 1990)
Henry Moore (1898 – 1986)
Eduardo Paolozzi (1924 – 2005)
Pinsent Masons is delighted to announce an exhibition of sculptural work curated by the fourth Artist in Residence, Nick Hornby. The exhibition features work by key Modernist sculptors: Arthur Fleischmann (1896 – 1990), Henry Moore (1898 – 1986), and Eduardo Paolozzi (1924 – 2005) alongside that of contemporary artists Oliver Beer, Nick Hornby, Alex Massouras and Zuza Mengham.
In this exhibition, Hornby brings together late Modern sculpture alongside contemporary artists’ work to highlight the continuation of conversations between form and concept, and between figuration and abstraction, often associated with Modernism.
Henry Moore’s Relief No.1 is a bronze head relief from 1952. It was made by pressing a chalk pebble and other natural forms into wet plaster, and modifying the resulting shapes with the drawn lines of a face. In Moore’s work there is an interplay between the visibility of the pebble shape, a recognition of a face and the openness of its abstraction. Juggling a similar array of concepts—nature, process and author—but almost the reverse trajectory of Henry Moore, Zuza Mengham creates work whose organic, natural vocabulary belies its fabrication from artificial stone: those forms have different temporalities—what appears old and slowly-formed, like coral or gongshi, is man-made and new.
Paolozzi’s Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking, is a half-man and half-machine. Nick Hornby’s bronzes also unify multiple characters into one form, but split them phenomenologically—in doing so, they give physical form to the beholder’s role in the comprehension of work, and fragment the work’s perception across different moments—like cubism, but backwards. Alexander Massouras likewise responds to sculptures’ polychronic qualities: the canonic sculptures he takes as subjects become familiar through multiple mediations made at different times, complicating notions of a single, ‘original’ work around which so much Modernism pivots.
Fleischmann started his career as a figurative sculptor, modelling the human body in clay, but by the 1970s his work was exploring futuristic abstraction—one of his sculptures even stands at the centre of a scene in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) set in a fictional cloud-city of the distant future. Fleischmann pioneered the use of Perspex—first carving, then later stacking the material: Lion and Unicorn (1979) is typical of these later pieces made from acrylic sheets which have been cut to a profile and layered on top of each other. Oliver Beer’s sculptures give ordinary objects mystery, reconfiguring something familiar such that it becomes strange and rich in narrative or historical potential: a piece of railway track is dissected at an oblique angle, cut to a new profile, so that the sculpture retains its figurative reference but is abstracted and opened up to new meanings.
Situating work by these contemporary artists alongside major Modernist sculptors demonstrates how modernist debates persist. Contemporary artists are re-animating those debates through reference, both to their predecessors and to narrative structures that frame their work. The recurrence of these debates is echoed by the plural temporalities these artists inhabit: Beer’s track is angular and futuristic but recalls past uses and journeys, Fleischmann’s work straddles the 1970s and sci-fi futures, Hornby’s sculpture is viewed across moments, while Massouras divides a single canonic object into the periods and iterations of its image. Menhgam evokes a organic-geological time in objects that are made in human time, while Moore and Paolozzi, to contemporary eyes, are artists with both historical connotations of a mid-century aesthetic and a critical contribution to the abstract idiom which remains as visible in contemporary art today as it was at its inception.
Pinsent Masons Artist in Residence programme was founded in 2013. Nick Hornby has been appointed fourth Artist in residence. Each residency lasts for 12 months, and is organised with the assistance of independent art consultant Maggie O'Regan.
Oliver Beer’s Modular Rail Sculpture (2014)involves two neat slices of train rail taken from a French “grande ligne”, polished to reveal the patinated traces of countless journeys, the movement of steel wheels on steel that take the weight of passengers on their way, eking out individual existences, each with their own stories, origins and destinations. The sculpture stands then as a kind of modernist memorial to lives that sped by, an oblique pointer to the absence that is the ultimate destination for each and every one of us. Beer’s objects – a pipe, a firearm, railway lines –which are ordinary and yet mysterious, seem to be possessed of a biographical dimension, partly explicable through the propensity of the human mind to invest inanimate objects and to enrich what Heidegger termed their ‘being-in-the-world’ through the imagination. A clean sharp cut is both beautiful and cruel, as revealing as it might be destructive.
Arthur Fleischmann’s Abstract on Pyrite Base, 1973, Abstract form 1, 1973and Lion and Unicorn, 1979, all proposals for larger public works. His early work is figurative working initially in ceramic and bronze, however during the 1960s and 70s he pioneered sculpture in Perspex and the work became increasingly abstract. One of his final works was as series "Homage to the Discovery of DNA", started in 1986 and only finished in 1990. There are at least 2 versions. The first actually appeared on the set of the "Empire Strikes Back" - Space Age Fiction.
Nick Hornby’s I never wanted to lean more heavily on a man than a bird (Coco Chanel) 2012, is a cubist sculptures for the 21stcentury – rather than multiple viewpoints of a single fragmented object, he takes multiple authors of a single subject – in this case the authors are Hepworth, Brancusi and Rodin and the subject 20thCentury sculpture.
Alex Massouras' Locking Piece,is from a series of paintings of canonic sculptures, mediated by photographs from the 1960s and 1970s. The series began with classical sculpture: its translations—from bronze or marble, through photography, to oil paint—reflected the paradox that most classical Greek sculpture is known through Roman copies which were later and often in a different medium. This process of replication and circulation can create distance from the 'original' but is instrumental in the creation of a canon; similarly, photographic reproductions of sculpture are problematic but critical to the dissemination of heavy objects. These tensions and anachronisms (seeing the work through the filter of a later copy or photograph) are represented in the title, Locking Piecewhich both repeats the original title of the Henry Moore sculpture depicted, and references the fixed connections between its different iterations: photograph, painted photograph, or 3D printed scan.
Zuza Mengham’s Soma, 2018is a faux geological specimen unearthed from a science fiction. It has been excavated in reverse by building up layers in its casting and re-working. The title alludes to its bodily undulations, a symbiosis between stone and human. Ambiguity and abstraction repeat in Menghams practice. These strange relics remind us of a jeopardised version of nature, moulded, shaped and smoothed for human purpose.
Henry Moore’s Relief No.1 is a bronze head relief from 1952. From the carved masks of the 1920s via the lead and bronze helmets of the post-war years to experimental graphics drawn in the final decade of his life, heads were always abundant and hugely varying in Moore’s work. During the early 1950s he made a number of small sculptures either for, or in some cases with, his young daughter, Mary. Pressing chalk pebbles and other natural forms into wet plaster and then modifying the resulting shapes, as in this relief head, gave hours of educational entertainment.
Eduardo Paolozzi's Vulcan, 1998 Vulcan was the Roman god of fire and the blacksmith who forged weapons for the gods and heroes. In Paolozzi's work, Vulcan is often seen as the archetypal sculptor - Half-man and half-machine - a monument to the modern age. Paolozzi frequently visited myth and legendary status as the subject of his works, sculpting such mythical figures as Hermes and the cyclops, as well as modern ‘icons’ of science and the realm of the mind such as Newton, Faraday and Hooke. This maquette-size bronze was one of 3 studies that formed the basis for the larger scale ‘Vulcan’ works – including a large bronze currently on display at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and a vast welded steel figure that towers through the interior of several stories of the Scottish National Museum of Modern Art in Edinburgh.
Oliver Beer (1985) lives and works in London, UK. He studied music before attending the Ruskin School of Fine Art, University of Oxford. Beer creates subtle and diverse sculptural, installation and film projects whose provenance sometimes seems biographical; but in which his play with universal – often intimate – concerns draws on shared emotions and perceptions. Oliver Beer's work has been the subject of many screenings as well as solo and group exhibitions, notably at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham; the Palais de Tokyo, Fondation Vuitton and Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Musée d'art contemporain, Lyon; Modern Art Oxford; WIELS, Brussels; the Ménagerie de Verre, Paris; the Hebbel Theater, Berlin. Oliver Beer has also held residencies at the Palais de Tokyo, the Watermill Foundation and the Fondation Hermès.
Arthur Fleischmann (1896 - 1990) was a Slovak-born, London-based sculptor, who pioneered the use of Perspex in sculpture. He spent time in Bali, and in Australia, where he was at the centre of the Merioola Group, before settling in London. In 2001, the Arthur Fleischmann Foundation was formed. Working with the Mestske Muzeum and the City of Bratislava, the Foundation helped set up a permanent museum in the house at 6 Biela Ulica, Bratislava where Arthur Fleischmann grew up. He is also commemorated with a plaque at his London home, 92 Carlton Hill, Westminster. The plaque was unveiled on 28 July 1998 by the Austrian and Slovak ambassadors, together with the Deputy Lord Mayor of Westminster, Joy Fleischmann, and former Arts Minister, Lord Gowrie. Since 2004 there is a plaque at the house Favoritenstraße 12 in Vienna (now a hotel), where he lived and worked from 1934 to 1938.
Nick Hornby (1980) is a sculptor living and working in London, UK. His work is the physical meeting of historical critique and digital technology; behind hand-crafted sculptures of marble, resin or bronze are computer-generated models, expanding shapes, silhouettes and shadows into manifest examples of the collusion between disparate ideas. Hornby studied at Slade School of Art and Chelsea College of Art. His recent presentations include CASS Sculpture Foundation, The Museum of Arts and Design New York, Mediations Poznan, Tate Britain, Eyebem New York, Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, Leighton House London, Southbank Centre London. He was awarded the Clifford Chance Sculpture Prize and was shortlisted as for the Mark Tanner Sculpture Prize.
Alexander Massouras (1981) is an artist and writer. He was a member of the Art School Educated research project at Tate, and has since held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Paul Mellon Centre and a Leverhulme fellowship at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford. His work is in UK and international collections including the British Museum, the V&A, the Ashmolean, the Fitzwilliam, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum.
Zuza Mengham (1989) is a London-based multidisciplinary artist. Her practice explores the recovery of traditional crafts and the creation of new methods of making. The use and manipulation of materials within her work invites questions about the ways in which they are synthesized. Formal arrangements are put under pressure, combining elements that might be expected to opposite one another, so that new associations can materialize. Often sculptural work serves to crate a sensorial tie or anchor to ideas of landscape and geologies, both actual and forged. The results have the effect of compacted narratives, merging natural and synthetic elements, both historical and contemporary.
Henry Moore (1898–1986) was a British artist. He is best known for his semi abstract monumental bronze sculptures that are located around the world as public works of art and was instrumental in introducing a particular form of modernism to the United Kingdom. His forms are usually abstractions of the human figure, typically depicting mother-and-child or reclining figures. His forms are generally pierced or contain hollow spaces. Many interpreters liken the undulating form of his reclining figures to the landscape and hills of his birthplace, Yorkshire. Moore was born in Castleford, the son of a coal miner.
Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924 – 2005) Born in Edinburgh, Paolozzi became a titan of British and international art in the second half of the 20th Century. Popularly considered the founder of Pop Art, he continued to innovate as well as inspire other artists throughout his long and extraordinary life. Primarily known for his sculpture, Paolozzi produced ground-breaking work across multiple media, including prints, reliefs, collage, drawings and ceramics. Paolozzi was knighted in 1989 and has been the focus of major institutional solo exhibitions at, amongst others, the Victoria & Albert Museum; Nationalgalerie, Berlin; the Royal Academy; and most recently this year at The Whitechapel Gallery. His work is held in most major western public collections, including MOMA, the Tate Gallery and the National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh.
Monocle: Art for All – Louis Harnett O'MearaLouis Harnett O'Meara, Monocle, July 20, 2019
The Times: Artists on the right side of the law – Edward FennellEdward Fennell, The Times, February 1, 2019
The Times: Handy WorkThe Times, January 31, 2019
After Nyne: Abstract vs FigureAfter Nyne, January 22, 2019
The Art Newspaper: Sculptor Nick Hornby is on the right side of the lawThe Art Newspaper, January 21, 2019