“I was born with the ideas of certain shapes in my mind, as far back as seven …”
The sculptor Barbara Hepworth developed her unique vision early in life – her career refined and developed this into art. We have seen something similar with her near contemporary, Jacquetta Hawkes, and her interest in the deep past. Both artists were drawn to the qualities of stone and of landscape, the visual, the tactile – a romantic, lyrical, British take on modernism.
They came together on the experimental film Figures in a Landscape, for which Jacquetta wrote the script, characteristically setting Hepworth’s art in the context of Cornwall’s geology. Again and again the director, Dudley Shaw Ashton, shows us natural forms in the landscape which then merge with Hepworth’s created forms. We see her creating too, at work in her studio, hewing her ideas out of the rock with chisel and saw; hard, physical work requiring strength and finesse.
The film uses strident music by Priaulx Rainier and saturated 1950s colours to striking effect. Before I saw it, having read the script, I’d pictured the black and white, wild, romantic Du Maurier Cornwall depicted in films of the period. I remember being surprised and even unsettled by the way the elements of the film were put together, and it made me look again at Hepworth (who, like Henry Moore, may have suffered from over-exposure as a certain kind of public art, ubiquitous and often unloved in public spaces during the 1970s).
This intriguing film is on show as part of a major Hepworth retrospective. Open from 24 June-25 October 2015, Sculpture for a Modern World has been extensively reviewed and discussed and will bring Hepworth and her contemporaries to new audiences. I hope to visit the exhibition next time I am in London – watch this space!