Wednesday, 5 November 2008

London Calling

Looking through the latest broadsheet – a ridiculous unmanageable size – from Haunch of Venison, a trendy newish gallery in London, my eye was caught by an illustration of a bronze by William de Kooning, Hostess (pictured), which is 124.5 cm high. This large sculpture is so obviously modelled freely in clay in the first instance then cast in bronze that I wanted to see the original rather than the cast. What is so engaging about the piece is the freedom of the modelling suggesting that de Kooning allowed his fingers rather than his head to find the form. The piece itself, like many of de Kooning’s paintings, combines freedom with control, tension with calmness and angst with abandon. Without sounding too much like Pseuds Corner, it is a piece that captures some sort of ‘essence’. The reason I am writing about it is that it would be great to see established sculptors using clay as a material in its own right. Occasionally the great modeller Rodin allowed clay pieces to exist, but in the art world these have little value in comparison with bronze. Yet clay carries such resonant associations with the earth, with something primal and basic, that it adds further layers of meaning to studies of the figure. Using clay as the ‘staging post’ for bronze and other metals is an age-old process, but soon clay will be rediscovered by sculptors and galleries with the realisation that it can be just as, if not more, powerful a medium as any other.

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