Top Five Public Sculptures: Frieze Sculpture Park, London

Public Catalogue Foundation Volunteer Viccy Ibbett gives us an account of her favourite sculptures from Frieze Art Fair, which recently took place in central London:

‘Frieze Art Fair is over for another year. Regent’s Park has reverted back from a hectic foundry of art sales to the idyllic landscape venerated by artists such as Adrian Berg. In short: the famously bolshy squirrels are again the masters of the lawns.

But part of the Fair has been left behind. The Frieze sculpture park is to remain in situ in Regent’s Park’s English Garden until January 10th. Clare Lilley, the director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, selected the sculptures, which span a millennia of sculptural history and incorporate monoliths, architectural works and audio-visual pieces. Although these works are impermanent – they will be sold or removed at the end of January; many of the sculptors have created other works that are permanently sited in public spaces across the UK. The works in Regent’s Park also attest the broad range of styles, techniques and purposes that go into the formation of “sculpture”, that monumentally broad category of art that PCF aims to document over the next few years.

The Dappled Light of the Sun, 2015, Conrad Shawcross (see image at the top of post)

Regents Park in the Autumn would probably make any sculpture sing. There’s something about the way the light cuts through the damp November air, amplifying the reds and yellows of the tree canopies, and the verdant lawns. But Shawcross’ The Dappled Light of the Sun seems particularly suited to this setting. The bronze sculpture is constructed out of multiple tetrahedrons welded together into an organic whole. In an interview with Wallpaper magazine, Shawcross described the tetrahedron as “an awkward building block. If you build with them they radiate out and bifurcate, like the branches of a tree.” Placed amid the vivid foliage of the park, The Dappled Light of the Sun looks utterly at home.

Shawcross, who is the youngest member of the Royal Academy, is no stranger to public art commissions. Earlier this year the sculptor unveiled Three Perpetual Chords in Dulwich Park. The three cast irons sculptures are an homage to Barbara Hepworth who’s Two Forms (Divided Circle) was stolen from Dulwich Park in 2011. The Dappled Light of the Sun was put forward for inclusion in the Frieze Sculpture Park by the Victoria Miro gallery.

Open Screen Bove

Open Screen, 2014, Carol Bove

Bove’s Open Screen is a playful imposition into the landscape of Regent’s Park. The architectural sculpture is constructed out of steel that is welded into three rectangles. The transparent form plays with the gaze of the viewer, inviting her to look through it, rather than at it, and to appreciate the picturesque way in which it frames the vistas of the park around it. Much like the permanently installed ‘selfie frames’ that have sprung up in cities and resorts around Europe, Bove’s sculpture is self-effacing but effective at renewing the viewer’s outlook on the space around them.

Open Screen was offered for inclusion in the Frieze Sculpture Park by David Zwirner gallery.

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Large Female Figure, 1991, William Turnball

Large Female Figure is a sea-blue, paper-thin slice of anthropomorphic bronze. From a distance the figure’s womanly outline is crisply delineated. Up close it is possible to see the mesmerising details of the sculpture’s surface. The patina has a complex blend of blues and greens, and the figure is incised with minute holes indicating nipples and jewellery. The figure’s serenity and its extraordinary height recall so-called ‘primitive’ art, which inspired other modernists such as Giacometti, famous for his poised Venetian women.

This figure dates from Turnball’s mature period, when he left behind the stainless steel tubular sculptures that had helped to establish his name, in order to return to his earlier passion for ‘primitive’ art. Early in his career, shortly after attending the Slade alongside the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, Turnball had been selected by Herbert Read to exhibit his ‘primitive’ sculptures at the Venice Biennale. He exhibited alongside other artists whose preoccupation in common was described by Read as “the geometry of fear”.

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Anthropomorphic Monolith, Pre-Ekoi sculpture, estimated 11th to 14th century

Anthropomorphic Monolith is just as its title indicates: an ovoid chunk of smooth rock roughly carved with the features of a man. These monoliths are something of a mystery to art historians, historians, anthropologists, and anyone else who has looked with an outsider’s eye at the history of West African art work. What is clear is that the rocks were originally dredged up from river beds, where the slow action of the water smoothed them into their current shape. The rocks were carved with the features of men and propped up near villages. However, their exact significance to the carvers or to the people who lived near them is an enigma.

The curator, Lilley, has placed Anthropomorphic Monolith near to Turnball’s Large Female Figure, to draw attention to the relationship between the two traditions of creating. Anthropomorphic Monolith was nominated for inclusion in the Sculpture Park by Didier Claes, a Belgian gallery that took a stall at Frieze Masters for the first time this year.

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Standing Stones (Solar Symphony 8), 2015, Haroon Mirza with Mattia Bosco

Standing Stones (Solar Symphony 8) are rocks that translate sunlight into sound and LED lighting. Sunlight, apparently, sounds uncannily like a mournful blast on a clarinet; a note so low that it’s unclear where the source is. The clue is the large solar panel attached to the larger of the two rocks that constitute Standing Stones (Solar Symphony 8). On a closer inspection, it is possible to see tiny flashes of red and blue LED lights embedded in narrow seams in the rock. According to the artist, Haroon Mirza, the LED lights and the intermittent groans of sound directly correlate to the pattern of sunlight falling on the solar panel. But of course, it is impossible to know for sure.

Mirza’s Standing Stones (Solar Symphony 8) challenges traditional notions of sculpture as a static, purely visual or tactile medium. By incorporating sound into the sculpture, Mirza demands that viewers engage with the sculpture aurally as well as visually. Also, by integrating a solar panel and circuitry, which translate the changing intensity of the sunlight into sound and light, Mirza has created a constantly contemporary sculpture that actively responds to its environment. It is interesting to consider how the PCF should approach a sculpture like this in our cataloguing project, or even whether ‘audio-visual’ work like this should be included in the PCF’s definition of ‘sculpture’ at all.’