New Hepworth-inspired commission by Veronica Ryan
27 May 2021
As part of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life, we have commissioned two leading British artists to create new installations. These interventions highlight Hepworth's work as an enduring source of inspiration and celebrate her artistic legacy.
Veronica Ryan: Magnolia/Magnoliaceae
Between 1998 and 2000 Veronica Ryan was the first artist to undertake a residency at Hepworth’s Palais de Dance studio in St Ives. At the time, Hepworth’s full-scale plaster prototypes, that are now permanently displayed at The Hepworth Wakefield, were still housed there. It therefore seemed appropriate to invite Ryan to create an intervention amongst the plasters that she knew so well.
Throughout Ryan’s career, she has revisited concepts that were also important to Hepworth. Both deeply attuned to the characteristics of specific materials, for Ryan this fascination stems from the inherent meanings that materials can convey. In her specially commissioned work for The Hepworth Wakefield, Ryan has suspended from the ceiling a monumental, hand-crocheted pocket – a technique she learned from her mother – using fishing line, inspired by Hepworth’s use of the same material to string her sculptures, and through witnessing the labour of fishermen while in St Ives.
The investigation of human experience through abstract sculpture is central to both artists’ work. Hepworth spoke of ‘the figure in the landscape’, referring to a person’s relationship to their environment. Ryan explores this interaction through material encounters. The netted pocket holds sculptures evoking the fruits and flowers of a Magnolia tree that Ryan saw recently in Hepworth’s garden in St Ives. Magnolia pods she found there have been cast and suspended on the wall of the gallery. These irregular, organic structures remind Ryan of soursop fruits found in Monserrat, memories that relate to her mother who migrated to the UK from the Caribbean and would travel across London to source familiar fruit and vegetables.
Ryan has also cast several small sculptures in plaster. The liquid form captures both the textures and details of the surface ‘skin’ when casting copies of organic forms, and the inner, negative form or man-made containers. This dual process offers a metaphorical reflection on what we hold, and what holds us.