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Revisiting Turning Forms

Wednesday 22 September 2021, 3 - 5.30pm

In 1950, Barbara Hepworth was commissioned to produce a kinetic sculpture, painted white, entitled Turning Forms. Made from reinforced concrete, it is 213.3 centimetres high. Made for the Festival of Britain as a motor-driven spectacle, the sculpture was situated outside the Thameside restaurant designed by Jane Drew. Its position on the South Bank was evidentially a key landmark within a growing concrete landscape. After the festival, it was reinstalled in the grounds of a school in St. Albans and recently has undergone an intensive restoration process.

This event investigated this unique work of sculpture, not only as a work representative of the ambitions and intentions of the Festival of Britain, but as an object with many stories to tell us about the collaborative and experimental nature of sculptural fabrication and restoration.

The School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Huddersfield has recently engaged in a technical process of scanning the sculpture to provide a digital revisualisation of its kinetic rotations. We considered the sculpture’s mobility in connection to Hepworth’s important role in the legacies and inheritances of European avant-garde art and design culture, as well as the challenges the material of its construction produces for its current interpretation and display.

We invited you to revisit Turning Forms with us; to circulate around and through this sculpture from a variety of different perspectives and angles. This event helped us to track the journey of this work as it travels through time; from its historical starting point in post-war Britain and as part of the Festival of Britain, through to its home in a school in St Albans, to the complex restoration processes involved in conserving the form and the new technologies used to re-imagine it in the present.


15:00-15:15 Michael White, Welcome and Introduction (screening of short film (7 mins) made by Royal Society of Sculptors)

15:15-16:15 Session 1: (Re)Turning Forms: Addressing its Restoration, Visualisation and Re-Presentation

Chair: Michael White (University of York)

  • Tessa Jackson (Conservator at Jackson Sculpture Conservation Ltd): ‘The Restoration of Turning Forms
  • Nic Clear (Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, University of Huddersfield): ‘Utopian Geometries: Turning Forms and the (Science) Fictions of Post-war Utopias’
  • Eleanor Clayton (Curator at The Hepworth Wakefield): ‘Situating Turning Forms’

16:15-16:30 Break

16:30-17:30 Session 2: Concrete Culture: Addressing the Wider Meanings and Contexts of the Sculpture’s Materiality

Chair: Rowan Bailey (University of Huddersfield)

  • Catherine Croft (Director of the Twentieth Century Society) ‘Forms: The Architectural Context’
  • Alistair Rider (University of St. Andrews): ‘Material and Form: Some Circumnavigations’
  • Jacob van der Beugel (Artist): ‘Grey Matter: New Artistic Explorations in Concrete’

Speakers' Biographies

Tessa Jackson

Tessa Jackson is an Accredited Member of the Institute of Conservation Specialising in the Conservation and Restoration of Modern and Contemporary Sculpture. She has over 31 years’ experience as a conservator, with over 26 years specialising in the conservation and restoration of modern and contemporary sculpture. She worked at Tate between 1994-2017 whilst simultaneously establishing her own Surrey based, conservation and consulting business. At Tate Tessa was involved in the conservation and restoration of some of the most important sculptures of the 20th century, including Epstein’s Jacob and the Angel, Rodin’s The Kiss, Moore`s Recumbent Figure and the Hepworth sculptures in the St Ives sculpture garden. She has made a study of the conservation and restoration of pristine surfaces and liaises with other key specialists to achieve specific bespoke finishes. She has an international reputation and has lectured and contributed to influential publications including the 2019 Getty publication Concrete – Case Studies in Conservation Practice (Conserving Modern Heritage), Barbara Hepworth, The Plasters: The Gift to Wakefield and the Tate publication Material Matters: The Conservation of Modern Sculpture.

Nic Clear

Professor Nic Clear is a registered architect, author and curator, he is currently Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Huddersfield. For over twenty years Nic has been pioneering the use of the moving image in architectural education for over twenty years and is the only architectural tutor to have supervised students who have won all three RIBA student medals. Nic edited the AD volume Architectures of the Near Future, dedicated to the work of JG Ballard, he co-edited Educating Architects: How Tomorrow’s Practitioners Will Learn Today with Neil Spiller and provided the ‘Architecture’ section to the Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction. His utopian design project the ‘Chthonopolis’ has been published and exhibited internationally.

Eleanor Clayton

Eleanor Clayton is Curator at The Hepworth Wakefield (THW) and a Barbara Hepworth specialist. As Assistant Curator at Tate Liverpool (2010–14) she curated displays around Hepworth’s work, alongside exhibitions of international modern art such as Mondrian and his Studios: Colour in Space and Nasreen Mohamedi. At THW she has curated exhibitions such as Hepworth in Yorkshire and A Greater Freedom: Hepworth 1965-75, while bringing Hepworth’s work in dialogue with contemporary artists. In 2020 she co-founded the AHRC-funded Hepworth Research Network with the University of York and the University of Huddersfield. Clayton has published widely on British Modern art. In addition to journal papers and reviews, she is editor and co-author of Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain and Alan Davie & David Hockney: Early Work.

Catherine Croft

Catherine Croft is Director of the Twentieth Century Society, a British charity which campaigns for the preservation of architectural heritage from 1914 onwards. She is editor and author of Concrete: Case Studies in Conservation Practice, published by the Getty Conservation Institute in 2019, which features fourteen case studies that address the challenge of conserving concrete. She is also author of Concrete Architecture (Laurence King, 2005) a book featuring architectural projects that use concrete for an enormous range of building types, including a private studio in the Netherlands by UN Studio and Canary Wharf Underground Station in London by Foster and Partners. Catherine Croft has also contributed to Practical Building Conservation, a ten-part series that looks at the conservation of building materials and systems. She also runs an annual residential course on the conservation of concrete at West Dean College as part of the Institute for Historic Building Conservation (IHBC).

Alistair Rider

Alistair Rider teaches in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews. Much of his research has focused on abstract art, particularly on US Minimalism from the 1960s. His most recent book, which will be published later this year, is a study of the late minimalist American painter, James Howell, who devoted much of his life to depicting the grey spectrum. Currently, Alistair is researching the legacies of the debates about art and life from the 1930s onwards.

Jacob van der Beugel

Jacob van der Beugel is an artist who has created large permanent installations for Chatsworth House called The North Sketch Sequence and more recently for Palace Huis ten Bosch, the official home of the Dutch Royal family, called The DNA Room. He explores new scientific concepts through the use of materials that society has an intuitive and historical relationship with, such as clay and concrete. Jacob has a BA in History of Art and trained with Edmund de Waal. He has also completed numerous artist residencies at scientific institutions including The Wellcome Sanger Institute. Jacob’s work is held in numerous public collections and is collected internationally.