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Rebecca Warren ‘All That Heaven Allows’

Rebecca Warren is the first artist to show in the new gallery at the Tate St Ives.
Her work reminded me of bronzes made in the Bronze Age by the Nuraghic people in Sardinia. Not of their beautifully made, detailed yet simple forms of warriors and boats that are displayed so well in Caglieri Archaeological Museum, but of the crass, badly made feeble approximations offered in the museum shop.
Some look as if she took a Giacometti and dipped it repeatedly into glue. Others are precarious looking, bolted into the floor, a solid bronze construction covered in thick lumpy paint.
I asked a young woman attendant how the artist can afford to use large quantities of bronze and was told it wasn’t that expensive, which is not my experience. To be sure this artist hasn’t got any complex undercut forms, so the molds would be easy to construct, but the sheer quantity of metal would cost quite a lot.
The attendant also told me that the ‘snowman with twig and pompom’ presented on a wheeled platform and made of unfired clay was included by Laura Smith, the curator, to show how Rebecca Warren felt oppressed by tutors at college. Unfortunately, the label indicates nothing of this, so word of this being an object of outrageous incompetence lacking all merit had already reached me via one of St.Ives’ gallery owners.
The gallery’s complicated construction with many small lights had already impressed me as interesting and really more enticing than the sculptures. The size of the room is marvellous, although sadly acoustically. It’s as reverberating and difficult to speak and be heard here as in the other rooms. There is a small carpeted shoes-off space by the cafe offering hope to musicians, speakers or film makers. The largely blank walls make a great background for photos of people, bringing out the subtle variety of their shapes in contrast to the sculpture. In the Guardian guide it says of these works, ‘A slobbering, molten carnality pervades everything this gutsy artist makes’.
I certainly agree with the first two adjectives.
I can’t see Hepworth thinking it’s a fitting exhibition to follow her heritage. It is the opposite of her work in its blobby, bulbous messiness but then, who to suggest would have been better?
As so often I am left wondering how the artist has received such recognition and why and believing surely that there is more lively, relevant and surprising sculpture waiting for an opportunity. Please.

Rebecca Warren ‘All That Heaven Allows’, until 7th January 2018

Mary Fletcher

Mary Fletcher is one of our Cornwall writers

Volume 32 no 3 Jan/Feb 2018 p 35

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7 comments

  1. This review is by Mary Fletcher, I am Mary Fletcher.

    • Rebecca Warren’s exhibition at the Tate was truly awful. She tries to justify herself in the run-up interview for this exhibit, “Rebecca Warren: ‘From the mess of experience'”, and I certainly agree with her, it was a mess!

      Here’s what she says about her choice of title: “The title for the exhibition came to me quite early on – All That Heaven Allows (from Douglas Sirk’s 1955 film of the same name). Optimism and limitation. No matter what, this is as far as you can go.” Apparently, she has gone as far as she can go.

  2. Charles Windsor

    Sorry, but I don’t agree with either Mary Fletcher, author of the article, or Liam Morris. (By the way, who exactly is Liam Morris?)

    You do realize that she was nominated for the famous Turner Prize in 2006 and is also a member of the Royal Academy of Arts? Not only has she exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery and at the Serpentine Galleries here in the UK, just to name a few, but also at the Kunsthalle in Zürich and at the Renaissance Society with the Art Institute of Chicago.

    For me the intrinsic beauty of Warren’s work is in her relationship with the materials she uses. which she sums up exquisitely in her interview at the Tate, ” It’s all manipulation. The human hand can do a lot of things. Exact levels of consciousness and chance are indefinable. There’s always a tension between doing and being done to – or channelling. It’s all one, since even the most deliberate act is made from the dark unknown stuff beneath the surface of your mind.”

    It’s the “stuff” that she refers to that is the key to understanding her work and the reason for her rapid rise to her well deserved fame.

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