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 is one of our Cornwall writers
Volume 32 no 3 Jan/Feb 2018 p 35