Tuesday, 5 January 2010

What a carve up!

To take the edge off the return to work my first day today featured a visit to the Wild Thing exhibition. It's in its last few weeks. Having seen his portrait sculptures dotted about here and there I expected to enjoy the Epstein bits the best. Instead I was most drawn to a series of smallish statues by Eric Gill. There were five of them, all mother with child. The picture on the left there is one of them (my favourite, because it's not finished - the smooth figure emerging as if by magic from the block). The figures seem influenced by Egyptian statuary, especially the hair. I'm sure there are similar sculptures of Isis suckling Horus in the British Museum.

A year or two ago in every phone call I made to my dad he always managed to steer the conversation onto Eric Gill. He was reading Fiona MacCarthy's biography at the time. Each little lecture went along the lines of Gill being an absolute genius but sexually depraved - and not in a good way. It put me off him a bit, but even so, given that I walk past it most lunchtimes, I popped into Westminster Cathedral to check out his Stations of the Cross. I found it insipid. What it really needs is lots of paint splashed on it. Red paint.

Passing quickly through the Gaudier-Brzeska room (one good monumental bust of Ezra Pound that looked as though it might have been found in the temple of some forgotten cult) led to the stuff by Jacob Epstein. A fairly perfect portrait of Iris Beerbohm Tree and finally Rock Drill. Though I preferred Gill's little statues Rock Drill is the big thing at the exhibition. Like literally it's massive. Very tall. I was blown away by how modern it looked (it was created between 1913-15). I imagine it still sets the standard for what most people would think of if they had to think of an android. It reminded me of Joe Pineapples from the ABC Warriors. It's very beautiful and very clean. What does it mean? Men who carried out heavy labour were little more than machines? Possibly. But the figure is incredibly sinister - not normally the vibe given off by victims. A comment on what man becomes when joined with machines?

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