Anna McNay

Film of Elisabeth Frink: The Presence of Sculpture at Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham Lakeside Arts


Elisabeth Frink: The Presence of

Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham Lakeside Arts
25 November 2015 – 28 February 2016

Coming on to the scene in the postwar years,
Elisabeth Frink (1930-93) quickly began receiving commissions to create public
sculptures for social housing, religious buildings, new towns and urban
developments. All but one of these remain in situ today. Known particularly for
her dogs, horses and birdmen (hybrid or shape-shifting characters), Frink
created sculptures that are expressive, distinctive and timeless.

In this major survey exhibition, co-curated by
Annette Ratuszniak, from the Frink Estate and Archive, and Neil Walker, head of
visual arts programming at Nottingham Lakeside Arts, the development of Frink’s
commissions, in line with her own personal themes, to which she remained
committed, is traced. Always working unassisted, Frink would first create a
wire armature, before adding plaster, which she would then work back with a
rasp and chisel. Seeing the scale of some of the pieces – including Horse
(1980), for which the gallery windows had to be removed to bring it in – one
can’t help but stand back in awe.

An important inclusion in the exhibition is Frink’s
first public commission, a concrete sculpture of St John Bosco (1952), which,
until recently, was deemed lost or destroyed. It turned up earlier this year
after the current owner realised it might be a Frink and contacted Beaux Arts
gallery to look into the matter. Although it has lost one of the three original
figures, the piece has otherwise fared well and, following conservation, stands
proud as a testament to the sculptor’s skill: at the time of the commission,
Frink was still a student at Chelsea School of Art.

Another highlight of the exhibition is the recreation
of Frink’s final studio, at Woolland in Dorset, based on extensive photographic
documentation. Alongside her crates and tools and plasters, there’s the chair
that the subjects of her portraits, including Alec Guinness, once sat on, and,
to complete the evocation, a soundtrack of music is being played, comprising
classical pieces known to have been favoured by the artist.

Studio International spoke to the exhibition curators about Frink’s unusual working process and the bringing together of this major survey show.

Watch the video here