Currently showing at the Lakeside Art Gallery at the University of Nottingham is an Elisabeth Frink exhibition entitled The Presence of Sculpture. The exhibition showcases a wide range of Frink’s figurative sculptures, but is mainly compiled of commissioned pieces for public spaces, especially religious places. The majority of the works within the exhibition are sculptural, but also included are drawings and video footage of Frink working.
The exhibition offers a fascinating insight into Frink’s working practice as she created her works by building a wire armature and then layering plaster over the top. This is particularly evident in some of her works where she has used the dried up plaster from her mixing bowl to form rounded shapes which mirror the shape of the bowl, and in pieces such as Eagle Lectern where Frink has mixed other materials in with her plaster, such as kindling wood, to give added texture. These plaster creations were then used to create moulds so that the pieces could be cast in bronze.
Also particularly interesting was a recreation of part of Frink’s studio which allowed the viewer to get a feel for the way she worked and the environment she was working in.
Horses and other animals are a very common subject and recurring theme for Frink, however some of my favourite pieces within the exhibition were the human figures. I found them to be incredibly full of expression which made them quite life-like and realistic as there seemed to be emotion contained within the bronze. Another major theme in Frink’s work is flight which developed from her fascination with Léo Valentin, the Frenchman who attempted flight with constructed wings and whose death at an airshow in Liverpool in 1956 inspired a series of works showing a hybrid between man and bird. These works question the vulnerability of man and over-confidence in our own abilities.
The Presence of Sculpture is a free exhibition which runs until February 28th and is well worth a visit for a fascinating insight into the life and work of one of Britain’s most prolific figurative sculptors. I’d recommend making a day of your visit and taking a walk around the lake and visiting the museum of archaeology next door whilst you’re there.