The Barbara Hepworth exhibition, Divided Circle, in Cambridge is entering its last week. I was fortunate to go to the private view on 15 November, at the Heong Gallery in Downing College, and am remiss not to have written about it sooner.
The exhibition complements Hepworth’s large bronze sculpture, Two Forms (Divided Circle) 1969, which stands outside the gallery and is on long-term loan from the Hepworth Estate. I was there in the dark but the sculpture was lit, with a serene and slightly eerie appearance.
I was sorry not to be able to walk around it. The excellent book, Divided Circle, which was published for the exhibition, explains that the space between the two sides appears surprisingly large and that a person can pass through the gap. As one circles the forms the varied depths of these shapes become more apparent and one can not only see through the circular openings but also peer inside the hollows to engage with the structure’s flesh and bones.
The maquette for Divided Circle was also on display.
The gallery is light and airy and an ideal setting for this exhibition of Hepworth’s later works, many of them of bronze and sheet metal, materials which are themselves light and pliable.
I was delighted to see Small Hieroglyph (1959) which was the same as one belonging to my aunt, Nancy Balfour, only shinier.
‘The small hieroglyph is rather like a very weighty bird in the hand,’ said Hepworth in a recorded talk for the British Council in December 1961, and it describes the work beautifully.
Disc with Strings (Moon) is an interesting work. In 1969-70 Hepworth responded to a question about her use of stringing in sculpture, with a graphic description, perhaps recalling her experiences from the rocky coastline near St Ives in Cornwall where she had her studio.
One knows the wind, one connects up spaces between objects, one measures out distance. Think of jumping from rock to rock: you have to calculate with your mind, also feel with your feet. I have always experienced a desire to pull together these tensions.
Two Rocks, made of Irish marble, is also evocative of the Cornish cliffs, like two fulmars nestling on the rocks.
There are also lithographs from The Aegean Suite. In an article in the catalogue, Sarah Kennedy (Fellow in English at Downing College) observes that Sun Setting (1971) might in fact be of the moon, the orb does not give light but is lit from below and its verdigris surface is pitted with lunar craters. It is reminiscent of both the sun and moon which Hepworth would have seen rising and setting over the sea in St Ives. Hepworth may also have been reflecting the landing on the moon two years before.
There is much to explore in this exhibition and it is well worth a visit.