Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth was the first artist I encountered who really taught me what art is. I was about 14 and went on a trip with my art class from school to the Tate in St Ives. We also visited Hepworth’s Trewyn studios there. I drew very little that day. I just wanted to look at those strangely wise shapes she had sculpted. I wanted to place my palms on the curved surfaces and lay my face against them. These majestically silent structures communicated something profound and perfect to me. Not that I can put into words what exactly that was. Hepworth showed me that knowledge is captured and passed on in multiple forms; through palms and fingertips, through smell and shape. I could go on! She showed me that there is a whole place where words run out and communication is at its most consummate. So I have been pretty eager to get along to the new Hepworth Museum in Wakefield, which is where she was born.

The museum stands with its feet in the River Calder and today that was no mean feat as the swollen torrent pounded on. The materials used in the building beautifully reflect Hepworth’s own use of materials in her sculptures: white plaster, bronze and wood. Light was important to her and she once commented on the special light to be found in both Yorkshire and Cornwall. In the musuem light rebounded everywhere. In one window some of her more sizeable sculptures look out over the racing water. I once saw a photograph of her on a beach, rock behind her, looking out to sea in a black dress. She could have been at the museum today, looking out on the river with her sculptures, black dress, black hair, steely glint in her eyes. Ah, what a day!

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