A major survey exhibition of Dame Elisabeth Frink’s public sculpture commissions has been announced opening 25 November 2015 at the The Djanogly Gallery in Nottingham. Conceived and organised in partnership with The Frink Estate & Archive, ‘The Presence of Sculpture’ will focus, for the first time, on presenting the journey from Frink’s private studio to the public realm of post-war Britain. Over 70 artworks will be displayed, while her practice will be revealed through never- before-seen archive material including recently conserved drawings, sculpture from her private collection, her tools and studio records, and original film footage and photographs of the artist at work.
Frink received many commissions for social housing, religious buildings, New Towns and urban developments throughout her life, and these played an important part in her artistic career. The commissioned works – which can be seen in situ around Britain today – are represented in the gallery exhibition by full-scale bronze casts as well as editions, studies and maquettes. Significant sculpture groups will be represented, including the Dorset Martyrs, the Desert Quartet and Riace figures. The exhibition spans over 35 years of Frink’s oeuvre, from Blind Beggar and Dog (1957) – now on display at Bethnal Green in London – to Risen Christ (1993) which was unveiled in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral a few days before her death.
Divided into four themes, ‘The Presence of Sculpture’ will exhibit celebrated subjects of Frink’s distinctive expressive bronzes – male figures, heads, metamorphic bird/beast shapes and animals. These motifs allowed the artist to explore our relationship with the natural world, and man’s power and vulnerability in the face of war, religion and daily life. Her Riace figures for instance, which were inspired by fifth-century Greek statues of warriors, examine human nature through their dichotomy of beauty and menace. The messages of her outdoor sculpture varied throughout her career, as she continued to develop new ways of using her chosen medium of plaster cast into bronze. The forms, surfaces, marks, scale and use of details evolved as she moved from building the plaster when semi-liquid to also carving it when dry.
Never before have the workings of Elisabeth Frink’s mind been given shape so fully in an exhibition. Frink based herself in a succession of studios – in London, France and finally in Woolland, Dorset, where she lived and worked for the last 15 years of her life. Each of these personal spaces is presented through life-size photographs of Frink at work, while aspects of Woolland are uniquely recreated in the gallery. Throughout the 400 square metre gallery space, displays will include: sculptures and recently conserved drawings from her personal collection; fragile plasters unlikely to be exhibited again; the working contents of her studio, including her tools, the crates and stands she built her sculptures on; the chair that the subjects of her portraits, such as Alec Guinness, would have sat upon, and much more.
Annette Ratuszniak, Curator, The Frink Estate & Archive, said: “The commissions are woven into this evolving story and the exhibition provides a fascinating insight into Frink’s inspirations and working methods, and the significance of the ongoing presence of her commissioned work. Some have fared better than others – silent witnesses of changing places and communities in modern Britain.”
Professor Sir David Greenaway, Vice-Chancellor, The University of Nottingham commented: “We are tremendously excited to be presenting this major exhibition of Frink’s work at the University of Nottingham’s Djanogly Gallery in collaboration with the Frink Estate. In 2011-12, the gallery attracted record audience figures for its LOWRY exhibition. Both projects have received the very generous support from great friends of the University, Sir Harry and Lady Djanogly. We confidently expect that Frink’s abiding popular appeal will generate a similar high level of public interest”.
Elisabeth Frink is internationally recognised as a major 20th-century British sculptor. Her sculptures, drawings and prints were – and continue to be – widely exhibited and purchased for public and private collections throughout the world. Her reputation continues to grow alongside the recognition of her contribution to 20th- century sculptural language.
She was awarded a CBE in 1969, elected RA in 1977, and made a Dame in 1982. In June 1992, Queen Elizabeth II made her a Companion of Honour – an award conferred for national service. Recent exhibitions include a major retrospective at Lightbox, Woking (19 February – 21 April 2013).
Her work is part of major collections around the world including Tate, Fitzwilliam Museum, Royal Academy of Arts, Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, Whitworth Gallery, Arts Council, British Museum, Joseph Hirshorn Collection and Museum of Modern Art, New York. Her work can also be seen on public display in Dover Street, London; Royal College of Physicians, London; Yorkshire Sculpture Park; Milton Keynes; Brixton Estates, Dunstable; Warwick University; Dorchester Hospital, Dorset; King’s College, Cambridge; Chatsworth House, Derbyshire and Exchange Square, Hong Kong among other locations.
The Frink Estate & Archive holds a representative range of the artist’s sculptures, drawings, prints, original plasters and foundry moulds as well as her private collection of artworks. It is based in Dorset, England, where she came to live with her husband Alex Csáky in 1976, and where she established her final studio. Related archival items including ephemera and images are held at the Dorset History Centre. The Frink Estate & Archive continues to administer her artworks under the direction of her son Lin Jammet with the curatorial assistance of Annette Ratuszniak
The Djanogly Gallery opened in 1992 and now forms part of Nottingham Lakeside Arts, The University of Nottingham’s public arts centre. It stages a year-round programme of 20th-century and contemporary art exhibitions complemented by a lively programme of public lectures, talks and participatory learning activities. In 2011 the gallery was refurbished, and the newly expanded spaces played host to a major LS Lowry exhibition that broke previous visitor records. Recent exhibitions have included: ‘In the Shadow of War’ and ‘Lee Miller’s War’ (29 November 2014 – 22 February 2015); and ‘Justin Mortimer’ and ‘Richard Hamilton. Word and Image: Prints 1963-2006’ (7 March – 31 May 2015).
Elisabeth Frink: The Presence of Sculpture Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham Lakeside Arts Notts 25 November 2015 – 28 February 2016