Bronze & Stone

24 September – 5 November 2016

Messums Wiltshire is delighted to announce Bronze and Stone as the inaugural exhibition. The show brings together the work of 3 internationally recognised contemporary sculptors, from the South West, Tim Harrisson, Briget McCrum and Dominic Welch, their work creating a powerful response to the space, its history and now its future.

The common language used by all three sculptors is their continually evolving and distinct sense of abstraction, combined with their physical and immediate contact with the material with which they work. Whether working from a memory, an instinct, or carefully restrained in order to create a balance between the sculptors intervention and the natural material, the exploration and interpretation of landscape, the natural life within it and the geology and archaeology of place and time, is often the starting point for each of these artists.

Entering the exhibition the solid yet fluid form of Dominic Welch’s piece, Carrara Moon VI, demonstrates his continually evolving distinct sense of abstraction. Welch realises solid, yet fluid forms in Kilkenny limestone, Carrara marble and bronze. Rooted in the natural world, Blue Angel IX, his purity of form is inspired by the organic logic of seeds, pods, suggesting natural harmonies that both calm the senses and spark the imagination,

The stillness and purity of Welch’s pieces belies the energy and physicality required in their making, but this is reflected in the contrast of strength and softness that the work conveys. Often starting from instinct Welch does little preparation before embarking on a piece, allowing the material and grain to be his guide. These pure of form sculptures, poised on the point of a curve, seem to defy gravity, Carrara Form V, and Raising Form VI. The stone is dense and heavy, but Welch imbues his work with impetus, uplift, and a sense of resurgence.

Tim Harrisson’s regard for stone is based on its indisputable relationship with the landscapes that it forms. His intervention on his stone is consciously restrained; his carving carefully planned allowing the quality of the materials to remain in balance. The works in the exhibition are made in a range of stone, from Wiltshire sandstone (from a local quarry that produced the same stone for the walls of the Barn), Purbeck Limestone, Cumbrian sandstone and Carrara marble. They are often used in combination to introduce contrasting colour and texture with great subtlety.

Eleven years ago Harrisson was bequeathed a gift of Carrara marble from the Hepworth Estate Trustees. Its provenance and the responsibility of using it well gave him pause for thought on how how he would use the marble. His decision was to maintain the integrity of Hepworths choice of block and to gently reveal the inner stone in soft layers that curve across the surface and wrap around the block, Carrara, 2014, in the manner of ripples of water in sand. Both this piece and St Bees, 2014, are made to stand just below the average adult height so that the top surface may be viewed, which Harrisson believes is important to understanding the three dimensionality of his carving. In the works, The Hurdcott Stone, 2012, North South, 2013 and Shadow, 2013, Harrisson pairs the elements, two identically carved, oval pieces of stone and Carrara marble are stacked, or as in Untitled, 2014, laid in parallel, setting up a tension and contrast in the materials but at the same time each allows one to compliment the other in colour and texture. Harrison believes that by choosing the oval form for these sculptures, it has allowed him to express a different rhythm and a change in cadence. In strong contrast to this, Rotherley Stone 3, 2009, is part of a series of sculptures made in response to the landscapes of Rotherley Downs, an archeological site of a special interest in Wiltshire. The Purbeck Limestone was chosen for its fossil inclusions that speak of life before the stone was formed. Its shape remains as it was hewn from the quarry, but its surface is polished and the carved tiles are in cut shallow relief not regularly as some are bevelled and others cut straight, thus reflecting its geological irregularities.

Looking at this body of work as a whole one can see Harrisson’s thinking and increasingly minimalist approach, the sculptures tell us more about the material and their history than any complex detailing could.

Bridget McCrum’s romantic and lyrical sculptures are a potent fusion of the ancient and modern. Working primarily in stone, she also works directly in plaster and translates both of these materials in to bronze. Her work is distinguished by her preferred subject matter the juxtaposition of fauna, notably birds merged with ancient artefacts, such as tools and ceremonial weapons discovered during her work on archaeological sites of Mesopotamia. She perceives a synergy between nature and the earlier tools of industry. Drawing parallels between these primitive objects and a curve of a wing or textures worked on ancient stone.

Working primarily in stone, she also works directly in plaster and translates both of these materials into bronze. McCrum’s work is distinguished by her preferred subject matter: the juxtaposition of fauna, notably birds, with ancient artefacts such as tools and ceremonial weapons. She perceives a synergy between nature and the tools of early industry found on archaeological sites, drawing parallels between these primitive objects and the curve of a wing, or a texture found on very old stones. These inform her work and are present in her large scale pieces, exhibited in Bronze and Stone. The work, Knife Birds, 2004, incorporates 2 of three African tribal knives that she had once seen at the British Museum and had also been the source of an earlier work, Sun Bird, 1996. Over the years, McCrum had become interested in scaling up her work and in what happens when two forms are brought together and the difficulty of ensuring that the space between them is apposite. Both birds were first made full-scale in plaster, the textured parts being created with the skeletons of prickly pear leaves, a technique she has used in many bronzes. The result is a symbiotic movement of confident long, sweeping upward curves that evoke a gentle entwining.  In the largest piece completed to date, Crescent Birds, exhibited here for the first time, the dynamics are slightly different, the movement of the 2 forms is less mirrored and the focus on the sharp lines of the curve is more apparent and the energy between the two forms more contrasting. However, the sculptures that she creates retain the mark of her own hand; an aspect of her practice she considers vital in conveying her innate feeling for the natural world.


Abbreviated Artist Biographies

Tim Harrisson was born in Essex in 1952 and lives and works in Hindon, Wiltshire, He studied at Hammersmith College of Art, Norwich Art School and Byam Shaw School of Fine Art. In 1988 he was Sculptor in Residence at Red House Museum, Christchirch, organized by the Hampshire sculpture Trust. He has exhibited widely in both group and solo exhibitions, including the Drawing Centre Marlborough, 2011, Bournemouth University, Atrium Gallery and Creswell Crags Museum. He shows work regularly at the New Art Centre, Roche Court, near Salisbury. Recent commissions include, West Park House, Southampton City Centre, the Russell Coates Museum Bournemouth, and Chatsworth House, Derbyshire. In 2013 a selection of his works on paper were acquired by the British Museum, and in 2014 Creswell Heritage Trust in collaboration with the Art Fund and the V&A Museum purchased a series of six drawings. He was elected to the Royal West of England Academy in 2013 and 2015 and was a member of the selection panel for the RWA’s biennial open exhibition, Drawn.

Bridget McCrum was born in 1934 and lives and works in Devon and Gozo in Malta. She studied at Farnham College of Art, training as a painter with Lesjek Musjynski at Farnham School of Art in the 1950s. From 1980 she began to work primarily in stone, having learned her craft from John Joeku and Andrea Schulewitz on the South Downs. She has exhibited extensively and recent selected solo exhibitions include One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, 2014 Messum’s, London, 2011 Messum’s, London, 2008, Messum’s, London, 2002, St James Cavalier Art Centre, Malta. Her work is included in many international collections including: Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Rolls Royce Aero Engines, Bristol, Lismore Castle,Co Cork, HSBC, Malta, Spencer Stuart, London, and the Golden Door Foundation, San Diego. As well as in private collections in the USA, Canada, the Middle and Far East, Europe and the UK.

Dominic Welch was born in and lives and works in Devon. Welch trained under Peter Randall-Page, and over the last 25 years has exhibited regularly. Exhibitions include: 2015 ‘Sculpture at Lord’s Wood’, Messum’s, Lord’s Wood, Bucks Messum’s, London, 2014 ‘Sculpture at Lord’s Wood’, Messum’s, Lord’s Wood, Bucks ‘On Form 14’, Asthall Manor, Oxfordshire, 2013 ‘Stone and Bronze’, Mossgreen Gallery, Melbourne, ‘On Form’, The Crypt Gallery, London, 2012 Messum’s, London (solo show) ‘On Form 12’, Asthall Manor, Oxfordshire, 2011 ‘Dominic Welch: Sacred Spaces, Buckfast Abbey, South Devon ‘Sculpture at Lord’s Wood’.