Exhibitions of sculpture are notoriously hard to pull off. But a show of British abstract work succeeds where others failed
AT THIS time last year, Flowers East in Lon-don put on an excellent survey of contemporary British abstract painting. Now we have a sequel, a show devoted to non-representational sculpture. This exhibition is not quite as telling, mainly because of the difficulties of borrowing and installing three-dimensional work. But "British Abstract Art Part 2: Sculpture" isn't disappointing. It tantalises, as did its predecessor, making one realise how much new art simply goes unseen.
Only rarely, for instance, do we have the sight of a recent sculpture by Tim Scott. He ought to be one of the most famous sculptors in the world, because he's one of the best. In fact he's rather obscure. Perhaps that's the way he likes it, but Scott's seclusion may have something to do with the nature of his art. Because he is so seldom dramatic, he appears to be modest. He is not concerned with being radical, therefore seems to some people to be conservative. The truth is that Scott is an idealist with a very firm and uncompromising grasp of beauty. His steel piece Song for Adele VI may look at first as though it were too much arranged. Longer acquaintance reveals that it has been summoned from deep feeling.
Although it's open and welded, Song for Adele VI puts one in mind of sculpture that has been modelled from clay. Furthermore, it is only after examination that the piece sheds its initial appearance of being figurative. A few years ago, Scott did have an intense phase of making art from or of the body. It was an enthusiasm that troubled many of his friends. Now, though, we find that he has employed that period to strengthen his abstraction. His sculpture today is more dense and tactile. Song for Adele VI is one of a series, and I wish that we could see them together.
It's interesting that other abstract sculptors from St Martin's in the 1960s should have recently turned to the human body. Phillip King was probably the first to do so. Then we had Caro's "Trojan Wars" series. I don't think this development meant a change of heart about abstraction. The artists concerned seem to have absorbed figuration as though they had suddenly found it to be a food. And maybe architecture was an equal interest. King's Obelisk Drift is architectural. Caro's Moonlight Folly, stained a nice ivory colour, relates to his "sculpitecture". I scarcely know what to say about William Tucker's vaguely equine Kronos because I don't know what he's driving at, except perhaps to be part of a pediment. …