Barbara Hepworth in Edinburgh
There are two Barbara Hepworth sculptures at the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh.
Within the grounds of the gardens there are seven sculptures altogether, including works by Robert Adam, Andy Goldsworthy and Ian Hamilton Finlay.
Ascending Form (Gloria) is near the East Gate and next to the cafe when you first enter.
Rock Form (Porthcurno) is hidden in a small clearing just a little farther west. This one is slightly more hidden and secluded.
Ascending Form (Gloria) 1958 190.5cm tall and Rock Form (Porthcurno) 1964 243.8cm tall are two bronze sculptures. In typical Hepworth style, these are abstract works in natural shape forms. The bronzes had been on permanent loan to the gardens from the artist’s estate and displayed there since 1976, shortly after the death of Hepworth at age 72. Inverleith House, the gallery situated inside the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh, was originally the home of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art from 1960- 1984. Hepworth’s two sculptures were officially acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland in 2013 and remain in the gardens permanently.
‘I rarely draw what I see. I draw what I feel in my body — Barbara Hepworth’
Rock Form (Porthcurno), 1964
Rockform is inspired by rocks at Porthcurno near the artist’s home in Cornwall but perfectly placed within the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh. The caves at Porthcurno are naturally carved into the rocks by the sea creating smooth surfaces within rough outer shells. Within the gardens the sculpted artwork reflects on how seasons, nature’s elements and weather change the forms around us. The sculptures seem to enhance and echo the shapes and textures of the gardens setting.
This is one of a series of six sculptures with the same name which can also be found in County Hall, Truro, Cornwall;
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston;
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California, USA
and Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
There was also one at the Mander Centre, in Wolverhampton, which caused controversy when it was removed in 2014 by owners Royal Bank of Scotland and Dalancey Estates. The sculpture was originally donated by the Mander family as a piece of public art.
It has a green patina on the outer surface with smoothly carved openings that seem to form a natural relationship with the surrounding tree forms, plants and bushes. Originally, this series of sculptures explored the relationship between land and sea but they do seem perfectly placed here within the gardens. The rain showers I found myself subject to only added to the experience. I was glad to see the rain having some kind of conversation with the sculpture.
Hepworth herself enjoyed bringing her sculpted works out of museums and galleries and having them displayed in the open air — exposed and responding to the elements of nature and the changing light. She encouraged us to get close, touch them, have our own relationship with them. They are accessible to all.
Ascending Form (Gloria) 1958
This sculpture has a definite religious feel. A saintly diamond figure rests upon a smaller diamond shape with folds inside the outer form. It could suggest several things including, soft cloth or skins, one shape to ascending from the other, or even grow out of the other as a seed might grow.
This is also situated within an interesting environment to reflect on the shapes and growth of the nature around us in the gardens. With its slight human form, it could resemble a religious statue. An interesting blend of the figure and the structure of seeds and plants appears encouraging us once more to get up close and almost become part of the artwork itself.
Another cast of Ascending Form can be seen at the entrance to the cemetery where Hepworth is buried in St Ives, Cornwall.
Why not visit the dedicated Hepworth Museums in St Ives and Wakefield?
Visit barbarahepworth.org.uk for updates on the art of Barbara Hepworth.
Watch this poetic film of Barbara Hepworth at work on her sculptures: