Night in the Museum

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has two additional spaces – Waterhall and Gas Hall. Both beautiful buildings and, at Gas Hall, is a super exhibition curated by the conceptual artist Ryan Gander:


Basic premise is that all of the figurative works gaze upon another work of art and that work of art has an element of blue in it, which is a trademark of Gander’s.  This may seem a little strange, perhaps even self-indulgent but, it works.  It was great fun.  When you wander around the space, and you do find yourself doing this, look at the eyeline of the statues: they are looking, doing, and being a part of the artwork itself.  It was actually quite thrilling to see Epstein’s Kitty staring intently:

or my beloved Rock Drill absorbed by the vibrations from Barrie Cook’s Dean:

It was such fun and made me smile going round. Most of the artists I hadn’t heard of before and probably won’t look at any of their other work, but this was such a pleasure to go round, I would say that it doesn’t matter if you know anything about art, with this, it was just about the ‘looking’.


Rock Drill on tour

Back in July I found out that Rock Drill had gone out on tour from the Tate and was appearing at a gallery near to me!  Thursday was preview night and I was almost first through the door to take a peek at the little friendly torso and his not so friendly reconstructed self.

Walsall’s New Art Gallery is a gem in a Midlands town not exactly known for its culture.  Its Epstein collection is outstanding and the generosity of his family benefitted this gallery unmeasurably.

The exhibition is entitled Rock Drill Transformed by War and it is really about how the traumas of the war and especially the loss of two close friends, TE Hulme and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, caused Epstein to have a change of heart and reduce his ‘man-machine’ to a stump of a man who could no longer destroy.  IMG_20150903_180724673

Seeing the Torso in Bronze from the Tate, alongside the reconstructed Rock Drill, reinforced the viewpoint that Richard Cork discusses in ‘Wild Thing’: “The first drawings to outline his ideas for the work stress the indomitable character of the machine, and place it in the charge of a driller with equally daunting powers. Framed by the gaunt, jutting sides of a cleft which seems to have been created by his mighty weapon, the driller stands on his tripod with legs as straight as pistons.”

Study for Rock DrillEncouraged by Hulme, who said that “the new tendency towards abstraction will culminate, not so much in the simple geometrical forms found in archaic art, but in the more complicated ones associated in our minds with the idea of machinery”, Epstein had the vision to explore the power and might of the machine, pre-empting the tragedy that was to unfurl in the coming war.

It is not surprising that Epstein ‘turned’ on his creation and the act of deconstruction takes on a symbolic meaning here – man is ultimately responsible and therefore must act upon that responsibility.   The fact it had to be ‘deconstructed’ in order to transport it to Walsall adds to this understanding.  Thanks to BMAG for posting these photographs.

A real pleasure to see the two pieces together which gives a much greater understanding to a piece of work that was so ahead of its time.

Rock Drill deconstructed…again

Ahead of its appearance at Walsall New Art Gallery in September, Birmingham’s reconstructed Rock Drill has been, erm, deconstructed.

See how that took place here:

Jacob Epstein on Rock Drill: “I made and mounted a machine-like robot, visored, menacing, and carrying within itself its progeny, protectively ensconced. Here is the armed, sinister figure of today and tomorrow. No humanity, only the terrible Frankenstein’s monster we have made ourselves into…”

Now you see him…now you don’t!

My favourite section of Tate Britain has to be the moment I turn into the 1910 and 1915 rooms. Everyone I love is there: Nevison, Epstein, Gertler, Bomberg, Wyndham Lewis to name but a few.

There has been a rehang and the two rooms are now combined. Bomberg’s Mud Bath is now pride of place:


imageimagewpid-img_20150712_111439864_hdr.jpgThese three Nevinsons are now in the room: The Soul of the Soulless City (‘New York -an Abstraction’), The Arrival and, to my great joy, just back from a tour, was La Mitrallieuse. If I was allowed to clap for joy, that would have been the moment.

However, the joy was short-lived as there was someone rather special missing from the gathering: my very own Rock Drill!

Where on earth was the rascally torso? He was there a couple of weeks ago. He could hardly go waltzing off, so a quick tweet to the Tate revealed that he is away on tour and will be appearing at a venue close to me from the 1st September:The New Art Gallery in Walsall-home of a large Epstein Archive. The fact I can pop down the road to check he’s behaving himself will be quite a pleasure and I’ll be interested to see what they will do with him given that the reconstructed Rock Drill sits majestically in nearby Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.


With some new pieces, such as Henry Lamb’s stupendous portrait of the lugubrious Lytton Strachey, it is always worth revisiting the different galleries just to see what treasures have now been snuck in.


BREAKING NEWS: Rock Drill is coming to take part in a rather exciting exhibition, exploring the importance of the dismantling of the statue in context and how this is as vital as its original construction.

The New Art Gallery, Walsall

Sometimes you just forget what is practically on the doorstep.

Enjoyed a visit to the Garman Ryan Collection in Walsall – an eclectic mix of paintings, sculpures, drawings, furniture …you name it, they have it!

Jacob Epstein’s widow, Kathleen Garman, along with her good friend, sculpter, Sally Ryan, collected these works over a number of years and, thanks to her connections with the Black Country, Lady Epstein donated them to Walsall.

There are so many pieces here and the curation of the rooms into themes such as ‘Figure Studies’, Landscapes and Townscapes’, ‘Children’ and ‘Work and Leisure’, just to name four. allow you the opportunity to study how these simple themes can be expressed in such a variety of forms.

A preparatorSketch for Rock Drilly sketch of Rock Drill was my personal highlight.  The seamless connection between man and machine appeals to my love of the work by the Vorticists so I was surprised to be so taken with this sketch by Modliagliani entitled ‘Caryatid’.  This was a design for a carved figure that acts as a support to the roof of a building.  The grace and fluidity of the lines was so striking.  I am used to the angular figures of his works, so the fact that he could convey real curves was something of a shock, but I loved this!  GR170 - Amedeo Modigliani - 1884-1920 - Caryatid - ca 1913-4

The gallery itself is quite beautiful, with wooden slatted walls and sprung flooring.  It is really an oasis in the centre of the town and so worth a visit.


Oh yes! And this is my 40th post!!!