Galleries - March 2011

in pristine stainless steel in works such as the calligraphic Sara- bande (1987). The human chara- cter of Mount’s constructions can be partly explained by the fact his models were always palmed into shape in tactile materials like wax, polystyrene and card. He conti- nued to make occasional figur- ative works, often inspired by West African wood carving, as Mount came of age as a sculptor not in Cornwall, where he settled from the mid-1960s, but in Lagos where he taught art a decade earlier. Mount progressed while there from painting to experi- mental wood sculptures to large- scale concrete works for new buildings in the city. Mount’s idio- syncrasies have often seen him excluded from surveys, such as the current RA show, but his talents rivalled Denis Mitchell, who in St Ives inherited the mantle of Barbara Hepworth, and, like those of Mitchell and artists such as Peter Randall-Page, his works develop the traditional themes of modern British sculpture, such as land-scape and material. His greatest interest, however, was music. The artist claimed his playful pieces “conditioned and organised thin air” and, at his best, Mount was as much chore- ographer as sculptor, setting his works free to dance with space. Sam Phillips history-derived forms, Peter Ran- dall-Page was, for all his huge re- putation, never going to be a likely candidate for the RA show. Thus this excellent small show of his recent work at the RBSS , with its monolithic carving Cupressus I dominating the courtyard and a group of smaller clay sculptures and monoprints inside, provides a timely reminder that Nature has continued to provide a fertile sou- rce of inspiration for many of Britain’s best contemporary sculp- tors – David Nash, Chris Drury and Andy Goldsworthy are other nam- es that spring immediately to mind. Randall-Page’s particular artistic curiosity lies, as he has himself observed, in exploring the tensions between the universe’s tendency towards spontaneous pattern formation and conversely towards random variation. His gift has been to find, through carving, stripping away, a way of working that leads towards a means of revealing and understanding nat- ural processes. In terms of cont- emporary scientific and philo- sophical thinking, you don’t get much more modern . . . NU DANCING WITH SPACE The mid- and late-career sculp- tures by Paul Mount (1922–2009) at Beaux Arts this month evade the adjectives normally associated with geometric abstraction. Cool and mathematical they are not; every curve and line of metal, and every angle, shape and void defined, appear personal to the artist’s hand, even when finished PARALLEL UNIVERSE Having read much of the comm- ent on the Royal Academy ’s ‘Modern British Sculpture’ show – mostly critical – I went really want- ing to like it. Major survey shows can be fraught with controversy, who’s out, who’s in, for instance. Nonetheless, if you have a good narrative to tell and do so with flair and conviction, it won’t hurt the huge egos and implacable critical claques that dominate the scene to take a back seat. It starts prom- isingly, the second room with its rich hang of Early Modern – Gill, Jagger, Gaudier-Brzeska and Leon Underwood, alongside Afri- can art et al. Then, frustratingly, it begins to unravel. Epstein’s huge Adam squeezed into the smallest gallery, Alfred Drury’s bizarrely wonderful Jubilee Memorial to Queen Victoria pitched up against Philip King’s purple Genghis Khan in the next, followed by Chinese ceramics vs Gabo and Nicholson abstraction and ‘corporate’ 50s Moores and Hepworths in the ones after. And so it continues, sadly, one odd, perverse, visual/ historical decision after another right down to the whimper of a finale consisting in part of Metzger’s page 3s and a wall of press comments. No narrative, no visual flair – a disappointing par- allel universe after all. NU FORM AND PATTERN With his overriding concerns lying in the areas of carving, drawing and pattern, and a subject matter that draws exclusively on natural 10. GALLERIES MARCH 11 SCULPTURE IN BRITAIN P aul Mount ‘Fugue’, at Beaux Arts London Peter Randall-Page ‘Clay Body Works’, 2009, at Royal British Society of Sculptors