Galleries - April 2015

Bryan Kneale There are remarkable parallels in the story of Bryan Kneale’s art in the post-war period: a painter turned sculptor, a highly influential teacher at the Royal College over several generations, and large doses of critical neglect. There was similarly a huge, collaborative generosity towards his fellow artists and students includingproposing and curatingthe seminal exhibition ‘British Sculptors’ at the Royal Academy in 1972, subsequently described as the most ground breaking exhibition of contemporary sculpture held in Britain. (It was too – I was the gofer on it!). But what of the work itself? After he stopped painting in 1959, he had learnt to forge and weld, contributing independently to that same movement away from carving, castingand modellingà la Henry Moore that Caro and the St. Martin’s School are so famous for. Unlike the latter group though, he retained a much closer interest in his materials, urging his students to think through those they used. Drawingtoo, was always a crucial element, not as preparatory studies but as a kind of psychingup for a working process that was surprisingly improvisatory, the designing happeningin the very direct process of making. The outcome has, as a consequence, a freshness and clarity that is for some reason, never become a familiar name like Henry Moore or Barbara Hepworth. His last major retrospective was at the Minories in Colchester in 1969 and not much since. Yet this was the man who can arguably be said, through his own drawing school, the Brook Green School which he opened in 1921, to have taught Moore and Hepworth, indeed a whole generation of youngsculptors, to look, among other things, at primitive art of all kinds and to practice direct carvingon to ‘found’ pebbles. Part of the problem was perhaps his mercurial temperament which led him in so many different artistic directions – poet and novelist as well as painter, printmaker and teacher – but it makes for a hugely absorbing story. His prints of the early 20s have been described by his biographer, Christopher Neve, as “unsurpassed of their kind in the period immediately after the war” while his wood engraving and lino-cut classes at Brook Green had much to do with the medium’s inter-war revival. Sculpture is at the core of his greatness however, as this exhibition reveals, his own achievement imbued with an understandingof the value of the ‘primitive’ – whether it be Aztec or African carvingor Spanish cave painting. A whole generation of his pupils were too, and British art has never been quite the same because of it. At Pallant House and Redfern Gallery. 8 GALLERIES APRIL 2015 ANTENNAE Sculpturefest This April sees a remarkable conjunction of fascinating historical and contemporary sculpture shows, including Leon Underwood’s pioneering but still largely unknown work being given a timely reappraisal at Pallant House in Chichester and also at Redfern Gallery. Then there is the extraordinary city-wide celebration of the still undervalued (by our art establishment at least) Brazilian- born Ana Maria Pacheco’s intensely spiritual figure groups in sites across Norwich including Gallery at NUA and the Cathedral itself. And then there is a first proper retrospective for one of the great unsung heroes of post-war British sculpture, Bryan Kneale at Pangolin London, and a welcome first London showing for the distinguished young Irish sculptor Anthony Scott at Beaux Arts, all of which is helping to make this a really good moment to explore the often puzzlingly neglected richness and variety of 20th century and contemporary sculpture in this country and Ireland. None, you will note though, are taking place in London’s major public galleries – why? Leon Underwood Once described as the “precursor of modern sculpture in Britain” Leon Underwood has,