Barry Flanagan is spotlighted in a special exhibition at artgenève 2023.
A leading figure in a generation of influential artists emerging from St Martins School of Art in the 1960s, he questioned the attitude to formalism promoted by Anthony Caro. Among his peers were Richard Long, Bruce McLean, Tess Jaray, Wendy Taylor and Gilbert & George. He considered daylight, moonlight and other light forms, as well as sound and its absence, to be as intrinsic to sculpture’s character as weight and volume. Flanagan experimented with materials and investigated their properties, revealing what may be overlooked.
Any material could be sculptural, from builders’ sand, quayside rope, cloth, plaster, to stone, clay and metal. He talked about the smell of objects and of how different types of sand, rope, steel and bronze were uniquely attributed. Early on he explored serialism, repetition, colour and the process driven concerns of Minimalism. The results are mysterious; and combine bathos with humour.
When in 1979 Flanagan’s investigations turned to figuration, modelling and casting in bronze, his experimentation with the medium was as unexpected as the use of soft sculpture and building materials had been to audiences fifteen years previously.
Barry Flanagan’s mercurial persona shaped his sculptural practice. He absorbed myths and folklore of the land; the seasons, crops, animals, earthworks, rocks and symbols like runes all feature in his work. The exposure of process and method is something he consistently performed in every medium he used throughout his career.
A characteristic of Flanagan’s ‘ideal’ exhibition was that each piece would relinquish its ‘autonomous identity’ and, rather than being seen as singular, create conversations with other works. This makes for a total exhibition experience of the works on show, one space sand sculpture, 1967, 2 space rope sculpture (gr 2sp 60), 1967, Large Leaping Hare, 1982 and The Corn’s Up, Mirrored, 2005.
With the kind support of Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève