New Commissions: Tacita Dean and Veronica Ryan

Learn about the new commissions created by these artists as part of the exhibition.

By The Hepworth Wakefield

Installation image of Significant Form, Tacita Dean, part of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life. May 2021. Photo: Nick Singleton. (2021) by Tacita DeanThe Hepworth Wakefield

For Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life, leading British artists Tacita Dean and Veronica Ryan have been commissioned to create new installations. These interventions highlight Hepworth's work as an enduring source of inspiration and celebrate her artistic legacy.  

Portrait of Tacita Dean at The Hepworth Wakefield. (2021)The Hepworth Wakefield

Tacita Dean: Significant Form

Time, history and place are universal themes that lie at the heart of Tacita Dean’s work. Dean is best known for her use of analogue film, and her advocacy for its preservation as an artistic medium, but she has a wide-ranging practice that includes drawings, photographs, installations and collections of found objects and images.

Sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1964) by Paul SchutzerLIFE Photo Collection

Dean studied at the Falmouth School of Art on the south coast of England and was introduced to the work of Barbara Hepworth and the St Ives School of artists early on in her career. She found a particular affinity with Hepworth’s interest in Cornish landscapes, the natural rock formations, the coastal paths and the ancient standing stone sites. 

Installation image of Significant Form, Tacita Dean, part of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life. May 2021. Photo: Nick Singleton. (2021) by Tacita DeanThe Hepworth Wakefield

For her new commission Significant Form, Dean has selected 130 images from her personal archive of over 30,000 historical postcards collected at flea markets over many decades. The images have been re-photographed and photochemically hand-printed at various scales and on a variety of papers.

Installation image of Significant Form, Tacita Dean, part of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life. May 2021. Photo: Nick Singleton. (2021) by Tacita DeanThe Hepworth Wakefield

Inspired by her shared interests with Hepworth, Dean selected images that embodied an idea of ‘form’ in its broadest sense, creating an intuitive journey through objects and formations found in the natural world, to others made by artists across time. 

Installation image of Significant Form, Tacita Dean, part of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life. May 2021. Photo: Nick Singleton. (2021) by Tacita DeanThe Hepworth Wakefield

Presented without attribution or explanation, Dean’s free-flowing constellation of images encourages us, the viewer, to follow our own readings and associations, and find our own significance in forms encountered in the world around us.

Portrait of Veronica Ryan (2021) by Barbara HepworthThe Hepworth Wakefield

Veronica Ryan: Magnolia/ Magnoliaceae

Between 1998 and 2000 Veronica Ryan was the first artist to undertake a residency at Hepworth’s Palais de Danse studio in St Ives. At the time, Hepworth’s full-scale plaster prototypes (now permanently displayed at The Hepworth Wakefield) were still housed there. In recognition of this, for Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life Ryan was invited to create an intervention among the plasters that she had known at the Palais.

Installation image of Magnolia/Magnoliaceae, Veronica Ryan, part of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life. May 2021. Photo: Nick Singleton. (2021) by Veronica RyanThe Hepworth Wakefield

Throughout Ryan’s career, she has revisited concepts that were also important to Hepworth. Both deeply attuned to the characteristics of specific materials, for Ryan this fascination stems from the inherent meanings that materials can convey.  

Installation image of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life. May 2021. Photo: Nick Singleton. (2021)The Hepworth Wakefield

In this specially commissioned new work, she has made a monumental, hand-crocheted pocket – a technique she learnt from her mother – using fishing line, inspired by Hepworth’s use of the same material to string her sculptures,  and through witnessing the labour of fishermen while in St Ives. The netted pocket holds sculptures evoking the fruits and flowers of a Magnolia tree that Ryan saw recently in Hepworth’s garden in St Ives. 

Installation image of Magnolia/Magnoliaceae, Veronica Ryan, part of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life. May 2021. Photo: Nick Singleton. (2021) by Veronica RyanThe Hepworth Wakefield

Magnolia pods she found there have been cast and suspended on the wall nearby. These irregular, organic structures remind Ryan of soursop fruits found in Montserrat, memories that relate to her mother who migrated to the UK from the Caribbean and would travel across London to source familiar fruit and vegetables.

Installation image of Magnolia/Magnoliaceae, Veronica Ryan, part of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life. May 2021. Photo: Nick Singleton. (2021) by Veronica RyanThe Hepworth Wakefield

Ryan has cast several sculptures in plaster, the liquid form capturing both the textures and details of the surface ‘skin’ when casting copies of organic forms, and the inner, negative form of man-made containers. This dual process offers a metaphorical reflection on what we hold, and what holds us.  

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