Staring at art from the Tate's collection and thinking about it

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Akua-Ba - John Skeaping

John Skeaping, Akua-Ba, 1931, acacia wood, 1117 x 560 x 500 mm, Tate.

At first, this self-consciously primitive work by British modernist sculptor John Skeaping seems the total opposite of last week's Maillol.  There are no direct allusions to a classical past here.  It's not even in bronze.  He's just gone and carved it out of some wood, like a poor person.  But it's not totally dissimilar. Both are still, calm works, with a fine sense of balance.  There's a thick monumentality to both forms, that in the Maillol, feels like a nod to primitivism, and in the Skeaping, like a tip of the hat to classicism.  While the blank eyes of the Maillol gaze into nothingness, however, those of the Skeaping look directly out into our world.  Maillol's Venus is a goddess concerned with her own god-business.  Skeaping's sitting woman wants to connect.

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