This is a major survey of work by Barry Flanagan, one of Britain’s most inventive sculptors, filling Ikon’s two floors of gallery space entirely. Curated by Jo Melvin, it brings together a selection of Flanagan’s iconic bronze sculptures (1980s–90s) alongside earlier works, offering new insights into the interconnectedness of seemingly distinct aspects of his practice. Demonstrating an ongoing experimentation with materials and their properties and a symbiosis between abstraction and figuration, the exhibition challenges the supposition that Flanagan’s later works represent a marked shift in his approach to art-making. Rather, they represent the distillation of his decades-long fascination with ontology, movement and the physicality of the various materials with which he worked.
Flanagan studied at Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts and the exhibition highlights his presence in the city, signified also by the placement of one of his bronze hares, Large Troubador (2004) outside Ikon’s premises in Brindleyplace.
For Flanagan, sculpture was as much performance, sound, light as it was bronze and carving. The exposure of process and method is something he consistently performed in every medium he used throughout his career. He frequently used casts of objects as components in sculptures and allowed bits of the armature to show through stripes of clay or plaster, thereby exposing and recording the processes of its making.
The durational nature of his films is translated into the bronzes, as we bear witness to the processes of casting. It is aptly contradictory then, that the fleeting hare should become a monument to time and duration, channelling the quixotic, mysterious propositions implicit in the early work.
Featured image: Barry Flanagan, installation Ikon (2019). Courtesy The Estate of Barry Flanagan and Ikon.