Exhibition Essay: Iterations
It’s early summer and I go to visit one of Barbara Hepworth’s many Single Forms. This iteration, Single Form (Memorial) (1961-2), sits tucked away, guarded by squawking geese and swans, in Battersea Park. Like other variations of Hepworth’s Single Form, the artwork resembles a hag stone. It is mostly flat, irregularly oval and pierced by a circular hole. Here, it is cast in bronze. As I look at it, I consider how an iterative art process works in a rich correspondence with nature.
Prompted by Hepworth’s Battersea Park sculpture, I think about the design of the earth and how it is awash with patterns and repetitions. Each turning season, the branches of a tree, a spiral on a snail’s shell and so on. The natural world is in a constant state of artful repetitious change. I grasp that as a result, the idea of change in nature is conveyable to and in art-making. As a source of both materials and references, nature is a bountiful foundation for an artist working in ongoing re-examinations. Art’s processes and outcomes can mirror nature’s propensity for repetition and flux.
In preparing to write this text, I learned that St Ives School sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1903 – 1975) was a real devotee of re-examinations. Throughout her career, she crafted many playful variations of her naturalistic Single Form. One single duplication of which is the sculpture tucked away in Battersea Park. Each time she revised the form, she experimented with and refined material, texture and scale.
Iteration has been and continues to be an important way of working for artists. Hepworth and many others have adapted the process as a vehicle for creation and exploration. In doing so, they elicit an ambiguous reckoning with the ever-changing nature of things. The artist pushes forward via discoveries made through precise variations. Each repetitious alteration offers new perspectives. At a distance, individual artworks blur and the links that live between them come into focus. In that topology, unifying nuances emerge.
Reiterations fertilise the artist’s compost heap. Much like a gardener tilling their soil, an artist working in continuous edits and re-edits tills their imagination. Each repetition plants new seeds and nurtures sprouting artistic growth. It is a feedback loop of evolving flux. Along the way, the artist unearths productive iterative points.
At Lot Projects, Iterations pulls and pools together the work of Fanny Ågren, Hannah deJonge and Nele Bergmans. In the exhibition, a shared spiralling engagement with iteration tethers the three artists. Fanny’s photography blooms into ever evolving sculptural images. Her artworks record place and hint at memories’ transformative and fluid nature. Hannah’s ceramics assemble repetitious wheel-thrown forms into composite sculptures. Each one is an assemblage of abstracted creations that evoke memories associated with certain earthly shapes. Nele employs fundamental actions of building and stacking, drawing on concepts like balance, scale, composition and fragility to create poetic spaces. As an act of intuition, she allows the intrinsic qualities of the materials she works with to guide the artwork’s construction. The ever-changingness of nature and art is alive in all three of these artists’ corresponding practices. Each artwork builds on what came before and lays the groundwork for what’s next.
I know Fanny, Hannah and Nele well so this is not an entirely impartial essay. I won’t pretend. But it seems there is some ground for partiality when it comes to the ones close to you. More and more, the proficiency of these three artists becomes clear. Their work is intuitive, poetic, affecting, iterative. All great adjectives I am happy to be using.
Buttressed by a practice of repeating and refining, Fanny, Hannah, Nele and Barbara Hepworth, amongst others, have formed a ritualistic commitment to their art-making. It goes like this: Studio. Build, build upon what came before, then build upon that. And so on and so forth ad infinitum. Artworks occur as beautiful detritus along the way; reifications of their creative processes. Each artwork embodies iteration as something capable of traversing the creative possibilities of flux. Overall, iteration works as a spirited artistic strategy, promoting creative exploration well mirroring the ever-changingness of things.