With the exhibition on Henry Moore drawing to a close at Tate Britain, I went there for a browse. I had always harboured interest for the artist’s work, ever since I noticed ‘The Oval’ in Exchange Square, Hong Kong.
Compared to the two isolated sculptures I saw in my home city, this exhibition at the Tate was breathtaking. The scale (150 artpieces) simply blew me away, and the sculptures rendered a coherent narrative on the artist’s experiments with different textures and shapes. I realised why the Guardian named it as the most important exhibition of Moore’s work for a generation.
The shelter drawings were highly engaging, featuring sketches of victims in air raids and dark mines. The war materials are honest and uncompromising, revealing Moore’s strengths as the official war artist, a side of his that has often been overlooked. His work echoes William Blake’s sublime, more apocalyptic drawings.
Manipulating the tension between cave and point, Moore’s indulgence on the mother and child theme as well as his love for the reclining figure were brought to the forefront. Soon you realise that the recurrence is not coincidental. It is an avant-garde experiment of form, texture and touch.
Some considered Moore’s work to be ugly, unnecessarily ugly. For me, the sculptures were a test of form and the chunkiness helped to give more fullness and sensuality to the idea of the body, the raw flesh.
I am especially fascinated by the range of materials Moore adopted for his work. He liked to use well-polished stones – green hornton, cumberland alabaster, cherry wood, elm wood and oak wood. Taken together with the organic forms, his sculptures lessen the divide between man and nature. Personally, I feel that Moore displays a greater mastery of naturalistic materials such as stone and wood rather than metal.
His exhibition also brings to light an interesting theory that advocates the silence of the artist: a sense of mystery or silence is needed to preserve the impregnable quality in the artwork, i.e. the artwork is larger than the author (click here for documentary on Henry Moore)