28 February 2012

Wakefield

Barbara Hepworth at work
The "county towns" of Yorkshire's three ancient "ridings" were Beverley (East Riding), Northallerton (North Riding) and Wakefield (West Riding). It was from these three towns that local government in Yorkshire was administered and even today all three places still serve important bureaucratic functions in relation to highways, education and social work for example.

I hadn't been into Wakefield for years and years. The last time I was there, the surrounding coal industry was still strong and the people of Wakefield were as tough and as thoroughly Yorkshire as their rugby league team - Wakefield Trinity. Today it was different. I was starting to think I had developed a hearing complaint because I kept noticing snatches of Eastern European languages - Latvian, Polish, Romanian, Lithuanian. And as I looked at these passing white people, I realised that they didn't even look Yorkshireish any more - their facial features, even their clothes. As our American friend Mr Brague might remark - I'm just saying.

My main reason for driving up to Wakefield was to visit The Hepworth. It's a new art gallery by the River Calder. It mainly celebrates the artistic legacy of the city's most famous daughter - the sculptress Barbara Hepworth. Born in 1903, she revealed her artistic talent at a precociously early age but the idea of devoting her life to sculpture took several years to germinate. Nearly all  photographs of Barbara Hepworth show her "at work" - mostly in her St Ives studio. She died in 1975.

Apart from prime examples of her work, there were displays of her tools, her old work bench, preparatory sketches and plaster models, how her massive abstract bronzes were forged and after sliding out one secret drawer I looked down on various beach pebbles she had gathered. Of them, she said that people like collecting sea-worn stones because they remind us of the timelessness of nature and help us to reconnect to it. This is something that has become a habit for me too. For example, I have a perfectly circular beach stone that I found on Birdlings Flat beach  in New Zealand. Her words helped me to understand my own urge to collect stones as souvenirs.

Black and white view to Wakefield Cathedral
Exhibits by Barbara Hepworth

There were some small groups of  "college students" in the gallery being shepherded by "college tutors". I had the feeling that they were not really there out of choice. They seemed more interested in their social tittle tattle than in Hepworth's monumental work. A few of them were eating snacks and swigging fizzy drinks. A few had worksheets to complete. I hesitate to imagine what questions they contained... What was Hepworth's first name? How much did you spend in the cafe? What did you think of the visit? -  (a) Okay (b) Crap (c) A Damascian experience which has convinced me that I should also become a sculptor, using a range of  solid mediums to reflect on mankind's place in the natural world... I'm just saying, that's all. 
The Hepworth by the River Calder

15 comments:

  1. pud
    I have seen that wall sculpture in the third photo before somewhere

    do you know pud?

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  2. Wakey, Ponty, Donny, Hudds.

    Same place different buildings.

    I have a soft spot for Wakey though. Not so much Donny having worked there for two years.

    I find it disappointing that Donny often aligns itself to Leeds, despite its obvious South Yorks associations with Sheff.

    Hudds and Wakey less so- people tend to prefer Sheffield understandably.

    Says a lot about Yorkshire that does. As does someone like Hepworth- a proper Yorkie name- like Booth!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wakey, Ponty, Donny, Hudds.

    Same place different buildings.

    I have a soft spot for Wakey though. Not so much Donny having worked there for two years.

    I find it disappointing that Donny often aligns itself to Leeds, despite its obvious South Yorks associations with Sheff.

    Hudds and Wakey less so- people tend to prefer Sheffield understandably.

    Says a lot about Yorkshire that does. As does someone like Hepworth- a proper Yorkie name- like Booth!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'd love to know what the name "Riding" means. Is it only used in Yorkshire?
    There are quite a few of these names used a lot in the UK like "Chipping" and "Combe"(which I think means valley) that I assume come from past languages.
    Any ideas Pud?
    Cheers

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  5. EARL GRAY The one at the back of Picture 3 is a model of "Winged Figure" which was placed on the London Oxford St branch of John Lewis.
    BANGKOK BOOTHY I never knew you once worked in Donny but of course many rent boys begin their careers there. Okay Hepworth certainly is a good Yorkshire name but as I have told you before - Booth is probably of Irish origin as suggested by the name of one of Ireland's leading poets - Seamus O'Booth.
    HELEN "Riding" is an old Anglo Saxon word which I understand means simply "a third". I don't believe it was ever used in any other English counties but I am not always right.

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  6. Booth is a perfectly good Yorkshire name. (I can't believe I just wrote that!) My 4x great-grandfather, Richard Booth, was born in Thornhill in 1775.

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  7. Just noticed that your time setting is an hour out.

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  8. SHOOTING PARRAKEETS I wonder if there's a link between Richard Booth and my chum in Bangkok? Do you know if Richard had slightly neanderthal Celtic facial features by any chance? Pronounced brow, deep set eyes, thick jaw? If so there could be a family connection. Regarding my "time setting", is it like a microwave setting? Don't really know what you're on about.

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  9. thanks pud! I realised as soon as I read your answer
    thank you oh wise one

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  10. I'm going to post twice more often.

    Celtic? I've always been more Kilmarnock. Blue and white stripes.

    Booth is about as Yorkshire as you can get- even has initials next to the name atop the telephone directory in Sheffield. Does anyone still use those?

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  11. I'm going to post twice more often.

    Celtic? I've always been more Kilmarnock. Blue and white stripes.

    Booth is about as Yorkshire as you can get- even has initials next to the name atop the telephone directory in Sheffield. Does anyone still use those?

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  12. PADDY BOOTH Just checked the Sheffield phone directory and nope no Booths with initials at the top of the page as you claimed. Really, I don't know why you are ashamed of your Irish heritage. There must be Irish dance classes somewhere in Bangkok. Why not give it a try?

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  13. Is the Hepworth worth a drive up from Leicestershire? I am quite impressed by her work and I've been feeling in need of a bit of 'culchewer' lately.

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  14. MORNING AJ It would be easy to combine a visit to The Hepworth with a visit to the nearby Yorkshire Sculpture Park but you'd need to set off reasonably early and check the weather forecast for that day. I enjoyed The Hepworth but I must say that I expected more of Hepworth's work to be displayed plus more evidence of her work in the surrounding grounds.If feeling in need of a bit of culture the dual visit I've suggested could be just what the doctor ordered.

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  15. Very interesting post. I collect stones too. I think I've still got a bit of road gravel from Tower Hill from when I was 11..

    Those fizzy-drinking students may have been like me when I visit a gallery: I look and think so hard that after 20- 30 minutes I am exhausted and have to have a break.
    I'm just saying.
    Then again, they could indeed be as you describe.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.