‘An artist must introduce beauty to people’s everyday lives – it’s our duty.’ Catalan sculptor Jaume Plensa – whose new work is now on show at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in his first major UK exhibition - believes in the inherent poetic nature of sculpture (until 22 January 2012). His large public sculptures might be monumental in scale, but are crafted with a poetic beauty in mind that gives them a delicacy so rare in large outdoor works.
Irma-Nuria (2010), made from polyester resin, white pigment and marble dust, is Plensa’s duo of giant human heads rising out from the landscape, translucent like ghosts, yet eerily human-like in their anatomical accuracy. Marking the landscape, the heads are iconic and powerful, they control and command their land and, tilting inwards, seem to be in dialogue with one another – and even with the viewer. This contrast between the exaggerated human quality and an other-wordly hollowness creates an abstract sense of being watched, an uneasiness and knowing that you’re not alone in the landscape.
Meanwhile, Plensa is also showing his 2007 text curtain 29 Palms, which runs the length of one gallery. The 50 metre curtain features suspended steel letters that together create text from poets such as Blake and Baudelaire, transforming the abstract and intangible notion of language into a beautifully tactile and physical work that illustrates in a visual way the beauty of poetry. (See my post on Ryo Shimizu‘s use of language in art installations!)
The Heart of Trees (2007) integrates self-portrait sculptures with the natural grown landscape: the human formations hug the cherry trees, transferring onto them a human energy that Plensa believes makes them grow faster. In a way the landscape, the human, and the sculpture are combined in a very holistic, enriching way; the human body, in Plensa’s case, is an inevitable part of his sculpture, which allows him to explore our interactions with the landscape, with language, and with broader concepts such as love, growth and uncertainty.
Head to Fubiz for more images of Plensa’s work, and check out this video of his works at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park: