Barry Flanagan, Maquette for Camdonian (1980)

Hidden Treasures from the Camden Collection

Each month, Love Camden highlights an object from the Camden Art Collection that ties in with the cultural agenda across the borough of Camden. Featuring works by Barry Flanagan, Barbara Hepworth and Lancelot Ribeiro and many more, our Hidden Treasures series aims to provide insight in the history and legacy of some of the collection’s finest works. This month: Barry Flanagan.

This January sees the conclusion of the Frieze Sculpture Park exhibition, on display since last year and now nearing its closing date on the 8th of January 2017. Featuring 19 works by famous artists such as Ed Herring, Jean DuBuffet and Lynn Chadwick and curated by Yorkshire Sculpture Park curator Clare Lilley, the exhibition puts sculpture in a different light, allowing the works to engage with the landscape of Regent’s Park.

The Frieze Sculpture Park exhibition also displays a work by one of Camden’s favorite artist, Barry Flanagan, an infamous figure in Camden’s cultural history.

Flanagan Frieze
Barry Flanagan, Drummer, 1996, Waddington Custot Galleries, at Frieze Sculpture Park, Courtesy of Linda Nylind/Frieze

A Central Saint Martin’s graduate and professor, member of the Royal Academy and recipient of an OBE award, Flanagan is probably best known for his monumental bronze hares, one of which decorates the grounds of Regent’s Park in full glory.

Flanagan’s practice was grounded in ideas of pataphysics, his interest in the science of imaginary solutions and his playful approach to sculpting. His attitude towards the broader practice of artistic production proved a major influence on the development of sculpture after 1967.

The Camden Collection holds one of his works, Maquette for Camdonian, a scaled model submitted for the 1980 Camden Sculpture Competition, partially funded by the Arts Council, an explorative move into commissioning art for public display. Flanagan’s large-scale version is currently displayed in the north corner of Lincoln Inn Fields, while its smaller sibling remains in the Camden Collection and, as such, has led quite a different life.

Flanagan Camden Collection
Barry Flanagan, Maquette for Camdonian (1980), Camden Art Collection 

With its public sculpture show, Frieze has opened up sculpture, by some considered to be one of the more ‘inaccessible’ forms of art, to the public. Literally. Where artistic mediums such as photography and film easily extend beyond the official walls of the museum, through cinema’s, glossy magazines and the printing press, sculpture has always remained somewhat entrenched in the more ‘elite’ vocabularies of the art world. Sculptures are often large and difficult to transport, and without the traditional presence of a frame they tend to ask for a different presentation within a space. It is all too easy to revert to the blank, white context of a museum. Taking the sculptures out of the museum and placing them in the public area of Regent’s Park changes the way we look at them. By making the sculptures ‘blend in’ with the surrounding park, they become approachable to any unsuspecting, meandering visitor, effectively democratising who can see them and what it means to look at art.

Maquette for Camdonian, as well as its big brother Camdonian, is made entirely from sheet metal. However, where Camdonian is a public piece of art and has been outside for all these years, exposed to the elements and coveted by pigeons and city workers alike, Maquette for Camdonian has remained within the stillness of the Camden Collection. Its grey and brown patina, produced by the artist, gives the surface an eroded, powdery allure. The entire sculpture breathes a touchable quality; you want to stroke it just to see how it feels. This material ‘softness’ is once again expressed in the way the metal is cut out and bent in the middle. Ragged edges are simultaneously sharp and teeth-like, but also express a certain flexibility of the material. It is almost as if someone took a can opener to the shape, enraptured by a daze of madness, to see what was hiding inside.

Its structure if often thought of as having a humorous, almost self-referential quality, showing Flanagan’s ‘joie de vivre’. It is a prime example of his playful appreciation and experimentation with lines, surface and shapes (Michael McNay, Hidden Treasures of London, London: Random House Books, 2015.) Its ragged edges call into mind manual labor, both in the realms of factory production as well as the domestic spaces of the kitchen and home. Maquette for Camdonian exposes sculpture itself as the metal curls back, to show just another ‘view’ of the world through the empty space now exposed.

For more information on the artist please visit his website. Want to know more about Frieze Sculpture Park? Read our blog on the exhibition or visit Frieze to see a full list of artworks on display at Regent’s Park.

Camden Art Collection logo

The Camden Art Collection comprises a rich variety of works dating from the late 1950s to today, by artists who have had a strong connection to the borough, including Sandra Blow, Jean Cooke, John Bratby, Maggie Hambling, Derek Jarman, Prunella Clough, Terry Frost, Adrian Heath, Wilhemina Barns-Graham and limited edition works on paper by David Hockney and Patrick Caulfield.  For more information visit our online archive.

Header image: Barry Flanagan, Drummer, 1996, Waddington Custot Galleries, at Frieze Sculpture Park, Courtesy of Linda Nylind/Frieze

Read more of our Hidden Treasure series by clicking below!