Hignell Gallery is pleased to present Intimacy, an exhibition by sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld OBE, which coincides with her largest solo show to date – LOOKING UP: Helaine Blumenfeld at Canary Wharf. Helaine’s practice has been inspired by ongoing themes over the course of her fifty-year career. The exhibition explores the distance which she has travelled with one theme, intimacy, which has been fundamental to her artistic development and a driving force behind her aesthetic from her very first sculptures to present day.
Intimacy traces the artistic and emotional evolution of Blumenfeld’s practice, revealing a sculptural vocabulary which lives up to and perhaps transcends the complexity of the theme. From initial ideas inspired by her personal life to those which reflect powerful subject matter representing the wider world, the exhibition presents a range of maquettes and sculptures, including never before seen and newly created works, in bronze, marble, terracotta and wood.
In her early years as an artist, Blumenfeld explored intimacy as the profound knowledge of oneself, translating this into individual, abstract sculptural forms. The theme was gradually extended to understanding those who were close to the artist. Intimacy examines the dynamics of relationships, the changes that come from movement and their potential for tension, cooperation and growth.
Blumenfeld’s initial works examine intimacy through notions of introspection, closeness and the relationship between two people, seen in her earliest piece inspired by the theme – the polished bronze Man and Woman: Intimacy (1964) which will be on view for the first time to the public. Dedicated to the artist’s relationship with her husband, the sculpture reflects their union through merged forms. This is shown together for the first time with Two Sides of a Woman (1967), another personal work which suggests the dangers of losing oneself in a relationship.
This dynamic has been further developed in Blumenfeld’s more recent sculptures as seen in maquettes for large-scale works such as Taking Risks (2020), Metamorphosis (2018) and Fortuna (2016). The full-size versions of these sculptures are on view at Canary Wharf as part of LOOKING UP. Fortuna and Metamorphosis, the artist’s most recent commission for the Group, are part of the Estate’s permanent public art collection. Throughout the past five decades, intimacy has expanded to become for Blumenfeld a larger concept, going beyond the level of personal relationships to exploring our place in the world. Her sculptures are now rooted in an interest in what it means to be connected and to share perspectives. In her most recent work, such as Exodus 6 (2020) in bronze and Toward The Precipice (2020) in wood, the artist comments on the lack of intimacy that exists globally despite the increasing interconnectivity which technology allows.
Helaine Blumenfeld said, “Although society through technology appears to be increasingly connected, intimacy is lacking on a global level. We need to have a profound knowledge of each other and an increased sense of community. Loneliness and anxiety are on the rise. We need to be able to empathise with one another in order to connect on a human scale. Engaging with art can help us to do this.” Intimacy creates a visual juxtaposition of earlier sculptures alongside contemporary work which demonstrates the extent to which Blumenfeld’s sculptural vocabulary has evolved, revealing her anxiety as well as hope for the times in which we live.