Mineral Material : Alabaster at Ordovas Gallery, London
The soft, warm, milky qualities of alabaster are irresistibly tactile. At once translucent yet solid, heavy and light, it is for these beautiful and contrasting qualities that this mineral has been used in sculpture for many centuries.
Alabaster is the latest in a string of elegant thematic exhibitions to be shown at Ordovas, London; following ‘Flowers’, ‘Monochrome’, ‘Artists and Lovers’ and ‘Girl’. Each exhibition is a self-contained wonder, curated with a minimalistic touch that directs the viewer whilst still being open to interpretation.
September 28 — December 15, 2018
25 Savile Row, London
Featuring a total of nine works, the exhibition spans the long history of alabaster in sculpture, as works by Eduardo Chillida, Anish Kapoor, Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi are shown alongside several sculptures from ancient civilizations. Abstract forms and functional objects are found amongst the works – a canopic jar from Ancient Egypt takes human form - looking out onto the exhibition, removed from its previous function as part of the mummification process, it can be appreciated both as a sculpture and as a decorative object. The “Canopic Jar of Henat” is dated between 664 and 525 BC. A sophisticated example of sculpting in alabaster; the rounded vase is carved so that the stone’s veins emphasize its form – the striations built one upon another, quivering lines in cream, grey, white.
Four further historical examples of alabaster sculpture are dotted amongst the contemporary works – an early 15th Century carving of Saint Ambrose is carved from Nottingham alabaster, and this medieval English sculpture is the only piece in the exhibition that does not conform to the principles of abstraction. Although the Ancient Egyptian sculptures are far older, they share the clean lines and simple forms that can be found in the language of most modern sculptures. However, the purely figurative piece is more decorative in style. With a more solid and uniform surface, the medieval carving has a greying colour and an aged patina. Yet the sharp, delicate quality of the alabaster, can still be found in the folds of the Saint’s robes, and in the intricate modeling of his hands and face.
Anish Kapoor’s “Untitled” seems to be sculpted as to show the multi-faceted qualities of the alabaster. The cubic form is pierced by an oval opening in one of its facades, inside of which is a solid column of the pale mineral. The simple forms of the piece belie its technically complex structure; the outer walls are paper thin, allowing light to pass through the intricately veined surface, illuminating the hollow interior.
Similarly, Eduardo Chillida’s “Homenaje a la Mar I” emphasises the contradictory qualities of alabaster using the rugged rock-like surface in contrast to the clarity and beauty of the smooth, worked surface. Carved with the curves and angles that are found throughout Chillida’s oeuvre, ‘Homenaje a la Mar I’ is part sculpture, part architectural plan for a brutalist masterpiece. Light and air flow through the space created by Chillida, which is enclosed in the organic mineral form of the alabaster.
A sculpture of a woman’s head that is dated between the 1st Century BC and 1st Century AD has a timeless quality thanks to the simplicity and elegance of its forms – traces of which can be found in the modern depictions of the human head by Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi.
The brilliantly pared-back exhibition gives each piece the space and - more importantly - the light in which each of the delicate and delicious alabaster surfaces comes to life.
All images courtesy of Ordovas Gallery