By Josie Muldowney
Someone once lamented that there was less sculpture, more statues in Northern Ireland. This is not so today and for the upcoming month at The Gordon gallery. ‘Reflection in Form’ is a startlingly eclectic exhibition of sculpture by the artist Maurice Harron. Maurice Harron is internationally known for his public sculpture. He is the creator of the bronze figures ‘Hands across the Divide’ at the west end of Craigavon Bridge. This exhibition is an opportunity to view works of a smaller scale. It provides testament to his artistic versatility and gives us a chance to view his work more intimately. Here we can see the art of the universal from a Derry-born artist exhibiting locally. Bronze and steel are his materials; the themes are universal – life, love and its absence, relationships – to each other and to ourselves, in short; the joy and suffering of ordinary human existence. It is the artist’s reflection on forms in life embodied through craftsmanship; the immaterial made material and aesthetic. Unyielding metal has been hewn and welded into forms that reflect the figure of humanity, animal and nature. The materials skilfully and vividly render naturalistic essences; the subtle characteristics of the human body, the energy and movement of an animal. There are moments of real bleakness and despair but also humour and joy. Depictions of our alienation and separation from each other are offset by a man happily striding with his dog, the ballerina en pose, the sailor in flight across the sea and the playful smile on the cat - carefree moments in a world ‘full of care’. We are quite obviously doomed but there is still much to celebrate. We are given a chance to ‘stand and stare’ and these reflections in form become reflections on our collective selves and self-reflection.
The artist juxtaposes beauty in form with some harsh realities. ‘Constraints’ is an understated title for a figure suspended within a cage of metal rods, the body pinnacled and contorted through a sort of multi-crucifixion. The title suggests the individual at odds with the bounds of society. The sculpture depicts something altogether more disturbing; a person painfully frozen and debilitated, trapped with no way out. ‘Couple’ is a sculpting in bronze of a man and woman standing within a stainless steel frame, an open cage. Presumably they are free to step out of the cage but each grasps the sides and also each other in a semi-confrontational pose in which they look in opposite directions. ‘Man and Woman’ is two figures in bronze with their backs to each other. They are near to each other but indifferent; in the act of departure. Separation, isolation and even separation in connectedness are represented. A flattened tableau of what looks to be molten residue, amorphous ashes curling outwards from a metal plane is one of the more abstract pieces in the group. This non-figurative work evokes an atmosphere of the post-apocalyptic. It is as if all the substance of the world has been melted down to produce a tragic-looking mess; the destructive left-over of humanity. Perhaps it is the apocalypse of art itself. There is nothing too harmonious to view here. It is in direct contradiction to the refinement and vitality of the other works. This is sculpture which delights in expressiveness and provokes thought; metal reflecting light and casting shadows. There are also brush and ink paintings and charcoal drawings. I have said that the exhibition is ‘an opportunity’ to view the work of Maurice Harron. On seeing the art on display in the exemplary Gordon gallery, I would say that it is more than just an opportunity, it is a must-see event. ‘Reflection in Form’ runs until October 31st at The Gordon gallery, Pump St.