This is my second visit to The Hepworth since its opening last year, and it's where I left it standing like the centrepiece of some post-modern utopia all starkly beautiful concrete sitting upon the weir. I've came to see a trio of exhibitions, so moving through the light filled gleaming rooms the first exhibition we come across is Heather and Ivan Morison's Anna what greets me when I enter the space is a large balloon, of the kind that the Montgolifer brothers might of flown tied to what looks like a handmade stool. Across the floor there lays what looks like railway sleepers, each one is adorned with a number of arcane objects a waxy bunch of flowers, a waxy looking bulls skull what appears to be a Sheila-Na-Gig statue and Eggs. Within the middle of this all is a pile of waxy black bones, all presided over by two large, drawings? I am told that one is produced by using bone ash.
It feels like I've wondered onto a stage long after the players have gone, taking the narratives that where contained within the objects with them. It all gives the impression of some forgotten fairy-tale, of myths lost generation by generation. On reading the stuff on the wall I discover that the piece is inspired by the life and work of the author Anna Kavan, of who I know nothing, if I did would I feel different about the selection of objects. Perhaps the upcoming puppet show will provide a sense of completion. Sat on the floor we await the arrival of the puppets; the puppets are brought in by two of the Hepworth's invigilators who animate the puppets through a tale of love and abandonment. I think. Due the acoustics the heavy eastern European accents that provide the spoken narratives are hard to understand. The puppets provide an intriguing and charming element, which expands on the objects that form the installation, I wonder about the people unable to see this element of the narrative, are they missing out? Who knows?
While waiting for the Ben Rivers film to start again I fill the time looking at David Thorpe's work. In David Thorpe's work I can see the relation between object and production; I admire the beautiful and carefully created patterns recalling William Morris's Arts and Crafts movement I'm left oddly cold. It's only when I pick up a catalogue of Thorpe's earlier work and see pieces like The Defeated Life Restored (http://www.maureenpaley.com/artists/david-thorpe/images/1) I get the sensation of utopian ideas drawn from the past, of a world based on a deeper understanding of history which points towards a future. Of course in saying that I wouldn't say no to one of his beautiful watercolours.
The final element of this trilogy is Ben Rivers Slow Action (http://www.picture-this.org.uk/eventsexhibitions/studio/2010/slow-action) set in a darkened screening room; I take a pair of wireless headphones and try to settle on a beanbag. The film begins and it is film, Ben Rivers has a taste for using film as it seems to express a sense of time and place which only exists when the film runs through the projector. There is also a Proustian rush, especially if you're of a certain age, as the film apes the documentation style of The National Film Board of Canada, all passive observation. This leads me to what is being observed, which is world the films where shot in real locations but the things discovered there have seemed to lead to a series of possible fictions detailing the alternative lives of the islands and their inhabitations. There's something in this work is points towards to the way we as a race are able to engage our imagination to shape the world in which we inhabit, that imagination seems to be applied by the sack headed inhabitations of the final episode of Rivers film, who adorn themselves with sack cloth in an attempt to restore order to their world. (http://www.mattsgallery.org/artists/rivers/large-img/4-02.jpg)
On the whole the exhibitions reflect the Hepworth's commitment to contemporary art, it might sound trite but I hope that visitors to the gallery can see that art is a living thing that does have relevance whether it was created last week or fifty years ago.