I like Barbara Hepworth, I’ve been to the museum and sculpture garden in St Ives and loved it, so was definitely looking forward to seeing the Tate Britain exhibition. But instead of seeing all the exhibition I went along as a sighted companion with a visually impaired friend on a touch tour and sculpture workshop. The workshop began with everyone donning white gloves and being given the opportunity to touch three of the sculptures in the exhibition – two Barbara Hepworth ones and a Jacob Epstein one.
The first Hepworth sculpture (curved form) was relatively easy to understand, it was roughly a thick piece of metal bent into a ‘U’ shaped, with textured surfaces and a hole (or ‘aperture’ as the facilitators call it) in the back of the base of the ‘U’. Nothing too tricky there.
The second however was far more complex and had my friend a lot more perplexed and left me struggling for words for how to describe it apart from saying it was light greenish in colour and looked like it would be a good garden ornament. She felt her way around the winding pieces of metal, feeling up to the top that was almost too high to reach and trying to make a mental image of how all these different pieces of metal fitted together, ultimately giving up as the piece flowed one time too many. In many ways that mirrors the experience of looking at the piece and may well have been the whole point – that you can’t just take it all in easily and understand it as one fixed image and both of us, sighted and non-sighted, liked this piece the most out of the two.
The Epstein sculpture looked like two ducks sitting on top of each other and was very smooth, clean and stylised making it quite pleasing to the touch, but less interesting in terms of connecting to the piece in any way.
There wasn’t too much explanation given about the sculptures, but we did learn how Hepworth took inspiration from nature, which led us on to the next part of the workshop…creating our own clay sculptures! I found this a bit terrifying, I’m definitely not the artist out of the two of us and I’m much more used to facilitating workshops and helping other people make things than having to come up with ideas myself.
While my friend set off making an acorn inspired piece that ultimately became a kind of hollow tree trunk I sort of just copied some of the example objects the facilitators had brought to inspire us and when that failed made some random shapes, mumbling something about ‘experimenting with forms’ when my friend asked what I’d made.
It was an interesting experience for both of us and we would definitely go to more workshops like this and although I know it wasn’t all about me maybe my artistic side will be let loose a little more next time!
Workshop: Free for visually impaired participant and one sighted companion
General entry: £18 adults
Until 25 October 2015