British sculptor Sean Henry has just installed three, larger than life figures to coincide with a new gallery show. The first, Seated Man, gazes mournfully out onto St James’s.
Then, striding purposefully across the plaza, is Walking Woman.
Finally, with her back to Bury Street, is Woman (Being Looked At).
Economist Plaza, in St James’s has a constantly changing programme of free public art, exhibitions there change every 6 months. This new show by Sean Henry, is for me, one of their best in years. The artist has other, permanent works in London at Holland Park and in Paddington Basin but for me this new temporary exhibition showcases his talents better than anywhere else.
Each of the three figures, perfectly captures a different state of mind, a different type of movement. There is the immobile, desolate despair of Seated Man, a haunting character. The Walking Woman strides forth to tackle the next challenge with confidence and self-assurance, her movement is superb. Then there is Woman (Being Looked At); she is frozen in a moment of indecision ( she has apparently lost her keys) one leg is bent as if to suggest forward movement, but she remains very much rooted to the spot, vulnerable, unsure what to do next and painfully aware that she is now providing an unintended spectacle.
This is engaging, accessible, public art at its very best. It was difficult to get these shots yesterday, even in the rain, as there were so many other people trying to do the same thing. A small informal crowd of people were all surprised, delighted and enthused by what we had stumbled across, each of us wanted to capture an image.
Henry’s choice of materials, bronze, cor-ten steel and all-weather paint greatly enhance the accessibility of his work too. One can touch or even climb upon the works without doing them any damage at all. They are there to stimulate and to be enjoyed free of barriers, ropes, guards and all the trappings of a formal gallery space.
The show in Economist Plaza ties in with a solo exhibition of Henry’s new sculptures and drawings The Way It Is which opens at the Osborne Samuel Gallery in Bruton Street, Mayfair, London, W1 on May 9th and will run until June 9th.
The Figures in Economist Plaza will be in place until October 2012.
The author of this blog is a qualified and insured City of Westminster Tour Guide who runs unique walking tours and private tours in London. All my public tours are bookable through Eventbrite.