In choosing to use bronze as his primary material for the hares, the artist aligned his work with academic sculptural traditions, yet Flanagan’s manipulation of the bronze was far from conformist. The rough textures of the sculpture’s surface, as well as its sinewy, elongated shapes relay an abiding, profound interest in abstract forms. Additionally, the subject matter mingles traditional and unconventional imagery. The inclusion of the ball and claw base is a rather tongue-in-cheek reference to English 18th century interior design, acknowledging the artist’s cultural heritage, while presenting it in a new and unlikely setting. Moreover, the primary subject—a larger-than-life, personified hare—distorts the trope of the classical nude sculpture. The hare is poised on its hind legs, assuming a stance and scale typically reserved for human subjects. The rabbit, though a strange and thoroughly unorthodox subject for a large sculpture, is one familiar to most viewers, drawn from fairytales and folklore and full of metonymic associations. Tim Hilton suggests, “The hare is used to make a connection between the particular and numinous. It can be thought of as personal, or a person: or as a symbol for a person; or as a symbol for some universal principle” (Tim Hilton in Exh. Cat., British Pavilion, Venice Biennale, Barry Flanagan: Sculpture, 1982, p. 14). Hare on Ball and Claw is an exquisite example of Flanagan’s ability to balance traditional and unique techniques with subjects to create a singular image that captures the viewer’s imagination.
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