‘I find that the hare is a rich and expressive form that can carry the conventions of the cartoon and the attributes of the human into the animal world. So I use the hare as a vehicle to entertain. I abstract from the human figure, choosing the hare to behave as human occasionally’ (Barry Flanagan, quoted in Enrique Juncosa, Barry Flanagan Sculpture 1965-2005, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2006, p.65.)
Holding a position as one of the most internationally celebrated and sought-after British sculptors of the latter part of the twentieth century, like many a good artist Barry Flanagan made us challenge the manner in which we viewed the world around us. From early conceptual work in a rich variety of different media, to his bronzes which, from the 1980s onwards made use of his now most recognised motif – the hare – his work was ever evolving in terms of both subject and medium. Yet to many it is the subject of the hare, and his adept ability to capture the animal, imbuing it with human traits that he remains best known for. He had been drawn to the hare after reading George Ewart Evans’ 1972 The Leaping Hare. An anthropological study of the small creature, it set the sculptor on a path that he continued to explore until his death in 2009 and led him to produce some of his most important and iconic work.
Within this broader motif of the hare Flanagan developed the concept of the ‘thinking hare’ as early as 1990, and continued to explore this idea over the next two decades. A playful take on arguably the most recognised sculpture of modern times, Rodin’s La Penseur, or The Thinker, Flanagan cast his thinker in a manner of different positions and scenarios – including Thinker on Rock, a cast of which sold in these rooms in June of this year for £848,750, establishing a new record for the Artist at auction. Thinker on Computer holds an important position within Flanagan’s work, and assesses man’s relationship and growing dependency on modern day technology. In the fast-paced and ever-changing technological world, Flanagan’s thinking hare, balanced on top of an already out-dated machine becomes a symbol of a modern-day thinker. The very fact that the computer, an object with which we are all now so familiar and reliant upon, is presented in this medium is itself surprising and engaging. With forethought so characteristic of the sculptor, he casts the object as a semi-relic – an object of our time, which is juxtaposed by the thinker balanced on top, which remains un-changed and, in a sense, timeless. The work succeeds in being both humorous and poignant, allowing the viewer to bring their own interpretations to the piece, and making us question man’s current position within the fast-paced world in which we live.
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