Central to the impact of Hepworth’s carved sculptures is the balance between the chosen material and the form of the work, as she explained: "In sculpture there must be a complete realization of the structure and quality of the stone or wood which is being carved. But I do not think that this alone supplies the life and vitality of the sculpture. I believe that the understanding of the material and the meaning of the form being carved must be in perfect equilibrium" (quoted in Barbara Hepworth Retrospective Exhibition 1927-1954, (exhibition catalogue), Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1954, p. 10). This perfect equilibrium between form and material creates the subtle power of this work. The title, Poised Form II With Circle, invites a contemplative response, reflected in the tranquility of the gentle organic oval outline.
The piercing of the form challenges the solidity of the slate. Hepworth’s use of non-objective piercing in her sculpture was central to her position in the history of European modernism and is evident in her work as early as 1932. Her introduction of such negative space in her sculptural vocabulary greatly enriched the possibilities of abstract sculpture by abolishing the concept of a closed, and thus entire, form and brought the individual sculpture firmly into the environment within which it was placed. Hepworth spoke frankly about what she hoped to achieve: "I have always been interested in oval or ovoid shapes… the weight, poise, and curvature of the ovoid as a basic form. The carving and such piercing of such a form seems to open up an infinite variety of continuous curves in the third dimension…" (quoted in "Approach to Sculpture" in The Studio, vol. 132, no. 643, October 1946). The pierced oval form, as exemplified by Poised Form II With Circle, perfectly balances the concerns that the artist felt were so crucial to her sculpture: the beauty (and flaws) of the natural material, the process of making and the hand of the artist, the solidity of lightness, the modernist tradition and the allusions in the choice of material to the classical sculpture of the Mediterranean. This work thus explores old concerns anew and is reflective of the freshness and vitality of her carvings.
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