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There is something timeless, primitive almost, about Anthony Hatwell’s sculpture exhibition at the Talbot Rice Gallery. Busts, carved from a single piece of wood appear hacked at, forcefully carved into. Elegant reclining nudes rendered in clay still have fingerprints left over from their creation. The tall, all black, ‘Walking Figure’ has a Neanderthal stride.

Ever since Leonardo Da Vinci introduced a sort of visual competition between painting and sculpture, there has been quite a divide between the two genres; artists have struggled to reconcile the two. Maybe it’s Anthony Hatwell’s background in painting, but sometimes his sculptures seem like he’s scrunched up flat modernist masterpieces into three-dimensional forms. Somewhere along the way he’s captured that elusive essence of an object that empirical representations can’t quite hold onto.

But what is most striking about Hatwell’s first ever solo exhibition is his ability to capture the nuances of a gesture. In ‘Girl Tying Hair’ black and white scraps of wood are tacked together to make a life-size form. Each piece is meticulously chosen for size and length and is perfectly angled to suggest the tension in the arm tying hair, the slack in the other.

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Even in his works on paper, Hatwell picks up on the subtleties of expression. It’s a testament to his skill that the painting ‘Head on Hand’ is vastly different from ‘Head in Hand’.

Yet, plain and simply, Hatwell’s sculptures are aesthetically beautiful. In ‘Girl With Flowers’ blocks of painted wood take on florid forms in the arms of a jet-black figure. The supreme balance of composition gives it an arresting stillness; it’s the sort of piece you could look at for hours.

Walking around the various sculpted heads, you realise that they perhaps epitomize the whole exhibition. The faces aren’t at first obvious, but you don’t have to scrutinize them to decipher the forms. Like all of his sculpture, he gets the balance just right. Pairing the timeless and the new, the sculpted and the painted or even gesture and stillness, Anthony Hatwell’s poised figures strike an inspirational pose.

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