Kenneth Armitage at the White Horse Gallery - challenges and delights

Written by Vincent Stokes on .

Not only Richmond Park's oak trees.  Kenneth Armitage: Etching with Collage and Watercolour (1978)Not only Richmond Park's oak trees. Kenneth Armitage: Etching with Collage and Watercolour (1978)Following hot on the heels of the much-lauded John Virtue show, the White Horse Gallery is exhibiting a selection of drawings, prints and sculpture by Kenneth Armitage (1916-2002), who is considered to be one of the major British sculptors of the mid-twentieth century. 

Along with fellow artists including Eduardo Paolozzi, Lynn Chadwick and William Turnbull, Armitage represented Britain at the 26th Venice Biennale in 1952.   Armitage was a central figure in the flowering of sculpture in Britain during the 1950’s. From 1946-1956 he was head of sculpture at Bath Academy of Art in Corsham – at that time one of the most innovative art schools in Britain. 

Much of Armitage’s work from that period was realised in bronze, but thereafter he worked in a range of materials including wax and resin. He also loved combining materials – print, collage and photographic imagery – as well as printed figures on three-dimensional surfaces. 

The final stage of his output was based on his studies of the oak trees in Richmond Park.

So … an artist with an impressive CV and a clear pedigree. There is much to enjoy in this show at the White Horse Gallery and much that doubtless will challenge. It’s an exhibition that may not be to everyone’s taste. 

There are examples of work from different stages of Armitage’s life, with an impressive range of small-scale sculptures. These vary widely in style and may at first seem disconnected. But if they are seen, together with the drawings and prints on show, as representing a ‘slice’ through Armitage’s life’s output, there are riches to be found here. 

As is so often the case, forming an opinion too rapidly shuts down the possibility of discovering treasure.

It may be of interest to know that an exhibition of Armitage’s ‘Richmond Park’ works is currently on show at the NewArtCentre, Roche Court.

The Kenneth Armitage Foundation: In his last years Armitage decided that his legacy should be a Charitable Foundation for the benefit of sculptors. The Foundation supports sculptors through a biennial residential Fellowship and cash prizes for students graduating from the art schools where he taught and studied. 

The Foundation is run by a small group of trustees, currently under the chairmanship of Robert Hiscox. The works in the exhibition belong to The Kenneth Armitage Foundation. They are for sale and the proceeds will support the ongoing work of the charity.

This White Horse Gallery exhibition is free and open during shop hours until 12 March 2019.  There is further information about the Foundation here.