Andrew Lambirth

Spirit of place | 10 September 2011

In the Weston Rooms of the Royal Academy’s main suite of galleries is the third of a series of exhibitions designed to show the processes by which artists arrive at their work.

In the Weston Rooms of the Royal Academy’s main suite of galleries is the third of a series of exhibitions designed to show the processes by which artists arrive at their work.

In the Weston Rooms of the Royal Academy’s main suite of galleries is the third of a series of exhibitions designed to show the processes by which artists arrive at their work. Nigel Hall (born 1943) is an internationally celebrated abstract sculptor, known for his restrained purist forms, exquisitely balanced combinations of cone, ellipse, circle and wedge, executed in bronze, steel or polished wood. He also exhibits tautly rhythmic charcoal and gouache drawings of twisting ribands or other flat geometric shapes. His inventiveness within his chosen parameters is impressive and unflagging, but abstraction is not all he can do. For the first time in any depth Hall is showing the observational drawings he makes from nature, while travelling to different parts of the world for work or pleasure, if the two can be separated for an artist.

Here are drawings made in Switzerland, Japan, Italy, Australia and America. Hall’s favourite landscapes are mountains or the desert, and the first room is filled with 50 drawings of Swiss mountains, hung in two tiers and grouped into locations. These are drawn in soluble pencil on long, centrally folded sheets of thick paper, like diptychs. Although he has visited Switzerland in the summer, he much prefers the structures of the winter landscape under snow and ice. He has to work quickly as the drawing water will freeze otherwise, and he makes his studies in a maximum of ten minutes. These drawings are not just about the handsome profiles of mountain peaks, but about the relationship of valley sides to dwelling roofs, for instance in Fex-Curtins, the last community before the glacier in a valley Hall particularly loves.

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