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Blake Sculpture at Petley Jones Gallery

Last weekend, we visited the Petley Jones Gallery in downtown Vancouver to see the Blake Sculpture exhibition. Petley Jones also carries my stone sculptor friends, Lee Gass and Gerda Lattey.

Blake is a figurative sculptor who works in bronze and marble. He was born and educated in Canada, but now lives and works in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. Petley Jones exhibited about a dozen pieces, all nudes in bronze, save two which were executed in Carrara marble. The Gallery states: “While [Blake’s] sculptures are often modern evocations of classical subjects based on the themes of dance, mythology, feminism, idealized beauty and the human spirit they also act as a conduits for addressing major issues such as human rights and in raising awareness of the destructive power of land mines in developing nations.”

To reflect this, many of the bronze figures in this exhibit appear to be fractured and broken. Pieces are missing from limbs and torsos; extremities such as feet, hands and heads are incomplete and end in a jagged edge. One does get a disturbing dichotomy of pleasure from the graceful movement and revulsion from the torn, missing pieces. My only criticism is the way Blake describes the female breast in his sculptures. They do not seem to be an integral part of the figure, but lay as separate pieces on the female’s chest. I don’t think it is Blake’s intention to make them appear fractured from the figure, especially as the two classically executed marble torsos are done with such attention to anatomy. I just found this aspect of his work to be odd and out of place with his abilities.

Two things struck me most about the exhibit. First, it was entirely of the human nude. In the hypocritical city of Vancouver (it is acceptable for people here dress in LuluLemon so one can see just about every part of their anatomy, yet God forbid we should have a nude art work out in public!), it is refreshing to see such an art show. I believe it is very important to celebrate the beauty of the human body in art, as has been done through the ages in so many other countries and cultures.

Second, Petley Jones chose not to hang any paintings in the gallery during the Blake exhibit. The bare, white walls were a perfect backdrop, so the viewer could completely immerse themselves in the sculptures. Sculpture, and especially stone sculpture, has always struggled to assert itself as a legitimate art form. Too many times, I’ve witnessed commercial and public galleries succumb to the notion that they MUST utilize the walls of their gallery for two dimensional art, else it be wasted space.

Kudos to Petley Jones Gallery for this exhibition!

Comments: 2

  • October 28, 2011

    As a two dimensional visual painter I completely agree with you. Walls SHOULD remain void of other work when the concentration is on three dimensional art
    Each should be respected in their own space and time.

    Also, Vancouver people are so wrapt up in sports and physical well-being but they fail to recognize that a perfect body will not ever be obtained without a healthy understanding and appreciation of art in all it’s many forms. Their LuluLemon covered bodies will be fractured like BLAKE’s sculptures!

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