Rob Ryan

A great show in a gallery in a school in the Kent countryside

Posted by on Sunday 21st July, 2013
On a recent visit to Marlborough our friend Sasha Ward, the genius Glass window designer, was raving recently about a great exhibition she had seen of drawings/paintings of surgeons doing their work in operating theatres by the sculptor Barbara Hepworth at the Pallant House gallery, unfortunately the show had already finished ! Boo !
Looking it up online I learnt that the show would be moving to the Mascalls gallery in Kent ! Hooray !
We were traveling down to Rye anyway so decided to have a country detour to see the show rather than our usual grinding motorway journey. Mascalls gallery is a part of the comprehensive school of the same name in the prettily named Paddocks Wood.


The pictures made by BH are a great cross between pencil drawing and painting, made on boards and primed with successive costs of gesso and stain the surfaces of which are scraped and scratched into to create softly undulating hills of texture, the white primer being revealed beneath the color. Detail is added in pencil and finely scratched line. The subject is one thing only. Surgeons and their assistants working. For this their bodies are covered leaving only the flesh of their hands and the area around their eyes exposed. There is something ghostly and detached about them but also something robotic too, as if these people were engaged in doing something so clinically precise and accurate so as to make them almost like machines, (these pictures were made in a period when science was making great leaps forward, and was already being described as the ‘atomic age’)



But I didn’t see these pictures as cold and clinical, and though they hold all the drama and suspense of extreme concentration I found the gestures within them to be gentle and caring, the eyes so very beautiful and full of warmth.
In fact the whole experience was quite moving, these small almost monotone pictures of people trying to help other people.



The exhibition is on until 20th August 2013, but double check that -I might have got it wrong! Do try and see it if you’re in that part of the country, it really is good !



On the way out of the show the grassy playing fields of the school it was set in were dotted with pupils sitting around in groups in the sun, the summer term nearly at an end. It threw me back to days exactly the same in the mid seventies when I didn’t fret about the past or the future all day long but was happy to just lie on the grass in the sun and be listening to ‘I’m not in love’ playing on my transistor radio.


– Posted by Rob R