The opening of Sean's exhibition at GALLERI ANDERSSON SANDSTROM last week (GSA.SE) and the installation in Stockholm's Humlegarden of "Seated Figure" led to a front page review in Sweden's biggest National newspaper, Dagen Nyheter, on 01.10.19. The exhibition runs until November 1st, and the Seated Figure will remain in the Humlegarden until the Spring of 2020.
The article states:
"Art Review: Sculptures with a magical presence"
British sculptor Sean Henry is back with a gallery exhibition in Stockholm and a new monumental sculpture in Humlegården. Birgitta Rubin experiences magic in his designs"
"It happens again and again as I enter the large room at Galleri Andersson / Sandström. In a tenth of a second, my body and brain are preparing for interaction with human figures - even though I know that these are stagnant sculptures by Sean Henry. How is that possible?
The two variants of the "Standing figure", a young man and a young woman facing each other, are, on closer inspection, not even very naturally depicted - far from Duane Hanson's super-realistic sculptures. Here, the surface is instead rather roughly treated, skin wrinkles slightly exaggerated as well as folds in the clothes, which at the same time lack detail like buttons.
But above all, these figures, two seemingly perfectly ordinary people, are "larger than life". Enlarged, like historical heroes. The British sculptor does this, shifting the scale towards either greater or lesser representation of people.
Humlegården has now also been visited by a bearded uncle in crumpled costume, who, in his thoughts, looks out over the park, sitting with crossed hands over a bag in his lap. Everyday, but on a monumental scale.
Sean Henry's "Seated figure" is available in a smaller version of the gallery exhibition and in a larger outdoor version for six months (part of the celebration of Humlegården 400 years). It will be interesting to see how the Stockholmers react to the slightly silly old man. I myself have previously met Henry's "Walking woman" on a path in Ekebergsparken in Oslo, where the progressive woman figure on the "powerwalk" scares the children a bit but after a while they often get their hand in hers.
It's magical to see how others relate to Sean Henry's sculptures and to experience the strong presence of the figures themselves. It is something with facial expressions and body language that triggers human instincts and causes one to react with compassion, sympathy, concern.
At the gallery, the neatly dressed and handsome young woman raises questions. Why does she stand with her hands crossed over her chest, defensively focused? And the bearded older man, whose figure Sean Henry has both drawn and sculpted in various poses, what does he think? He seems to be going through some kind of life crisis. Likewise "Hedda", frozen in a kneeling position, with praying eyes and face a little theatrical, facing the sky.
The model of "Hedda" is an actress (in the role of Hedda Gabler) and even the bearded man has a background in the theater, while others are friends and family. In interviews, Sean Henry has stated that he never uses professional artist models; "They are totally absent mentally".
It is not external resemblance he strives for, but his personal presence and those ambivalent, unaccounted-for moments. The glimpse of what is happening in the person's interior, and which each person interprets, based on their own experience bank.
The characters are unmistakably contemporary, girls in ponytail and tight pants, guys in hoodies and jeans, men in casual suits. Around a dinner table sit three children who are petrified, the oldest boy in hooded sweatshirts and gym suits, all encased in his own thought bubble.
Here my associations mainly go to the ponderous mind games and the gloomy mood of Vilhelm Hammershøi's group portrait at the Thielska gallery.
Just in this exhibition, I otherwise lack a clearer play with art history and scale shifts within the same sculpture group that Sean Henry previously operated with.
But probably there is almost always something in the poses of his sculptures that arouses associations with old masters. Nowadays, we also know that ancient sculptures were polychrome, painted just like Sean Henry's bronze sculptures usually are.
But unlike art history's depictions of kings, gods and mythological beings, Sean Henry's characters are anti-heroic. You and I in the crowd of people. Everyone carrying on in their own little world."
(translated from the Swedish)