Sainsbury Centre acquires a group of 29 major works by Elisabeth Frink

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Sainsbury Centre acquires a group of 29 major works by Elisabeth Frink
Elisabeth Frink, Carapace II, 1963. Photo: Pete Huggins.

NORWICH.- The Sainsbury Centre announced the acquisition of a significant group of works by Elizabeth Frink made possible in accordance with the wishes of the artist’s late son, Lin Jammet.

This acquisition follows the highly celebrated exhibition, Elisabeth Frink: Humans and Other Animals, held at the Centre in 2018. The works consist of 29 sculptures and drawings, by one of the most important British sculptors of the twentieth century. They will be displayed at the Sainsbury Centre art museum and its Sculpture Park at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK. This acquisition was initiated in collaboration with the artist’s son, Lin Jammet, who sadly died in 2017. However, it was his wish that a group of his mother’s works should remain after the exhibition and become part of the permanent holdings in the region of the Suffolk-born artist’s birth. The acquisition includes powerful examples of work from all periods of Frink’s artistic practice.

Frink was known for depicting the relationship between humans and animals and this was a theme she returned to throughout her life. Whilst offering exciting contemporary possibilities both metaphorically and directly, she was conscious of the fact that animals appear in art from the very earliest times and that their relationship with humans is interdependent.

Frink rose to prominence while still a student at Chelsea College of Art in 1952, when she had her first major gallery exhibition and won a prize in an international competition for the Monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner. She created a series of expressionist bird sculptures which, for her, evoked ‘strong feelings of panic, tension, aggression and predatoriness’. Frink was associated with the Geometry of Fear group of British sculptors and created one of the most succinct responses to the Second World War and to the climate of fear generated by the encroaching Cold War. In the 1950s, her falling and spinning men, and associated drawings, echo images of early cosmonauts such as Yuri Gagarin, the first human in outer space.

Frink’s most famous and unique theme is a series of heads, the Goggle Heads (1967-69) and Tribute Heads (1970s-80s), which explore the contradictory forces of masculinity and vulnerability. The acquisition includes examples of both series. Like other great twentieth century artists including Bacon and Picasso, Frink explores the binary attributes of human behaviour, representing man as both aggressor and brutalised victim. This theme is also illustrated in the representation of the warrior figure (Soldier 1963).

The Mirage Birds, (Mirage I and Mirage II, 1969) illustrate her work in large scale bronze and take up residency in the Sainsbury Centre’s 350-acre Sculpture Park at the University of East Anglia. They represent a more playful and abstracted form of depiction set against the watery backdrop of a Norfolk Broad.

Frink was one of the twentieth century’s great draughtsmen with the ability to convey sculptural form on paper. The acquisition of 9 drawings and 4 prints includes her Green Man series, which was made when Frink knew that she was likely to die whilst only in her 60s. Frink found solace in the popular medieval symbol of rebirth and new life, resulting in works as fresh and invigorating as anything she had ever produced.

Sainsbury Centre Head of Collections and curator of Elizabeth Frink: Humans and Other Animals, Calvin Winner says:

“We are delighted that a significant body of work is held in a public collection in the region of Frink’s birth. The Sainsbury Centre is perhaps best known for its holdings of sculpture from ancient times to the present day. Frink’s work will now be seen alongside some of the greatest sculpture ever made. This a is fitting tribute to one of the most important British sculptors of the twentieth century.”

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