Beaux Arts Bath



Anna Gillespie


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Anna Gillespie’s sculptures can loosely be divided into three categories - cast bronzes, work featuring found objects, and sculptures primarily made from arboreal material. The boundaries are however broadly drawn and there is significant overlap.

The bronzes which make use of nut-casing castings have, in common with the natural material works, an emotional draw, balancing it seems our ability to gain great comfort from, and show reverence for, the natural world (see Solace and Gathering), with a tinge of melancholy at the more destructive aspects of our stewardship. Other cast bronzes (like To the Limit and Storm) make use of Gillespie’s wrapped motif, suggesting awe and ecstatic experience or simply the dichotomy of being bound in corporeal form yet having the ability or desire to break free from our human constraints.

Among found objects Gillespie’s unique bronze figures find themselves in states of metaphysical ambiguity to which the titles allude - Give me Shelter (from what?), Calm Seas (were once rough...?), or Home Fire I and II, where the male and female figures respectively seem not hugely impressed with their lot. In this branch of her work, concern with environmental degradation is more clearly alluded to (see Tree of Life and Perch), and personal aspects of her work (as in Nest) are evident. Whether in earnest or with a healthy sense of the ridiculous (see Bliss) her work is never trite; each sculpture is thoroughly thought through.

Gillespie sees the gathering of freshly fallen acorn and beech nuts as a type of homage in itself, which may explain why the natural material sculptures often radiate such calm. Abundance is a particularly novel and daring example of this branch of her work, upsetting the usual stillness and poise (as on the leeward side of the sculpture) with a windswept sideways movement, the drama enhanced by the use of beech nut casings at various stages of unfolding, emphasising the wind’s part in harvesting the tree’s fruit Also in a new departure Seven Sisters, a wall-hung installation of 7 pieces, uses the acorns themselves plus some of the attached leafy foliage, as well as the casings and stalks, allowing an intriguing new variety in form and tactility.

Each natural material work employs the fruit of a particular tree, accentuating the distinct character of each individually, though there is no hint of the wonderful particularity of the finished form from seeing the gaunt modelled amalgam core prior to the painstaking placement of the nuts and their casings. Gillespie benefits from having a network of friends who alert her when a tree has dropped a promising harvest of beech nuts or acorns, which are gathered almost exclusively from the local area (the exception being L’homme de Chene, the acorns having originally been collected by the artist’s artist sister Sarah in France). She also pays tribute to her friends and neighbours, who have contributed found objects, sometimes presented to her cat-like, overnight on the doorstep of her studio, or for permission granted to explore promising house-clearance skips.

Gillespie is an artist unafraid of exploring contradiction in her work as well as in her professional life. Having studied Politics Philosophy and Economics at Oxford, then International Relations at LSE, she performed a career shift and decided to sculpt full-time. After training in the heavy medium of stone masonry she then began to work in masking tape, going on to cast this somewhat temporary material into bronze. The fulcrum in all Gillespie’s work is the human figure, with its unfailing ability to spark recognition and empathy in the viewer and therefore elicit an emotional, gut response to the work. Anna Gillespie’s willingness to explore the liminal and tangential ends of her craft is perhaps typical of a character who has been bold enough to change tack so dramatically (and so fruitfully) in her career. Natural materials come into her studio and man-made works, imbued with her customary gusto, innovation and meticulousness, leave. It is a balance she has evidently struck with some aplomb with this wonderfully accomplished body of work.

Aidan Quinn August 2012


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Born: 1964  Farnham Surrey

1983 – 1986 BA Hons Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Oxford University
1986 – 1987 Diploma in International Relations London School of Economics
1992  Became a full-time sculptor
1993 – 1995   City & Guilds in Stone Masonry & Carving, City of Bath College
1996 – 1998 MA in Fine and Media Arts. Cheltenham
Selected Exhibitions  
2011, 2012, 2014 Beaux Arts Bath, Solo Show
2012 London Art Fair, Islington
  20/21 Art Fair, Royal College of Art
  South West Open, Gloucester Cathedral
  Beaux Arts London, Summer Show
2011 Beaux Arts London, Summer Show
  20/21 Art Fair, Royal College of Art
  Art London
  London Art Fair, Islington
2010  Beaux Arts Bath, Solo Show
  20/21 Art Fair, Royal College of Art
  Art London
  London Art Fair, Islington
2009   Beaux Arts Bath, Summer Show
  Waterhouse and Dodd, London, 3 Person Show
  Art London
2008 Beaux Arts Bath, Summer Show
2007   Beaux Arts, Bath, Summer Show     
  Chapel Row Gallery, Bath, Solo Show
  Bristol Royal West of England Academy
2006 Osborne Samuel, London, Summer Show
  Oxfordshire, Art in Action
2005 Royal West of England Academy, New Gallery, Solo Show
  Art Basle at Palm Beach, Miami
  The South Bank Centre, The Artist and Radio 4, London
  Bath Fringe Festival, Installation Bath Abbey
  Hebdon Bridge Sculpture Trail, Yorkshire
2003                                Sherborne House Arts Centre, Dorset, Two Person Show
  Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, Open Exhibition
2001                                Lord Chichester Commission, Salisbury
2000 Chiostro della Collegiata, Casole d'Elsa, Siena, Group Show
1997 Scholarship and teaching assistant Centro d’Arte Verrocchio, Italy

Beaux Arts   Bath   12-13 York St   Bath   BA1 1NG     00441225464850