Terence Coventry’s sculptures brilliantly capture the charged moment of stillness preceding movement in the natural world, says MICHAL BONCZA
Terence Coventry: Against the Tide
Pangolin London, N1
T ERENCE COVENTRY’S circuitous trajectory from Royal College of Art graduate in 1959 to highly successful farmer for more than two decades in the west of Cornwall and a return to sculpture in the mid-80s, is less puzzling than it might first appear.
His farm faced the sea and the gradual aggregation of rich aesthetic stimuli from an interaction with nature created a spiritual urge for its articulation.
Twenty-five years of life spent outdoors in all seasons imbued Coventry with a profound understanding of light and its forever-changing impact on shapes and movement.
In his work physical mass and the planes that define it are employed to capture that luminosity with expressionist vitality.
Coventry, who sadly died last month, was the master of vivid contrasts between lit and shaded, almost flat, surfaces.
They give radical and dramatic definition to shapes, often further enhanced by surfaces textured with patterns of lacerations. Many of the pieces are charged with inner energy, capturing the moment of charged stillness that precedes dynamic, abrupt motion.
He moved between abstraction in his work Torsos and representation in the Vital Man series with sublime ease.
These are sculptures which have an extraordinary formal cohesion and rigour — the enchanting Owl is a glorious proof of such synthesis, as is the mesmerising wind mobile Swallow, not on show at this Pangolin exhibition.
Swifts and Woman and Man Releasing Large Bird are two superb solutions — one abstract, one figurative — to the same problem of animating space with the quintessence of anticipated flight. Intriguingly, his sketch for Man Releasing Bird is far more expansive and bold than the sculpted version on show.
Joyrider — with animal and human limbs magnificently aligned in parallel lines — and the precarious Acrobat brim with the joy of achieving that singular moment of triumphant perfection in performance which draws rapturous applause.
Coventry continuously affirms our humanity and emphatic symbiosis with nature — the Small Swimmer is an elegant and masterly distillation of the body outstretched as it thrusts through invisible waters, while Sunshine Woman and Vital Man radiate joie de vivre.
And the forensically observed birds, mostly rooks, ravens and jackdaws, in Tables and Birds delight with their humour. A captivating — and free entry — exhibition, it’s not to be missed.