Bernard Mcguigan Sculpture Show at The Lawn 1st–2nd September and in his studio at The Beacon during Coastal Currents.

Preview by Simone Witney

In the middle of a delightful conversation with Bernard Mcguigan, I realise I’m really witnessing a story about a non-verbal conversation between Bernard and his stones. I may recognise the signs, I may connect emotionally with some of the imagery, but it’s still a conversation whose resonances are borne out of a long intimacy and dynamic which only the participants truly understand. Hence the mix of mystery and clarity in his work. He has a refined language of solidity and delicacy which makes his sculptures highly expressive, communicative even, but with a quality of something being, well, just out of reach.

Sculpture by Bernard Mcguigan

A Catholic boy, always sceptical, his memories of church have now distilled into the pleasure of stone steps worn curvaceous, of the stone bowl made sensual by thousands of devout dipping fingers, an effect he has recreated in a recent piece. Yet it wasn’t until he was fifteen and saw a head by Modigliani in the Tate that the epiphanous moment arrived. He rushed home, into his father’s shed and carved his first head. Entirely self-taught, he has won Best Sculptor at the British Interior Design Association and (Best Sculptor) Art London Gold Award at the British Design Association.

Bernard loves stone. He collects it, seeks it out, engages with it until the resistant millennial crush of trees, insects and sea creatures communicates its secret form. The release of new life is a two-way process and it’s telling that when speaking of the physicality of chipping stone with a chisel and mallet Bernard says, “I want to imbue it with my warmth”: the story of Pygmalion in a sound bite.

Some of his sculptures are responses to questions like, ‘What would the most beautiful shape look like?’ or, ‘If there is something beyond mortality, what shape might it have?’ Others are informed by an emotional climate or experience. He’s a recent arrival from London and his visual memories of the city’s architecture, its geometric shapes and urban textures, seem to coalesce and drift onto a white, irregular block. Hovering untethered above its stand, it belies its weight and is on the point of floating away. Polished spheres turn to reveal a rough textured side with a deep hollow like a belly blow, the sides scored with searing marks. They recall the tension of outer control and inner raw turmoil of experience, but they are wrought with an empathy that turns the harshness of the conflict into something beautiful.

One or two of the works in the show have been made from stone from Hastings’ library, discarded during the restoration and given to Bernard who is to donate a piece of finished work in thanks – and to mark the significance of restoring the library when so many are lost. He has worked in a more fluid way with these stones, retaining much of their architectural character so that the sense of forms emerging from within is even greater. This is a superb show of diverse pieces reflecting a subtle and very personal aesthetic.

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