Elisabeth Frink’s Bound Figure represents an intriguing chance to understand Frink’s work in a different medium, prone as she was to creating sculpture, and its size creates a rare opportunity to experience her art in almost any setting. As an early work, it is possible here to see the threads of influence that translated into her more famous sculptures; there is something of Giacometti in the long, spindly fingers and prominent collarbones, while the solidity of the figure and broadness of its shoulders recall Rodin. The texture so characteristic of Frink’s later work is here, too. She created many of her sculptures by layering broken and distressed plaster over a wire armature, but on a two-dimensional surface managed to achieve a similar effect with threadlike pen strokes and a masterful use of shading.
What is most striking, however, is the eyes. Frink obscured the eyes of her famous Goggle Head sculptures with polished bronze aviator goggles to hide the person behind and create a sinister lack of identity and accountability. Her Walking Man sculptures had no eyes at all. The eyes in Bound Figure are doleful and heavy lidded; they stare not at the viewer but somewhere out of frame. Is this figure pleading silently for help? The set of the head and long, reaching neck suggests it as a possibility, but the backward tilt to the head might equally be a sign of resignation. The lack of context in this image leaves us to wonder at what brought this man to his situation, at what might have happened next, and yet the power of the work is that it is overwhelming in its immediate poignancy.
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by Clara Foster