Nigel Hall

Southern Shade

3.11.2012 - 21.12.2012


Southern Shade – the title of the exhibition at Galerie Andres Thalmann – refers to one of the recent sources of inspiration for renowned British artist Nigel Hall RA. Attracted by the light and natural beauty of southern France, the sculptor now spends several weeks there each year. In particular, he has focused his interest on Parasol Pines and the intricate latticework of branches that uphold their vast canopies.


Although never intended as exact representations of nature, Hall's sculptures and drawings have often been inspired by landscapes. His sketchbook always at the ready, the artist's quick and naturalistic drawings capture the mood of a panoramic view – a village, a valley in the Engadine Alps, the play of light and shadow in a pine tree's dense needles. Eventually, his subjective perceptions of reality (see illustration, p. 2) will find their way into the pared-down geometrical figurations that constitute much of his work.


Hall's vocabulary of forms and its abstract geometrical shapes convey a distilled experience of landscape. The large bronze called Southern Shade V displays Hall's mastery at rendering palpable the spatial energy of the circular form. In the visually light and dynamic piece that weighs almost 400 kilogrammes, a compact, drum-like body precariously balanced on its side is punctured by several elliptical rings, some in alignment, some intersecting each other. Objects that are similar in shape but more delicate, made of aluminium or unique sculptures of plain wood, achieve a more ethereal visual impact. Their still lighter-seeming, filigree oval rings could be read as outlines of shadows in various stages of progress. In recent times, some of Hall's metal sculptures also come with a brightly-hued enamel coat.


"As with landscape, sculpture has a stillness until the observer moves“, Hall noted in an interview with the Royal Academy of Arts, London. The statement sums up the essence of his shadow-inspired wall objects, and applies even more to the sculptures that can be viewed from every angle. As the spectator moves and changes perspective, shifts occur in the relations of light and shadow, movement and stillness, constriction and expansion. Hall's sculptures inscribe elementary forms into their locus of presentation that inspire a dialogue with the architecture around them. In the many parks and gardens that feature Hall's massive yet precise and elegant Corten steel or bronze sculptures, the spectator can enjoy a particularly powerful visual experience.


Since his days as a student at the Royal College of Art in London, Hall's drawings have held an autonomous place in his work, constituting neither sketches nor drafts for his sculptures. At certain intervals, the artist focuses on three-dimensional works or drawings, respectively. Nonetheless, his charcoal, gouache and acrylic works on paper do evoke a visual vocabulary whose spirit is closely related to his sculptural work. Twisted and curved lines with clear, precise contours seem to rest on dark areas of smudged charcoal that underscore the loops' rise and fall. The drawings permit Hall to explore issues of weight and contrast between dynamic leaf-like motifs without the need to consider the physical law of gravity that applies to any sculpture. In contrast with his earlier works on paper, Hall has begun to move away from a world ruled by black and white into a realm where yellows and reds are coming to the fore.


Nigel Hall is one of Europe's pre-eminent sculptors and his works feature in the world's most renowned museums and private collections, such as the Tate Gallery in London; the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris; the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin; the National Museum of Art in Osaka; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Hall was a tutor at the Royal College of Art, and Principal Lecturer in sculpture at the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. In 2003 Nigel Hall was made a Member of the Royal Academy of Art; he lives and works in London.


Marie-Louise Teichmann