Ursula von Rydingsvard at the Giardino della Marinaressa, Venice

Bronze Bowl with Lace
Bronze Bowl with Lace

One of the nicest surprises of our trip to Venice came as we were walking from St Mark’s to the Bienalle, along the waterfront. We came across a small garden filled with large organic objects. These turned out to be by Ursula von Rydingsvard, who lives and works in New York. Von Rydingsvard was the subject of a major retrospective at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2014, which unfortunately I didn’t see, and this much smaller exhibition was curated by the YSP. Taken together with YSP’s involvement in Jaume Plensa’s show in Venice (see here) this show cements YSP’s reputation as key supporters of the very best large scale public sculpture and significant contributors to the collateral events of the Bienalle.

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The von Rydingsvard exhibition consists of only six pieces but they are all very striking, and constructed in cedar, bronze or, one case, an icy polyurethane resin. Each piece is abstract in form but feels extremely organic, reflecting folds in cloth or curves in a body. What is particularly attractive is that each piece works both at a distance and close-up. Up close the contraction of the pieces from thousands of individually crafted elements becomes clear and the surface demands to be explored with the fingers as well as the eyes. The supporting material to the exhibition draws attention to the fractured nature of some of the surfaces, suggesting an agitation in the form. I felt no agitation; it was like being in the presence of an elderly form which was fracturing with age but was at peace with itself. At a distance they exude a calm presence like an ancient tree which you feels has and will be ever-present. They exude a sense of reassuring constancy which quite belies their recent construction. And the have a sense of continuity with a broader artistic tradition which is sadly missing from much of the official Bienalle.