Helaine’s practice has been inspired by ongoing themes over the course of her fifty-year career. The exhibition explores the distance which she has travelled with one theme, intimacy, which has been fundamental to her artistic development and a driving force behind her aesthetic from her very first sculptures to present day.
Intimacy and Isolation traces the artistic and emotional evolution of Blumenfeld’s practice, revealing a sculptural vocabulary which lives up to and perhaps transcends the complexity of the theme. From initial ideas inspired by her personal life to those which reflect powerful subject matter representing the wider world, the exhibition presents a range of maquettes and sculptures, including never before seen and newly created works, in bronze, marble, terracotta and wood.
In her early years as an artist, Blumenfeld explored intimacy and isolation as the profound knowledge of oneself, translating this into individual, abstract sculptural forms. The theme was gradually extended to understanding those who were close to the artist. Intimacy and Isolation examines the dynamics of relationships, the changes that come from movement and their potential for tension, cooperation and growth.
Blumenfeld’s works examine intimacy and isolation through notions of introspection, closeness, dependence and independence, seen in earlier pieces inspired by the theme, such as Shadow Figures (2012). This dynamic has been further developed and expanded in more recent pieces such as Intimacy and Isolation (2018) in both bronze and marble as well as Exodus V (2019) in bronze which go beyond the exploration of personal relationships to considering the relationships within and between societies, how communities can change, grow, unite and come together. This theme is further addressed in Blumenfeld’s maquettes for large-scale works such as Taking Risks (2020). The monumental version of this sculpture is currently on view at Canary Wharf in an outdoor exhibition which includes 11 sculptures.
Throughout the past five decades, intimacy has expanded to become for Blumenfeld a larger concept, Intimacy and Isolation. Going beyond the level of personal relationships to exploring our place in the world, her sculptures have become rooted in an interest in what it means to be connected and to share perspectives. In her most recent works, such as Intimacy and Isolation II (2020) in bronze and Intimacy: On The Edge (2019) in marble, the artist comments on the lack of intimacy that exists globally despite the increasing interconnectivity which technology allows.
Helaine Blumenfeld said, “Although society through technology appears to be increasingly connected, intimacy is lacking on a global level. We need to have a profound knowledge of each other and an increased sense of community. Loneliness and anxiety are on the rise. We need to be able to empathise with one another in order to connect on a human scale. Engaging with art can help us to do this.”
Intimacy and Isolation creates a visual juxtaposition of earlier sculptures alongside contemporary work which demonstrates the extent to which Blumenfeld’s sculptural vocabulary has evolved, revealing her anxiety as well as hope for the times in which we live.