FLYING FIGURES SCULPTURE BY ELISABETH FRINK AT FORMER ULSTER BANK AT SHAFTSBURY SQUARE
Unfortunately, maybe because the area is showing signs of urban decay and depression, the sculpture appears to be totally ignored by locals and visitors alike which is a great pity. It just fades into the background.
When I was photographing this sculpture I suddenly thought that the two naked men were the hands of a large clock indicating that the time was twenty five minutes past three. I later discovered that as they were on the wall of the Ulster Bank Building they were immediately christened “Draft and Overdraft” by local residents.
I have photographed other work by this artist and I must admit that I especially like her “Tribute Head” in Merrion Square in Dublin.
Elisabeth Jean Frink (14 November 1930 – 18 April 1993) was an English sculptor and printmaker. Her Times obituary noted the three essential themes in her work as “the nature of Man; the ‘horseness’ of horses; and the divine in human form”.
Frink was a member of Amnesty International’s Art for Amnesty project and identified strongly with human rights issues. Art for Amnesty is a global project working with art organisations and artists who believe in human rights.
Using their exceptional skills and talents to spread the human rights message across countries and continents and inspire people to act. These concerns are reflected in her Tribute Heads of 1975, a series of four heads each of which was cast six times.
With this series Frink turned her attention from the aggressors to the victim. She stated that these heads were: ‘a tribute to all people who have died or suffered for their beliefs. These men are heroes in the sense that they are survivors, but they are also victims stripped of everything but their human courage.’ As universal images of man’s suffering and vulnerability, the facial type is radically different, referencing a more refined masculine ideal, the eyes are closed in suffering, the mouths pursed in endurance, the faces revealing the scars of relentless torture.
Elisabeth Frink is internationally recognised as a major 20th century British artist. Her sculptures, drawings and prints were, and continue to be, widely exhibited and purchased for public and private collections throughout the world.
As a highly successful establishment figure major public commissions flowed in throughout her career. Frink avoided the 1960s wave of abstraction resolutely holding to her figurative ideals as the tide of modern art turned against them.
The themes that preoccupied her included the brutality of war, human fear and anxiety, and the male body. It is her portrayal of the male figure and her understanding of the male condition – his capacity for heroism, for corruption and brutality, for suffering and redemption – that sets her apart and makes her an extremely profound sculptor of the human-condition.
Her earliest large-scale head, Warrior’s Head of 1954 is an image of nobility. A decade later in Soldiers Heads i-iv of 1965, the men had taken on a threatening appearance with vicious eyes, heavy jaws and smashed noses executed in a distinctly expressionistic style. Then there was a more sinister evil with Goggle Heads of 1967. These smoothly sculpted pieces illustrate the artist’s response to the Algerian war; they are images of tyranny with protruding jaws, flared nostrils and eyes hidden by menacing goggles.