My friend Elisabeth Frink – up there with the greatest

By Sophie Ryder

Liz used to drop her son Lin at my house in Richmond on a Friday night to play loud music with my brother up in the attic. They were best friends and both went to Chelsea Art School.

I had a crush on Lin for years but was never allowed into their den as I was seven years younger than my brother. Lin was so good looking and a lot of Liz’s work was based on him. He was an incredibly talented comic strip illustrator as well as a musician.

When my brother died age 23, I was keen to keep in touch with his friends so I asked if I could go and see Lin in Dorset. It became a regular weekend trip and it was such a special time for me.

It was great to see Liz at work in her studio, an artist who was doing what she wanted to do and was so successful. Liz was very unassuming but at the same time had a special aura.

Apart from her obvious striking head of white curly hair, she was very well-spoken but was not a chatty person, she almost came across as shy. Liz chose her words carefully but I think it was just that she liked to observe people more than to talk, I also think that in later life it actually hurt her to speak because of her illness.

One Saturday morning when Liz went to the market to buy food, I stayed behind to clean the AGA which was caked in oil. Liz came back and was thrilled to see her ‘new’ cooker!

She unpacked a beautiful hand-painted, colourful ceramic bowl that she had bought from a local ceramicist – for £80! And then proceeded to pour the fruit from brown paper bags into it.

There was this beautiful handmade bowl, a work of art, which she immediately turned into something useful by filling it with fruit. I was so impressed and thought to myself that I would like to be able to afford to buy beautiful objects one day.

Like me, Liz worked around the clock but family time was precious. She was so close to her husband Alex and son from a previous marriage, Lin. Alex was also an inspiration for Liz, he was a big strong man. He once walked into the kitchen with his dressing gown, picked me up, threw me over his shoulder, took me outside and threw me in the swimming pool. I was never quite sure why!

Liz made very traditional country food, she was a good cook, lots of casseroles and dishes she could put in the AGA and go back to work.

Liz, Lin and I would go for country walks together with our dogs. One of her big dogs and my lurcher had a fight one day and Lin showed me how to separate big dogs from a fight without getting bitten.

Their dog got his ear bitten and I was so embarrassed and worried for years that the next sculpture of the dog would have a chunk missing out of its ear.

When I finished at the Royal Academy of Arts, age 20, (I was just 17 when I started) Liz told me not to bother going back into education for another three years.

She said: “What do you want to go back to school for? You know what you want to do, and you are already doing it. You don’t follow the trends and you don’t do what your tutors tell you to do anyway, so what’s the point?

“You can just find somewhere to work and start your life.”

Liz put me forward for a residency at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where I worked for three months, I had such a lovely time and was so grateful to her for putting me forward, as I had no idea she was doing so.

One of my biggest regrets was that Liz had planned to take me with her for Sunday lunch with Henry Moore and then he died two weeks before we were due to go.

At the time I was working at the sculpture park residency on a one and a half times life-size horse and so I called it SON OF YORK after Henry Moore who was born in York.

Liz was actually a visiting tutor at the RA schools for the sculpture students but I was on a painting course so she didn’t tutor me.

She must have used the printmaking facilities at the school because one day I found a huge Goggle Head screen print in the skip with a black cross through it and I rolled it up and kept it for years.

After Liz died I had a ceremonial burning of the print as I didn’t want to show it to anyone since it was a reject of hers.

Picture of Elisabeth Frink and Sophie Ryder
Photo © Sophie Ryder : Harry Scott

After Liz’s untimely death I went to stay with Lin and his family. I walked into the studio and it was eerie, the doors were open and blowing in the wind. Otherwise, the studio was exactly as Liz had left it.

I told Lin he should turn it into a museum to celebrate her life. He said people had asked him but he didn’t feel ready. I felt so sorry for him, they were so close, I really felt his sadness.

Recently a mutual client ours asked my advice on the patination of a Frink horse, I was so pleased to be able to give my opinion and to help restore her War Horse back to its former glory.

I remember once hearing a Radio 4 Woman’s Hour interview with Liz and she seemed a bit disappointed that she was overlooked in the new world of sculpture residencies in sculpture parks.

My conclusion for this was that she was an older, commercially successful figurative artist who made traditional bronzes, they probably couldn’t see a way she could work in a more disposable material and also probably thought that she may not be interested given that she was so recognised.

She was often asked to choose people for competitions, shows and residencies and also judge things.

It’s wonderful that she is being recognised now more than ever for the amazing artist she was. Her work is here to stay, she is up there with the greatest.

She was a wonderful strong woman, mother and artist. Such an inspiration.

Sophie Ryder is an artist: www.sophieryder.com

See the exhibition Elisabeth Frink: Fragility and Power at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal until 29 September 2018. More information at http://www.abbothall.org.uk/elisabethfrink

Image © Sophie Ryder : Harry Scott

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Two-minute-Monet: Facts about the founder of Impressionism

Oscar Claude Monet was born on 14 November 1890 in Paris, France. His mother was a singer, his father a grocer.

From an early age he had a love of drawing – and drew caricatures of his school teachers.

Monet went to Le Harve School of Arts in 1851 and sold caricatures to bring in extra money.

Monet married twice and had two children.

Following the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, Monet and his family fled to England. Inspired by the art of John Constable, Monet quickly began painting scenes of London including the Houses of Parliament and Hyde Park.

Monet first spotted the village of Giverny from the window of a train and then relocated to this rural haven outside Paris in 1883.

Claude Monet lived in the village of Giverny for 43 years. And it is here he painted his famous Haystacks series of works.

Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise (1872) led to the naming of a whole movement we now know as Impressionism.

When Monet first moved to Giverny, the village’s population was around 300. Today it’s still at tiny place with some 500 in habitants. However, the village is swelled by tourists who flock to see Monet’s house and gardens which were made open to visitors in 1980.

There are some 2,500 paintings, drawings and pastels attributed to Monet.

He struggled with depression and poverty during his lifetime. He once attempted suicide.

In 1918 Monet donated 12 of his Water Lilies series of paintings to France to celebrate the Armistice.

Monet remains one of the most famous painters in history and his works can be seen in the most prestigious art galleries around the globe.

Monet died from lung cancer at the age of 86 on 5 December 1926. He is buried in the Giverny cemetery.

Monet’s Haystacks: Snow Effect (1891) is now on show at Abbot Hall, Kendal until 28 April 2018. It is on loan from National Galleries of Scotland.

New Expressions: Kendal Skies

We’ve had a bonus week of sky exploring, making cloudy labels, finding accidental clouds and drawing golden eagles in flight. Geoff drew his eagle in great confidence with oil pastel and then layered it over his painted cliffside. Kenneth used chalk pastels to create an atmposheric sky.

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During preparations for the workshop, a little bunch of pristine white labels had been dropped into a tray of ink! A happy accident! This was the inspiration for utilisng the paper that we had used to protect the floor from paint when we were painting the parasol. This was covered in drips and puddles of lovely paint and created a feeling of clouds! And so the group cut out ‘accidental’ clouds, printed weather inspired words on inky labels and continued to use paint to capture the swirling feeling of cloudy skies.

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Pat created the word ‘smog’ remembering her early life in London and Joyce selected areas of dripped paint to create an accidental cloud. Annette scumbled and blended sky and cloud with paint. John drew an image of the sky with language written into the swirling shapes.

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John loves the cloud book, and this led us outside to look at the skies. And back inside, the words to Somewhere Over the Rainbow filled the rooms and Annette and Pat painted rainbows.

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Remembering Venice

This year’s Venice Biennale has been packed away, the pavilions have been emptied of their wonderfully creative works of art, the panini stands dismantled and the mammoth ticket queues have subsided and so I’d like to reflect on what was a brilliant biennale. Venice Biennale is a magical event split over two main venues, the Arsenale and the Giardini, with other satellite venues which often drag you in off the street full of intrigue. During my four days there I was introduced to an array of artists and enthralled by their artwork so there is so much I could say but here are just a few of my favourites…

Coming from Lakeland Arts and being privileged enough to live in such a beautiful part of the world, I often look out for artists who tackle what is one of the most familiar subject matters, landscape. To give the theme of landscape a fresh twist can be difficult but the fantastical drawings with an astounding level of detail by Chinese artist Lin Xue captivated me.

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Lin Xue, Untitled (detail) 2013

One of the most poignant installations was in the Republic of Serbia’s exhibition, Nothing Between Us, which featured the work of artists Vladimir Perić and Milos Tomic, and was a 3D wallpaper called Mickey Mouse Pattern, 2013. From a distance its ordered layout makes it seem as though you are looking at 2D wallpaper however on closer inspection it becomes evident the items are individual, owned by individuals but telling a collective story. The artist collected these toys over 20 years from flea markets and their collection and presentation is almost monument-like to the people who owned these toys in the 1960s who most likely died in civil war, fled to another country or died in poverty. What was at first childlike and innocent, through a consideration of history, becomes moving and melancholy.

Vladimir Perić, Mickey Mouse Pattern, 2013
Vladimir Perić, Mickey Mouse Pattern, 2013

Finally, one of the most memorable experiences of the Biennale was boarding the bright orange boat, which was the Portuguese pavilion, and discovering the breath-taking working of Joana Vasconcelos. Bearing in mind this was after 6 or 7 hours of looking around the Giardini, with a little bit of art-fatigue, Vasoncelos’ fantastic crocheted and knitted creations both unnerved and excited. Exploring her installation was a perfect finish to the day.

Joana Vasconcelos, Trafaria Praia, 2013
Joana Vasconcelos, Trafaria Praia, 2013

The funding for this visit was provided through the Jonathan Ruffer curatorial grants administered by the Art Fund. I would like to thank all those at the Art Fund for supporting my application and for colleagues at the British Council for their help and advice.