sat 22/06/2024

Any actual sporting art on show? | reviews, news & interviews

Any actual sporting art on show?

Any actual sporting art on show?

Bronze sculpures win gold for portraying sportsmen at work

Sophie Dickens' 'Straight Jab': an English gentlemanly pursuit

There’s a lot of art currently happening under the wing of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The common denominator, if there is one, is showstopping ambition and the concept of the inclusive spectacle. What there isn’t much of, whisper it softly, is art inspired by sport.

Agreed, they tend not to mix (especially when it comes to football). A stage version of Chariots of Fire plus a couple of films about running (Personal Best, Fast Girls) have track and field covered. Visual art in particular lags behind the mobile art forms. There’s a new show about horses at the British Museum, and the National Maritime Museum’s exhibition about the royal river is tangentially associated with rowing. But probably the most overtly sporting imagery on show in the Olympic city at the moment can be found at the Sladmore Contemporary, the gallery devoted to bronze sculpture.The scultptures in question, which are on show until 9 June, are by Sophie Dickens, and feature various figures in various sporting attitudes. A pair of curlicued Graeco-Roman wrestlers sling each other through midair in a kind of aggressive ballet. Two fencers, each marooned on their own plinth, lunge and parry. A boxer hurls a powerful glove at a cowering opponent whose balled fists shield his face (main image).

It’s difficult to escape the traditional idea enshrined in this images that sports is war by other means. But then there is an elegant series of Giacometti-esque statues which captures a male figure throwing himself into a sinewy cartwheel (pictured above), suggesting that sport is as much about pushing the body past its own limitations as inflicting physical defeat on another.

Dickens says she is inspired equally by the sculpture of Michelangelo and the "kinematic" skills of the photographer Eadward Muybridge. The sculptures currently on display are in "deference to the original Olympians," she says, but also to the idea of "English gentlemanly pursuits". There are no new-fangled pole vaults or beach volleyballers here, no synchronised swimmers or triple jumpers.

And she certainly does her research. Dickens also has a large bronze figure currently on show at the Ashmolean (pictured right). It illustrates (apparently) a Morote Seionage throw whose accuracy has been approved by the European Judo Association.

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The sculptures currently on displays are in 'deference to the original Olympians'

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