Spring is definitely in the air! With the weather becoming warmer, the crocuses and daffodils are out and the hedgerows are green again. The blossom adds a splash of gentle colour to the countryside, the birds are in good voice and the garden is busy with squirrels. When I walk out across the fields in the early morning, the first lambs of the year greet me and rabbits scatter back to their burrows as I pass. I love the feeling that Nature is waking up after the long Winter.
At this time of the year, my work often returns to a favourite subject – the hare. They are such a well-loved animal and have been part of our folklore since the Romans probably introduced them to Britain. We hunted them, ate them, dressed in their fur, and imbued them with potent symbolism. They recur as a motif throughout two thousand years of our cultural history – in literature and art, in music and religion, in proverbs and fairy tales, and more recently in animation and advertising. Revered and reviled at various times, they have long been part of the life of this island.
The fastest land mammal in the UK, the hare can reach speeds of 45 miles an hour. With their huge ears and strong back legs, they are perfectly evolved for vigilance and flight, and with numbers sadly dwindling, they are now a rare sight in our fields. They are fast, they are elusive, and in the breeding season they are – in popular mythology, at least – quite mad. Their reputation for madness stems from a Spring mating ritual – one that sees them leap in the air and box with each other. This strange behaviour gave rise to the centuries-old expression “Mad as a March Hare”.
Once or twice I have been lucky enough to see them boxing in the afternoon sunshine. More often I have glimpsed them on my walks, fleeing at dusk, disturbed from their forms in the long grass or from feeding their leverets at sunset.
And so I return to them with a sculptor’s eye, again and again. As a subject, hares can clearly portray so many different emotions. They are a great scale to work with, large enough to allow gestural dynamic mark making. I have sculpted hares many times since the beginning of my career in 1996, as a benchmark to see how my style is changing. My approach has changed over twenty years – initially my focus was on the presentation of anatomical correctness in great detail. Now I prefer to capture the essence of the animal with fluid bolder strokes which hint at the complex anatomy beneath but also bring a dynamic spontaneity to my bronze hare sculptures.
Hare Head 2016 is a life size study, aiming to get inside the the head of the alert subject. I was also exploring the compositional transition from angular base to organic form – I wanted the hare’s head to evolve into being from the solidity of the square base through to the natural shapes of its shoulders to the tips of its upright ears.
Hare Turning 2016 is a proud and inquisitive animal. I wanted to convey a sense of both his distinctive physical attributes and his behaviour, how they work together – poised as he is for flight, ever watchful.
Hares Boxing 2017 was originally commissioned by a garden designer as a focal point at the end of a path in a private garden. My bronze hares make perfect garden sculptures. This sculpture is taking dynamic hares to the structural limits of bronze casting. They are being cast now at the foundry and will be available for sale in a couple of months, in time to take their place on our stand at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May.
Looking forward to seeing you all then!