Cornish BuB 1979 is a found granite foundation stone. Into its surface Flanagan chiseled a schematic line drawing of a female form that he then filled in with a light grey oil paint. The tip of the sculpture bears the chiseled date of the work. Cornish BuB was included, alongside Bollard 1979 (Waddington Custot Galleries, London), in Flanagan’s exhibition of stone sculptures at Waddington Galleries, London in 1980. Whereas Cornish BuB had been chiseled and painted with a schematic image of a woman, Bollard, a similarly shaped and found stone, presents a more abstract spiraling line, though similarly chiseled and painted. The union of drawn line with carving is a significant example of Flanagan’s wish to join two-dimensional and three-dimensional means of expression. Other works from the same exhibition which used a similar technique were Tantric Figures 1973 (Estate of the artist), Figures 1976 (Stedejik Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven) and Hello Cello 1976 (National Galleries of Scotland). By illuminating the crossover between work in two and three dimensions, Cornish BuB also serves to emphasise the central place that drawing occupies within Flanagan’s sculptural practice.
The artist remembered seeing a number of granite bubs – which are used as building supports in the West Country – near a petrol station in Cornwall. Works such as Cornish BuB represent Flanagan’s twin interests in traditional artisanal methods and manifestations of an anthropomorphised Celtic mythology. The presence or incorporation of the plinth or support with the sculpture was a concern of Flanagan’s throughout the 1970s; for example, untitled (3) ’73 1973 (Collection Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede / Depot VBVR) is constructed from a number of different stones and materials that are piled up precariously. The chiseled female figure in Cornish BuB resembles a kind of earth goddess, which in turn alludes to the original function of the stone as a foundational support for a building. The spare marks that Flanagan made on the stone’s surface animate it and transform it into an equivalent for a talismanic or even ritual object. Curator Catherine Lampert noted that this work is a good example of the way in which Flanagan enlivened everyday materials, so that ‘objects came to be taken from the storekeeper’s world into the sculptor’s stock. An act of possession and rehabilitation stood at the root of it all’ (Catherine Lampert, ‘Stone Sculptures’ in Barry Flanagan, Sculptures in Stone 1973–1979, exhibition catalogue, Waddington Galleries, London 1980, p.37).Further reading
Barry Flanagan Sculpture, exhibition catalogue, British Council 1982–3.
Barry Flanagan, exhibition catalogue, Fundación “la Caixa”, Madrid 1993.
Barry Flanagan, Sculpture 1965–2005, exhibition catalogue, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin 2006.