Illustrated companion

'Bicentric Form' is one of a number of sculptures by Hepworth of upright forms in which the human figure appears to be related to ancient standing stones. This is made explicit in, for example, the later 'Two Figures (Menhirs)' of 1964 in the Tate Gallery collection [T00703]. Menhirs is a term for the standing stones found at Stonehenge and Avebury, and on many other sites all over western Europe. 'Bicentric Form' also belongs in the context of Hepworth's particular preoccupation in the late 1940s and early 1950s with making sculptures of groups of upright forms explicitly relating to the human figure and human relationships. In 1952 she wrote that this preoccupation dated back to her 'Three Forms' of 1935 [Tate Gallery T00696], which she said 'initiated the exploration with which I have been preoccupied continuously since then and in which I hope to discover some absolute essence in sculptural terms giving the quality of human relationships.' Alan Bowness has written of this phase of Hepworth's work '... despite the abstract nature of the forms, their human quality could not be more evident ... a social concern for people in communities is characteristic of Barbara Hepworth's work in the late 1940s ...' The artist herself has described how her preoccupation '... led me to a renewed study of anatomy and structure as well as the structure of integrated groups of two or more figures. I began to consider a group of separate figures as a single sculptural entity, and I started working on the idea of two or more figures as a unity, blended into one carved and rhythmic form.' Many subsequent carvings were on this theme, for instance 'Bicentric Form' in the Tate Gallery. 'Bicentric Form' is in fact one of the most monumental, imposing and profoundly human of all Barbara Hepworth's sculptures since 1935 and although interpretation of its very abstract forms must be a matter of speculation, it strongly suggests a harking back to the archetypal theme of the mother and child which appeared in Hepworth's work in the early 1930s: the bulge pierced with a hole in the upper part might represent the presence of the child. However, the top, or 'head' of the sculpture with its 'eye' is also foetal in character, evoking an even more fundamental image of the theme of procreation. and the concept of two figures in one also suggests, of course, the original procreative embrace.

Published in:
Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.154