By the mid-1930s Barbara Hepworth had turned away from carving animals and figures in natural materials towards an exploration of purely abstract sculptural forms. Arguably Single Form (Eikon) straddles this divide in her practice through its connection to the human body. The person-sized form invites the viewer to question their bodily relationship to sculpture, something that Hepworth was keenly interested in. She was concerned with the dialogue between a form and its surrounding space as well as its integral size, texture and weight; the sculpture is abstract but retains an organic character, combining tactile biomorphism with rigid geometry.
The work’s geometric abstraction highlights Hepworth’s association with the constructive art championed by Naum Gabo in 1936, which focused on the universal nature of pure forms. She also had connections to the surrealist movement, particularly through her friendship with art critic Herbert Read, who helped organiseLondon’s 1936 International Surrealist exhibition. With its phallic quality and contrasting pure aesthetic, Single Form (Eikon) can be related to both of these important movements.
The phased development of the work as it moved through plaster and wood to metal also raises questions of medium specificity and the importance of materials – concerns that forge connections between the works of the wider constellation, revealing a pathway through geometric abstraction to surrealist anthropomorphism.