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Leaf Venus 2

Leaf Venus 2
signed with monogram, numbered, dated and stamped with foundry mark '86/4/4' (at the base)
bronze with a grey brown patina, on a York stone base
52 in. (132 cm.) high, including York stone base
Conceived in 1986 and cast by Morris Singer Foundry.
with Ann Kendall Richards, New York, where purchased by the previous owner in November 1999.
Their sale; Christie's, London, 25 November 2015, lot 27, where purchased by the present owner.
Exhibition catalogue, William Turnbull: Sculptures 1946-62, 1985-87, London, Waddington Galleries, 1987, p. 53, no. 20, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, William Turnbull Neue Skulpturen, Berlin, Galerie Michael Haas, 1992, no. 5, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, William Turnbull: Sculpture and Paintings, London, Serpentine Gallery, 1995, p. 65, pl. 45, another cast illustrated.
A.A. Davidson, The Sculpture of William Turnbull, Much Hadham, 2005, pp. 51-52, 68, 168, no. 240, another cast illustrated.
London, Waddington Galleries, William Turnbull: Sculptures 1946-62, 1985-87, October - November 1987, no. 20, another cast exhibited.
Berlin, Galerie Michael Haas, William Turnbull Neue Skulpturen, October - November 1992, no. 5, another cast exhibited.
London, Serpentine Gallery, William Turnbull: Sculpture and Paintings, November 1995 - January 1996, no. 45, another cast exhibited.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
This lot has been imported from outside the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Customs Duty (as applicable) will be added to the hammer price and Import VAT at 20% will be charged on the Duty inclusive hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer''s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice. Please see Conditions of Sale.

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Angus Granlund Director, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

'I wonder whether these forms are not also an unconscious memory of the aircraft wings which he lived with for four years while a wartime pilot in the RAF. The plaques serenely carve their way through the air so that existence in space approaches a condition of pure movement or stance liberated from mass’
-David Sylvester

Conceived in 1986, Leaf Venus 2, is a radiant example of Turnbull’s new idol series. Arrestingly still and slender in profile, we are presented with a form that is simultaneously archaic, contemporary and organic. With its leaf-like silhouette, the sculpture has a powerful presence, radiating an almost sacred energy into the space within which it resides: frontally, it appears monumental and robust, and yet when seen from the side, its width is nothing more than a few inches. This formal paradox lies at the heart of this seminal series. The surface is adorned with intricate markings that are ambiguous yet concise, as if relics from an ancient and lost language, subtly hinting at simplified bodily features. Observed at the summit, the centre, the sides, and the bottom of the form, these incised lines are evocative of a nose, hair, breasts, hands and feet. Indeed, it is the synthesis between the human figure and other subjects that define the sculptures that make up this celebrated body of work.

In Leaf Venus 2, as the title and form suggest, we see a leaf morphing into an archaic idol, loosely based on human proportions. Although comparisons have been made between the shape of this work, and the wings of the planes Turnbull piloted in the Second World War, as well as his son’s surfboards, the inspiration can be traced back to a visit he took to Singapore in 1962, the home country of his wife Kim Lim. Amanda Davidson explains that while on this trip, ‘Turnbull became interested in the luxuriant plant life of the region. He produced studies in sketchbooks of natural forms, plants and leaves in watercolour or pencil. These images were first explored in a series of prints on the themes of leaves, and later, in sculptures, such as Leaf Venus 2’ (A.A. Davidson, The Sculpture of William Turnbull, Much Hadham, 2005, p. 68). The study of leaves allowed Turnbull to explore a key element of his work, the idea of metamorphosis, and the tension between image and object. This relationship between flat images and three-dimensional forms is powerfully expressed in the present work.

As well as the forms of art that Turnbull studied at the British Museum in his early career, Leaf Venus 2 and the related series have also been likened to a wide variety of influences, both ancient and contemporary, demonstrating that Turnbull’s sources of inspiration are uniquely eclectic. Together with its reference to leaves, Leaf Venus 2 demonstrates the significant influence that Turnbull found in archaic art forms such as the early marble figurines of circa 2800 BC from the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. Although Turnbull has created a work on a much larger scale, the simplicity of image created by this ancient culture was of great inspiration to Turnbull and this particular body of work. Further references are made to art forms such as the ceremonial spoons and vessels from the Dan people of West Africa and their celebration of image making through the medium of sculpture, in particular the depiction of the fertile female form. This perhaps contributes to a dialogue between his own work and that of friend Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), who he became close to during his time in Paris in the 1940s. Giacometti’s Spoon Woman, 1926-27, is undoubtedly derived from the same source. Roger Bevan likened the pointed teardrop shape to a ‘churinga’, a totem used by indigenous tribes in Australia. Marked with complex codes and symbols, these sacred objects are used within celebrations to communicate and present the history of their community, as well as passing on mystical knowledge.

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