Six Forms on a Circle is included as BH 454 in the Hepworth catalogue raisonné of sculptures being revised by Dr. Sophie Bowness.
Hepworth’s command of material and acute understanding of spatial complexity is exemplified in Six Forms on a Circle. Conceived in the 1960s, at the peak of her productivity, the work belongs to a series of abstract sculptures composed of pierced rectangular forms on a shared base. Through her exploration of abstraction, Hepworth developed her own unique visual language that brought her critical acclaim beginning as early as the 1930s. The success of this period provided Hepworth with access to the European avant-garde and with that a self-discovery of the purity of the neo-plasticism. Hepworth admired the work of Piet Mondrian and this manifested itself with the introduction of architectural and geometric forms into her oeuvre, evident in Monumental Stela from 1936. Indicative of the conceptual shift that would propel the artist’s work in the 1960s, Hepworth recalled, “I kept thinking about [Monumental Stele, 1936]. I don’t often express preferences about my own work, but I must admit it’s a particular favourite of mine, perhaps because of the earlier connection" (quoted in A. Bowness, ed., op. cit., p. 12).
The 1960s were the most prolific and arguably successful years of Hepworth’s career, and witnessed a harnessing of her ambition and an outpouring of creativity. Though originally an artist who had achieved fame through a direct carving technique, Hepworth now adopted the medium of bronze. Notably, alongside an enquiry into this new medium, the 1960s also saw the materialization of Hepworth’s long-standing desire to create works on a monumental scale. Although Hepworth insisted that she never worked from maquettes, small-scale works often anticipated these immense sculptures. Moreover, when Hepworth was burdened with the constraints of her own health, she employed these smaller works as a method of expelling her creative ambition within her means. The present work is an example of a sculpture that, on a medium scale, incites the participation of the viewer by means of its revolving base, and exudes tactility with its jewel-like, polished surface.
Six Forms on a Circle exemplifies Hepworth’s plastic exploration of how the language of advanced abstraction could portray complex themes of human relationships and nature. On first observation, the forms appear seemingly geometric and rectangular, yet, with a closer consideration, minor modifications call into question the simplicity of the forms.