You’ve probably come across Jaume Plensa’s work at some point, whether it was the monumental Dream in St Helens or Wonderland in Canada. Plensa’s sculptural work is grand and memorable yet his oeuvre as a whole, can be described as simply focusing on connection and hope. While predominantly a sculptor, In small places, close to home at Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a survey of the artist’s incredible drawing practice via two individual installations. The drawings are both beautiful and symbolically loaded, highlighting Plensa’s preoccupation with the human condition and dreams of a more progressive and united global future.
The display is divided between the Weston Gallery and the Chapel. The drawings displayed in the Gallery include portraits from the Face (2008) series, featuring people from across the world taken from geography and anthropology books. Most importantly, the portraits are accompanied by excerpts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights blended into the drawings, and described by the artist as “the most beautiful poem in the world”.
These works are joined by a set of drawings being displayed for the public for the first time: 28 drawings comprise April is the Cruellest Month (2020-21), the artist’s personal emotional response to the turmoil of the pandemic, revealing the darkest states of panic and anxiety. These, in turn, are shown alongside Continents I & II (2000), 3.7-metre-long glass etchings of bodies and suspended wire heads entitled Invisibles (2016) which add a layer of sculptural volume to the two-dimensional drawings.
In the second installation, YSP’s 18th century Chapel is home to Anònims (2003), a series of 16 large-scale, mixed-media drawings of almost human sized bodies. Interestingly, their faces are clear and eyes are open, unlike many of Plensa’s signature, unidentifiable ‘dream state’ sculptures of peaceful, dreaming heads with their eyes closed. Indeed, the Chapel is also a temporary home to two marble sculptures of girls’ heads covered with letters from different world alphabets, and not unlike the artist’s other sculptural portraits, they stand for a shared humanity, cultural diversity and quiet optimism for the future of the global community.
You can find these and other works by Jaume Plensa in Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s summer exhibition which is literally and metaphorically a breath of fresh air. Not only is it located in one of the most important open-air art centres, the show also brings with it a desire for connection and the hope for a brighter future for all.