William Turnbull died last year. And if his name is not as familiar as those of his friends Giacometti and Paolozzi, it should be: an exhibition at Chatsworth in Derbyshire may help put this right. Turnbull was born in Dundee in 1922; he left school at 15, and went to work as an illustrator for the comic-book publishers D.C. Thomson, before enlisting in the RAF in 1941. It was his experience when serving in the Far East that gave him a lifelong interest not only in Asian artefacts but also in space and spatial perspective: a pilot’s view of the landscape beneath.
Turnbull was both a painter and a sculptor, but it is for his sculptures that he is best known. Indoors at Chatsworth there is a selection of ‘head’ paintings dating from the 1950s, and a few sculptures, but it is outside that his work really comes into its own.
There are about 40 pieces sited — definitely not scattered — round the grounds: each has been carefully positioned by Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Clare Lilley with the artist’s son Alex. For instance, an almost circular area with topiary yews, surrounded by beech hedges, has four bronze works, including ‘Large Idol’ and ‘Ancestral Figure’, placed near to the pond in the middle. If you continue on this intriguing sculpture ramble you come across female figures and ‘heads’ (see one from 1957, above), many based on the sort of objects Turnbull had seen on his Asian travels and in the British Museum. The exhibition runs until 30 June.
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