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William Turnbull Retrospective 1946–2003

Underground Gallery and Open Air
Past
14 May 2005–9 Oct 2006

This exhibition surveyed almost 60 years of a remarkable career. As well as bronze, stone and wood sculptures, the selection included paintings and works on paper.

William Turnbull (1922–2012) is one of Britain's foremost sculptors. His retrospective at Tate in 1973 confirmed his position and more than 30 years on, YSP presented a retrospective of Turnbull's work to launch the new Underground Gallery.

For a short time Turnbull worked as an illustrator for DC Thomson comics and magazines in his home town of Dundee and his ability to communicate the essence of a form in direct, pared-down moves underpins all his work. After serving as a pilot in the Second World War, Turnbull travelled to Paris where he associated with a thriving artistic community that included Picasso, Brancusi and Giacometti. Early success in Paris and at the 1952 Venice Biennale helped launch him as an important British artist.

Turnbull travelled extensively in Asia and this, together with a knowledge of primitive art, greatly influenced his work which often developed from looking at a simple utensil or tool. Throughout his life Turnbull returned to the same subjects – the head, the standing figure, the horse – and in this exhibition it is possible to see the development of ideas over a long period.

Turnbull was passionate about the colour and texture of his sculptures. His paintings, too, are drenched fields of enveloping hue, ranging from dense black to bright red and pink. The drawings and prints are direct and often delicate, their spareness verging on abstraction. Installed in the large, simple spaces of the Underground Gallery and out into the gardens beyond, this exhibition paid tribute to an exceptional artist and an exemplary career.

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