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Sculpting Lives
Podcast Episodes

Episode 1 – Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975)

Copy of June1960 ‘Hepworth... didn’t see herself as a feminist at all and didn’t see herself as ‘a pioneering woman’, she just felt she was a pioneering sculptor.’ Stephen Feeke, curator and writer.

Barbara Hepworth was born in Wakefield, West Yorkshire in 1903. By the time of her death in 1975, she had become one of the most important artists of the century, creating a poignant and innovative sculptural language. She is extremely unusual for a woman artist in that she has two museums named after her. 

Although a lot has been written about Hepworth, there is still a great deal to find out — there is a mystique and there are assumptions made about her. In this episode, we challenge those ideas, go to the places she lived and worked, and explore why she remains such a powerful influence on artists today.

‘A normal person from Wakefield, a remarkable artist but a remarkable woman.’ Eleanor Clayton, Curator, The Hepworth Wakefield. 

Episode 2 – Dame Elisabeth Frink, RA (1930–1993)

‘She respected herself. She took herself seriously and she took the work seriously, due to the nature of the work. She knew what it was she wanted to explore.’ Annette Ratuszniak, Curator, Frink Estate.

In 1973 Elisabeth Frink became the first female sculptor to be elected as a Royal Academician.

Frink was born into an army family, and her childhood was overshadowed by the Second World War. This experience, and other upheavals of the twentieth century, led her to ask fundamental questions about the nature of humanity in her work. In an artworld increasingly dominated by abstraction, Frink remained resolute in her commitment to working both figuratively and in bronze. When Frink died in 1993, she had created over four hundred sculptures, many of which are well-known public commissions. 

We explore hidden narratives in Frink’s career, and consider how artists can be sidelined by the ‘art world’ yet remain popular with the public. We also consider the impact an artist’s family has on their posthumous reputation and how this is managed.

‘A lot of her work resonates in a really contemporary way.’ Cathie Pilkington, RA, first female Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy.

Episode 3 – Kim Lim (1936–1997)

‘Being female and foreign was never a problem as a student, later I realised that there was a difference, but what was important in the end, was what I did and not where I came from. Race and gender were givens I worked from, perhaps the work does reflect this which is fine, but I did not want to make them an issue.’ Kim Lim. 

Kim Lim was born in Singapore and moved to Britain in the 1950s to enroll at art school. Despite a successful career (there are over eighty of her works in UK public collections) she has been left out of histories of twentieth-century British art. This episode explores the reasons for that and asks how these exclusions happen?

We examine the presence of ethnic minority artists in public collections in the UK — looking at histories of British art and how to expand the narratives. Kim Lim was married to a successful artist — William Turnbull — and has traditionally been viewed in that context. We also consider the posthumous work that her family have done to secure her legacy and reputation. 

‘She never wanted to be perceived as being ‘other’ just because she was a woman and foreign.’ Bianca Chu, Deputy Director, Sotheby’s S2. 

Episode 4 – Phyllida Barlow, RA (b. 1944)

‘The first time I met him he said “because you’re a woman, I’m not that interested because by the time you’re thirty you’ll be having babies and making jam.”’ Phyllida Barlow on meeting her art school tutor Reg Butler.

Woman outside building Barlow is one of the best-known sculptors working in the UK at the moment and has had major international shows. Unrecognised by the wider world for much of her career, she was an influential teacher to a younger generation of artists during her forty years at the Slade School of Art before she found acclaim in her sixties. Her work — large scale sculptural installations made from inexpensive low-grade materials — is abstract and seemingly unstable, playing with mass and volume, invading and blocking the space around it. 

In a candid interview in her studio we asked her about how she came to sculpture, how she defines what sculpture is, how she disrupts those ideas, her recent successes and how they have impacted her.

‘It’s interesting to have those challenges thrown down, but it’s also, you know, you’ve got to muster this tremendous single-mindedness … These things act as the most extraordinary trigger for your future.’ Phyllida Barlow. 

Episode 5 – Rana Begum, RA (b. 1977)

‘I don’t want to use a language that really segregates people. I don’t want to use a language that makes them think about gender — if they are looking at a female artist or a male artist.’ Rana Begum.  

Copy of Rana Begum portrait Rana Begum was born in Bangladesh and came to Britain as a child. She is an artist who works across sculptural materials and crosses disciplines. She is working through what sculpture can be in the world, moving across disciplines like paintings, architecture, design and furniture. She also uses colour and light as materials and doesn’t define herself as a ‘sculptor’ — she calls herself ‘a visual artista.’

We interviewed her in her studio, asking about definitions of sculpture, and things that aren’t usually spoken about — how to balance family life and her artistic career, and the problems she has encountered. We asked her about biography, race, identity and Britishness and how these issues feed into her work. 

‘Living in East London I feel like I’m almost living in a bubble. [You leave and] you are made to remember your skin colour, you’re made to remember your gender, you’re made to remember your religion and all of those things you take for granted when you live in a place like this.’ Rana Begum.