A Retrospective of Sculpture in Wood: 1973-2000

Supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland

Venue: The Barony Centre, 50 Main Street, West Kilbride, KA23 9AR

23 May – 02 August 2015: Mon- Sat: 10.00- 17.00 & Sun 12.00- 17.00

Curated by Laura Hamilton, former Director of the Collins Gallery, University of Strathclyde, in collaboration with Maggy Stead Lenert, widow of Tim Stead and retired Director of the Tim Stead Workshop, this is the final exhibition to tour prior to The Steading, the artist’s unique family home, being passed to the Prince’s Regeneration Trust in partnership with the Scottish Borders Council.

With all my work I seem to be continually going around the relationship of man and nature. I am an incorrigible optimist and like to celebrate the fact that man can make an input which reveals nature in an altered beauty.

Balance is everything

table detailTim Stead MBE (1952-2000) studied at Trent Polytechnic and the Glasgow School of Art, graduating in 1975, and lived for most of his working life in Blainslie in a house embellished with and embodying his sculpture and furniture. Acutely environmentally conscious, he led a successful campaign to establish a Community Woodland in the Scottish Borders and to encourage new makers, set up the Wood School in the same area. He was an accomplished sculptor, furniture maker, poet, photographer, teacher and environmentalist but is probably best known for his extraordinary public commissions including: the adventurous and much loved interior of Café Gandolfi, Glasgow (1979); the Papal Throne made for the visit of Pope John Paul II to Edinburgh (1981), The Memorial Chapel in the kirk of St Nicholas, Aberdeen (1989) , The Peephole created for the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow (1996) and the magnificent Millennium Clock Tower for the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh(1999).

The Exhibition

Due to expansive activity and public exposure within a relatively short career, Tim Stead’s furniture is familiar to many throughout Scotland but it was sculpture which he regarded as his true calling.

In 1999, one year before his premature death, Tim Stead conceived a touring exhibition which focusing on the seemingly disparate worlds of furniture and sculpture, was intended to encapsulate the very essences of his practice: sculptural, pedagogical, environmental, architectural, fundamental and fun.

Sadly, the exhibition was never realised and now this show, which takes its title from Tim’s description of himself, seeks to redress the balance.

The Retrospective is divided into 10 categories, beginning with his undergraduate chess board made from railway sleepers and ending with a selection of work taken from over 100 intimate pieces, created in the last year of his life and designed for contemplating time and space.

Craft mag imageIt includes a collection of quiet, contemplative and enigmatic works which demand a multi-sensory appreciation. Each piece is imbued with a vocabulary guided by Stead’s desire to pay tribute to the tree, thus capturing a playful exploitation of the characteristics of the different types of wood used as well as space and form.

Many of the “Layers” pieces can be handled, allowing visitors to enjoy first-hand, Tim’s ingenious designs and fine craftsmanship, as they disassemble then reassemble these 3D puzzles. To enhance access to the nooks and crannies hidden within the “Excavations”, Maggy has provided small torches; an unusual and surprisingly effective approach to explore sculpture….

A far cry from a traditional approach to cabinet making, Tim’s furniture making was similarly sculptural, designed with sympathy for both the nature of his raw materials and the ergonomics of the human form. These sculptures in disguise, which originally evolved as a means of making a living, will be represented in iconic pieces, including his imposing, skeletal chairs with backs resembling vertebrae.

In addition to Stead’s own series of Layers, Telescopic Towers, Sliced Pieces, Excavations , Segments, boxed sculptures and highly personal and unusual sculptural memorabilia including maquettes for jewellery ,the exhibition will include artworks made by fellow artists and craftspeople in response to Stead’s work, and in collaboration with Stead. Amongst the latter are Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Speedwell boat, a glass bowl cast from one carved by Stead from Burr Elm, a carved portrait head of Tim by Eduard Bersudsky and a box containing small wooden panels embellished with images by Russian icon painter, Vassilieva Sima.

Publication: the exhibition is supported by a 72 page compilation of Tim’s poetry, writing and sketches, introduced and selected by Maggy Stead Lenert.

Talk: Maggy Stead Lenert will deliver a highly personal and insightful talk into the life and work of her husband Tim Stead on 6th of June 2015.  Further details will be added as soon as possible.