Terence Coventry

Sculpture Prints and Drawings

10th April - 19th May 2006

Creativity has often been portrayed as a spiritual exercise rather than
the more mundane intellectual and practical processes required to
bring art into existence: this presumably originated with the ancient
Greeks’ belief that their gods, their muses, must intervene before works
could be accomplished. A sculptor relying on such inspiration rather
than a more disciplined and intellectual approach may wait in vain.
Terence Coventry is the most practical of men; experience gained in
the relentless grind of farming. He was brought up in the Midlands, his
early talent being recognised by his mother who encouraged its
development, and he gained early admittance to Stourbridge where
he embarked on a Fine Arts Degree Course. His mentor there was
Keith Leonard, one time assistant to Hepworth; a man for whom he
had great respect and who not only gave him the all important
understanding of form and mass and space, but also - like all the
really great teachers - instilled in him an unquenchable enthusiasm for
his subject. At that time National Service was still compulsory, so
having completed his degree course his further artistic development
was interrupted by two years in the Royal Air Force. He had already
attained a place at the Royal College of Art and took this up on his
return to civilian life. Unfortunately this was to study painting rather
than sculpture and after a year he left and immersed himself in
agriculture.
Little by little the pressures of farming were eventually relinquished
to the younger generation, allowing space for the re-emergence of
a once dormant and now reconfigured talent. It was not only an
inexorable determination to sculpt which was the mainspring
behind this completion of the circle, but a resolve to fulfill, at last,
the true vocation. The farming years were not times mislaid, rather
they were seasons when practical skills were refined and
constructional problems solved; after all repairing a ploughshare
and welding armatures are not that dissimilar.
The past ten years have seen an extraordinary output of powerful
images whose strength lies in the subtle balance between
anatomical correctness and sculptural form. The underlying
structure, the geometry of the armatures, clearly define the
powerful planes. The thrusting angles give momentum to the work,
so much so that a sculpture often gives the impression of toppling
forward if it were not restrained.
A virtual lifetime spent on an isolated gale-ridden cliff-top farm has
etched the artistic eye with an often-austere interpretation of the
subject matter around it. The recurring themes of rooks and bulls
and jackdaws and boars have a formidable presence reflecting
the weathered serpentine rock that is their background. The human
form has an altogether gentler aspect although nonetheless
powerful and uncompromising.
Although the subject matter remains essentially unchanged, this
latest body of work shows a distillation of ideas, a simplification of
form. There is a subtle shift from the more rounded peripheries of
the planes to a much flatter, more linear and hard-edged
approach. The Jackdaws are an example where the essence of
the birds is reduced to the minimum of mainly flat surfaces.
Compare the Rook of today with the Spiralling Rooks of the past.
The incised lines are an important and integral part of the works
and not merely a textural device. There is nothing random about
their direction; they are there to augment or diminish the
relationship between adjacent planes. Many of the more recent
monumental works have been made in ferro-concrete and this has
contributed, in part, to the simplification of form, in that the
medium needs to be worked at speed before it sets.
It is true to say that the majority of artists reach the height of their
achievements in their early middle years. However, psychologists
who study the relationship between the ageing process and
creativity have long recognised how creative insights emerge,
sometimes quite unpredictably, after periods of often-prolonged
incubation. Maybe here is a manifestation of the cognitive
unconscious working through the fallow years and reaching a
creative peak, almost unexpectedly.

Peter Harris
February 2006

Photographs by Steve Russell

 

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Terence Coventry