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Press - Reviews and Comments

Stella Shawzin’s Archetypal Forms by David Finn

Stella Shawzin is a remarkable artist and an equally remarkable person. It’s hard to write about her aesthetic achievements without mentioning her personal qualities. Her individual characteristics are evident in her works, and anybody who looks at her sculpture can see the energy and emotional warmth that is part of her personality.

There is, for instance, remarkable energy and a passion for life in the muscular male figures she portrays. Their bronze forms are always well composed and one senses a tension that impresses the eye in these soaring figures that seem to defy gravity. A particularly dramatic sculpture portrays three acrobats amazingly balanced on top of one another holding on from hand to foot. In other sculptures of men we see athletes with outstretched hands reaching to the sky and with feet stretching backwards, only the toes of one foot touching the ground. These figures seem to be in almost impossible positions and yet they are convincingly real. Their soaring images fly in the sky and yet at the same time they stand on the earth. Her “Figure in the Sphere” seems to go even further. It is suspended in the air with only one hand touching the top of the sphere.

Stella’s bronze sculptures of horses also come to life in her skilled hands. Some are prancing, some leaping, some galloping. Others seem to be walking elegantly across the ground or standing still with one front foot raised. The rough surfaces of these works reveal the strength and tension in their muscular bodies. There is also a remarkably strong figure of a swiftly running cheetah with three feet off the ground and its tail swinging around. Each of these impressive images seems to have its own personality.

The family groups, which are more gentle, are carved in stone and have a special kind of energy that shows the loving relationship between mother and child. A number of Shawzin’s works portray them rising out of a common base which creates a compelling image. Some are shown in circular forms as if they are both part of the same being. The inter-relationship of the forms seems to portray their unity as well as their individuality. This is evident in the two sculptures entitled “Mother and Daughter” as well as in the “Family Group of Two”, where the inner space is as sensitively designed as the forms themselves. In “Woman with Baby in Front” the mother is a curving form bending over to embrace her child. Then there are several “Mother and Baby” sculptures in which the mother is kneeling, or lying on her side, or sitting on a rock, and her form seems to rise out of the ground as the mother is kneeling, or lying on her side, or sitting on a rock, and her form seems to rise out of the ground as she reaches out to, or plays with, her baby. There is always an impressive interplay of form between the figures.

I once asked Henry Moore why he created so many images of seated and reclining women and he laughingly replied that he just likes the forms of those figures. The same is true of Stella’s seated and reclining figures. And as with Moore’s work, one can always find distinctive and impressive compositions in each sculpture. They are sensitive images that show playfulness and loving relationships.

A related image is of a woman seated on a rock with her knees bent and her face looking outward. Here she doesn’t have a child to embrace, but she herself is a remarkably well-composed figure. The limbs are in different positions and she is facing the world around her. I almost feel she is the artist herself, with an inward calm but a searching look. She appears to be a central image of the many different forms Stella Shawzin has created. There is also an impressive reclining figure lying on her side, resting on one elbow.

Stella Shawzin almost never shows facial features, and it may be because she portrays universal figures. Those featureless heads may be symbolic portrayals of human existence, while the forms of their bodies and postures show the universal emotions of their lives.

Stella’s work has been exhibited in many parts of the world, and she has visited – and even lived in – different countries in her life. Those who know her recognise that she not only has a broad perspective on the nature of human existence, but also that she is a remarkably warm and outgoing person who makes friends easily. Anyone who has spent time with her appreciates her graciousness and friendship, and spending an afternoon or evening with her can be an unforgettable experience. She is always interested in what her friends are doing and is a great listener. This is a strength that somehow seems to be reflected in her work. Although her figures have universal characteristics, she portrays them with affection. She wants to portray the values that she thinks are most important in our lives. Those who know and admire Stella feel that her sculpture and her personality are very much on the same wavelength. Both are warm and loving and seek to celebrate the experiences that are most important in our lives.

David Finn

David Finn began photographing sculpture nearly 40 years ago and has produced 84 books.
He long ago established himself as the premier practitioner of this specialized photographic art.

Taken from the Foreword to “The Sculpture of Stella Shawzin” – July Exhibition 2007 W H Patterson, London.

Stella Shawzin by Stella Shawzin

It is always difficult for an artist to describe their own work. It is through the work itself that you speak. The viewer is an active participant. My main theme is the human form in its infinite variety.

I have always found the female figure fascinating, the image in my mind has already been simplified before I start. No complicated bulging muscles, but gentle flowing curves. My figures, although reclining, are not static but full of movement. I use the suggestion of drapes to reveal the sinuous quality of inner muscular tensions. I emphasize these curves using the natural flow of line and direction.

All my life I have tried to express my visual and emotional experiences through my work. The impact of these emotions and impressions, conscious or subconscious, the dove-tailing of all these memories are released. With each piece I strive to capture and to impart the visual impact of everything I feel.

I have often been asked why my heads have no features. A face that is featureless can be, through the tilt of the head, as expressive as a face with features and have more impact because the simplification avoids distraction. Visually I want the body to be seen as a whole. The movement of the head, the turn of the hip, the curve of the back can be full of expression. It is in the form that I try to convey the inner tensions and feelings I wish to portray in each particular piece. The possible variations are limitless.

I hope to continue expressing in my work the endless variety open for the artist to capture and I feel it is the beauty of the stone which enhances and inspires.

Stella Shawzin