Interactive Tour of Perry Green

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Henry Moore, Double Oval

Double Oval in Spring

photo: Michael Phipps

LH 560
bronze edition of 2 + 1
cast: Hermann Noack, Berlin
length 550cm

Double Oval is a feat of formal balance and harmony. Although essentially abstract, the shapes entertain visual association and implied meaning. It has a compelling tactility; the viewer feels the urge to reach out and touch the seemingly worn-smooth inside edges of the vast holes. In other parts it is scratched like an ancient fossil, while its angular parts recall the lightweight strength of a bone. The sweeping ovals suggest the romantic promise of eternity symbolized by the wedding ring. This accentuates the perceived duality of bulk and grace, as does the idea of protection indicated by the stouter, darker back form that appears to guard the other, akin to Moore’s internal/external imagery. It has a natural, timeless feel that is the basis of so much of his work.

It has been suggested that Double Oval resembles the handles of a pair of scissors. The analogy has previously been cast aside, but a drawing of 1964 goes some way to proving it to be correct. Heads (HMF 3100) depicts two heads made out of the forms of two pairs of scissor handles, the two finger holes of each becoming the eyes. Each head is a single entity, but comprising two distinct parts as in Moore’s two-piece reclining figures. Each hole could therefore also be a single head with only one visible eye. This seemingly frivolous animation of a household object may have its roots in the contemporary Pop Art, but it seems more likely that it is a semi-automatic drawing tapping unconscious imagery and concepts. The ideas it explores may be involved in the evolution also of the two Moon Heads of 1964 (LH 521) that investigate interdependence of form and space. By using the pierced forms in Double Oval that are more true to the original drawing, Moore has furthered this investigation. However he also spoke of the idea of the shadow, of one form echoing the other, that thereby questions its solid reality. Beyond the emotional communication of both the abstract form and the suggestion of two heads, this piece could be seen as a formal experiment with the sculptural object as a three-dimensional presence negotiating space on different levels. This impression is only enhanced by our physical engagement with it due to its immense size.