Contemporary art at its most creative peak: the Geniuses of John Piper and Brian Willsher

The United Kingdom has always been a leading centre for experimentation, innovation and, above all, creativity in the arts. The British art scene has witnessed some of the most extraordinary examples of artistic genius: Joshua Reynolds, John Constable and Barbara Hepworth are only a few names that contributed to the development and blossoming of the arts in the United Kingdom. Amongst the creative production that this glorious nation has shared with the world in the course of the past century, two great artists have distinguished themselves for their skills, passion and originality: English painter and printmaker John Piper and sculptor Brian Willsher.

 

Born in Surrey in 1903, Piper was an artist by birth: since the tender age, he was drawing and painting striking pictures of old churches and monuments, capturing all the essence and beauty of the English countryside. In spite of a brief phase in his career during which he became much fascinated with the European avant-garde movements, Piper developed a characteristic and unique naturalistic style, not only evident in his painted representations of romantic British landscape, but also in his limited-edition series of prints.

 

Appointed as an official war artist between 1940 and 1942, Piper’s life crossed path with other great personalities of his time, amongst which Ben Nicholson, and thanks to his refined work in stained glass, Piper is also remembered for his strong contribution to the flowering of modern art within churches and cathedrals. In addition to major retrospective exhibitions at the Tate Britain, Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Imperial War Museum of London, Piper’s oeuvre is proudly presented by the Gagliardi Gallery, a long-standing contemporary art gallery located on the King’s Road, in the heart of London.

The same gallery represents works by other great contemporary artists, including eclectic English artist Damien Hirst, and its collection can boast a series of avant-garde bronze pieces made by sculptor Brian Willsher (1930-2010), the only works in such material ever made by the artist. The ultra-modernist abstractions celebrate the entirety of Willsher’s genius, whose ability to harmoniously mix geometric forms with organic shapes creates an exquisite sense of pliable equilibrium. “Here’s pure sculpture, indeed! More than that: memorable, breathtaking sculpture!”, to cite Sir Henry Moore’s words. Whereas some of Willsher’s works resemble the elaborated characteristics of the human body and its complex interlocking of parts, the bronzes displayed at the Gagliardi Art Gallery in London are powerful representations of natural phenomena, such as shells, waves and nebulas. Having exhibited all over the world, from London to Melbourne, from Los Angeles to Paris, Brian Willsher was undoubtedly a talented sculptor, whose work not only amazes and thrills the viewer, but also stands as a dynamic source of inspiration for present and future artists.   

 
Roberta Amerini
 
Top image: John Piper's work exhibited at the Gagliardi Art Gallery of London
Bottom image: Sorrow by Brian Willsher, on display at the Gagliardi Gallery, contemporary art gallery in London