The Life of the Mind: Love, Sorrow and Obsession

An exhibition at The New Art Gallery Walsall, curated by Bob and Roberta Smith and inspired by a bronze sculpture of Sir Jacob Epstein’s 15-year-old daughter Esther, delves into the psyches of an eclectic group of historic, modern and contemporary artists.
Those represented in the show include Epstein himself as well as Theodore Garman, his son, along with Louise Bourgeois, Tracey Emin, Vincent van Gogh and many others. And there are newly commissioned pieces by Bob and Roberta Smith, who describe Epstein’s First Portrait of Esther (with Long Hair), 1944 as a starting point. “She is beautiful. She is Walsall’s Mona Lisa, but there is no enigmatic smile … ”

In the exhibition, the curators explore an inner world of heartfelt emotion and sorrow – the feelings that make us human, and also themes central to Epstein’s work, whose archive Bob and Roberta Smith have been exploring since the start of their residency at The New Art Gallery Walsall in 2009. The gallery’s Director Stephen Snoddy says, “The Life of the Mind takes a fascinating look at human emotions and how artists interpret what they see and feel.”

Key works include Bob and Roberta Smith’s Eppy Daddy Battle Bot, as well as Vincent van Gogh’s Sorrow (1882) and a series of never-seen-before paintings by Theodore Garman, produced when he was suffering from acute mental illness. Also on show are the spectacular installation Cell by Louise Bourgeois, which alludes to ideas of anxiety and loneliness, and Tracey Emin’s photograph The Last Thing I Said to You Was Don’t Leave Me Here II, 2000, which explores feelings of vulnerability. Both these are on loan from Tate.

An exhibition of paintings by Birmingham-based artist Frank Sidney Smith will be running alongside The Life of the Mind (and a little after, until 17th April). His work, constructed from both memory and research, reflects the sorrows of his life, but also reveals a resilience and strength of character resulting in a surprisingly uplifting and optimistic experience.

The New Art Gallery Walsall
Until 20 March

WL

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