For a while now I have thought that Peter Hide is as good a sculptor as anyone working today and his current show at the Scott Gallery affirms this. The four small to mid-size sculptures exhibited are all of the highest quality and indicate an artist at the height of his powers. Convincing continuity of surface and particularly sensitive finish on the steel set Hide’s recent sculptures apart from any other steel sculptures I know of.
‘Shagpile’, though a constructed steel sculpture, has the feeling of something made out of raw clay. The central forms feel to me like they were cut with a wire from slabs of clay then assembled to form the wonderfully expressive abdomen. The light tan finish of the steel enhances this effect due to its colouristic similarity to wet clay. No other steel sculptor has managed to infuse such warmth into the cold material. And in no other steel sculpture is the surface of the sculpture more important to the aesthetic impact of the work.
In ‘Shagpile’ I am also struck by how the relief-like portion embedded in the middle of the sculpture recalls analytic cubism. That this shallow, rather pictorial relief works and thrives and is unified into the three dimensional structure is due in some part to how the surface knits the sculpture together.
‘Mass in B Minor’ is the smallest sculpture in the show, but competes easily with the others in terms of aesthetic quality. This is a very visually complex sculpture. The dark apertures throughout the piece give it a dramatic presence that is very unusual and unexpected, particularly in a sculpture of this size. Because of its display height on its plinth, you see into the center of the sculpture and it appears to reveal its form from the inside out. This is also a greatly rewarding surprise.
‘Floorwalker’ reminds me of some of Hide’s older, two sided sculptures. Though existing more as a sculpture in the round (some earlier sculptures from the late 70’s and early 80’s have two obvious sides) it still has a strong sense of a front and a back, and ‘Floorwalker’s back view leads one easily into the front dominant view. I also like the left oblique view. Looking down and along the sculpture it somehow manages to be like both a reclining figure and a surging force. This is the kind of contradiction that makes art exciting. The profile and proportions here are exactly as they should be. It has a feeling of inevitability as indeed, do all of the sculptures in the show.
Peter Hide is at Scott Gallery, Edmonton until the 11th of October