You write the reviews: Elisabeth Frink, Sherborne House, Sherborne

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The Independent Culture

Sherborne House is to be sold by Dorset County Council. Should the house be bought by a developer sympathetic to its arts activities, it is very likely that the residual Elisabeth Frink collection, up until recently housed at her old home at Woolland, would find a home and be partly on display in refurbished galleries.

Lin Jammet, Frink's son and executor, has lent all the pieces for the house's current show, which includes drawings from the 1960s and her better-known Tribute Heads sculptures from 1975. These dominate the first room, which also has surprises for those who know her oeuvre mainly from the large works that have been displayed in open public spaces. A group of three small bronzes, Cock, Bird and Bird with Wing, reduce the subjects to an essence of spiky shapes, yet the animals are still recognisable.

Her technique of carving clay over plaster before casting gives a marvellously scratchy and chunky outline to the light-footed figure of Wild Boar (1975). In the second room, drawings of birds of prey include Lammergeier and Goshawk, the subjects of which are both alive, while the figure in Hare is definitely dead, though all are without emotion.

The bronze Seated Baboon seems to be a favourite with small children, while the nearby Horse and Rider, Robed (1985) exudes an air of mystery, with its exhausted rider mounted on a perky horse that seems to think that it has found a stable for the night.

The show fits admirably into the 15th-century space and produces a mood far removed from the pessimism that many people associate with Frink's work. The Tribute Heads, her response to the use of torture, imply that the spirit of humanity can withstand such ill-treatment, while the maquettes of water buffalo and small bronzes of horses catch the essential qualities of each.

It is extraordinary that an organisation that puts on events of this quality should be in danger of closing. Let us hope that the decision-makers at Dorset County Council come and experience this exhibition for themselves.



To 6 Apr (01935 816 426; www.sherbornehouse.org.uk)

John Sutherland-Smith, Retired schoolmaster, Dorset

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