The Independent Collector: Sean Henry

John Windsor's guide to collecting contemporary art

MEET EVERYMAN - isolated but coping as best he can. This one is putting his best foot forward, but none of them knows where he is going. All of them are more like you than you dare think.

Sean Henry is their creator. His signature everyman sculpture, a painted and patinated cast bronze wearing a donkey jacket and crumpled trousers, stands his ground and folds his arms across his chest, in a belligerent pose.

The Welsh poet David Hart mingled with everyman in Henry's London studio. The poems they inspired him to write are to be published in November in a book about Henry's work by the Italian Circolo Degli Artisti, shortly before a solo exhibition in Faenza.

Henry, aged 33, is winner of this year's Villiers David Art Prize, worth pounds 8,000 for travel abroad. He is the first sculptor to win it. The judging committee of six (including Lord Linley, Noel Annesley, deputy chairman of Christie's International and William Packer, the art critic) observed that everyman, though still going nowhere, has come a long way. There is an early everyman holding a pistol at arms length. And there is the latest, still in soft clay, seated on a donkey with one arm outstretched, modelled on the early 16th century German sculpture "Christ Riding on a Donkey" by Parmesel.

Henry is undecided how to model the fingers of this one. He flips two of them up into a beatific gesture. Then he flips them down. Whatever he eventually decides, the fingers are unlikely to point the way.

He says: "I try to depict some essential truths. My figures are often on the edge of action - passive, but acutely aware of their surroundings, as well as their inability to affect or change them."

Everyman, and not only Henry's, is becoming more visible in the art world. Henry's figures are reminiscent of Ray Richardson's paintings of dense, muscular men in T-shirts leading bull terriers on leashes, Peter Howson's threatening male silhouettes and Stephen Conroy's paintings of strong men standing stock still on staircases, curling their lip at a world they can barely comprehend. An investigation into their origins would no doubt hit upon Josef Herman's bold monochromes of miners. And, of course, Giacometti's best-foot-forward sculptures.

Henry's show at the Air Gallery last summer was called "Up Against It" - a title that sums up everyman as he perceives him. "He is mass man," he says, "quirky, powerful, but not responsible for his actions."

The irony is that mass man - everyman - is out of date. You cannot buy donkey jackets as fashion wear, these days. The only men that still wear them are building workers. The folded arms of his "Donkey" everyman, hugging his donkey jacket, are, he explains, "holding on to the past".

"He knows he's foolish," he says, "he knows he's an ass". But "he's on his own, he's got to deal with it".

When Henry delivered one of his 32-inch tall "Donkeys" to its purchaser, a smart London office, he glanced back at him as he left and thought he heard him say: "You're not going to leave me here, are you?"

If Henry's sculptures are to earn a permanent place in art history it will be because of their mythic, iconic status - the image of an endangered species. The mass - the uneducated working class - has become a threatened minority. Everyman no longer has political clout. He has been reduced to adopting an all-purpose, muscular stance against the outside world.

But, as creators such as Henry know well, the divine courses through everyman. What sculpture will follow his divine everyman riding upon a donkey? It is a hard act of creation to follow.

Sean Henry has had eight solo shows in the past 10 years and has exhibited in group shows in Britain, Italy, the United States and Australia. Prices: pounds 1,500-pounds 18,000. He is represented by Davies and Tooth, 32 Dover Street, London W1 (0171-409 1516). David Hart's "Setting the Poem to Words" has just been published by Five Seasons Press at pounds 8.50

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all