Remembering William Turnbull
Nov 19th 2012, 13:50 by L.F.
Sculpting was what he liked doing best. He began working in plaster, once saying that he was captivated by the idea that with a bag of plaster dust he “could make something out of nothing”. He also worked in bronze, wood and stone, and even experimented with steel in the 1960s. His sculptures combine the figurative with the abstract, the ancient world with the modern. His simple forms are subtle but deeply expressive.
Following a stint as an RAF pilot in the second world war he went to the Slade art school to learn his craft. He spent two years in Paris where he met Alberto Giacometti and Pablo Picasso. Later, he also became close to Mark Rothko in New York, soaking up the influences of surrealism and abstract expressionism along the way. In London he became part of the Independent Group with Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton and others, which aimed to re-define modernism and its relationship to popular culture.
Last year his son, Alex, co-directed and produced a documentary detailing his life and work. The film, “William Turnbull: Beyond Time”, may now serve as a memorial to the artist, through his son’s efforts to take him “out of time”—a term Mr Turnbull liked to ascribe to his sculptures. Fans of his work can look forward to a large show at Chatsworth House due to open in March.