Collected legs reveals voyeuristic tone

 

THE sculptor Frederick Edward McWilliam (1909-1992), a doctor's son from Banbridge, Co Down, was one of the few northern artists of this century to make a name internationally. Educated at "Campbell, the Belfast School of Art and the Slade, he exhibited with the British surrealists, served as a spook during the war in the Far East and came back to teach at the Slade. He merited a book by Penrose and numerous public commissions. His Princess Macha sits not by her own city of Ard Macha, but con the windy slopes of Derry's Altnagelvin.

After his death, and coping bravely with localised philistine opposition, Banbridge Council is to build a museum to honour their local boy made good and house his entire studio - a wooden but from his Holland Park garden.

Betimes, the Ulster Museum provides, a teaser for Banbridge's bounty with an array of maquettes, a sketch or two and a handful of completed works.

An uncredited photograph shows a stern, close moustached Ulster Scot like head though Clifford Rainey's portrait softens the character. "The complete Man and Wife, dating from 1948, reveals the influence of Picasso and Moore. Maquettes of biblical reference from the early 1950s doff their bonny hats to Giacometti. Black Bean of the late 1960s dabbles with Henry Moore and Brancusi. The sliced off figures of the 1960s reveal the beginnings of the complex path which leads, by the early 1970s, to those post Giacometti bronzes, clothed female figures - legs partly revealed - dominated by tetrahedrons which were to culminate in the famous Women Of Belfast series, the most noted of which has always been Women In Bomb Blast. In curious company here, with Forest Of Legs and Legs In Air, much of the work from this period takes on ban uncomfortably voyeuristic tone with its concentration on the female lower limb.