Thursday, March 14, 2013

Revolving Torsion at St Thomas Hospital

I think my favourite piece of transpontine sculpture is this work on the South side of Waterloo Bridge, in the grounds of St Thomas' Hospital. 

'Revolving Torsion' by Naum Gabo was manufactured in steel to the artist's design by Stainless Metalcraft Ltd of London in 1972-3, and installed at the hospital with fountain in 1975. It was restored in 1987 and is currently in good condition.

Gabo, born Neyemiya Pevzner in 1890 to a Jewish family in Russia, grew up in Bryansk. As a teenager he was influenced by the anarchism of Peter Kropotkin, and involved in radical politics. In the aftermath of the Russian revolution he threw himself into the experimental work of the Soviet avant garde before leaving for Germany in 1922 disillusioned with the authoritarian direction of the Bolshevik regime.

Gabo continued to promote Constructivism in Germany until 1933, when he fled the Nazis, ending up in London in 1936 after three years in Paris. Gabo spent the Second World War in Britain, much of it in Cornwall where he had befriended British artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. In 1946 he moved to the United States where he remained until he died in 1977.

There's something vaguely poetic about the work of this sometime anarchist and later Knight of the British Empire sitting opposite Parliament.

The fountain is an oasis of calm amidst the emotional whirlwind of the hospital, and respite too from the neverending street circus on the South Bank. Like fountains everywhere, people have taken to tossing coins in and making a wish. When the sun shines through the shower of water drops and reflects off the stainless steel this is one of the finest views in London.

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