Gallery visit: Laurence Edwards

Recumbence - Norwich School, Cathedral Close, The Crypt Gallery
3 July, 2023
Gallery visit: Laurence Edwards
It is a subject Laurence has returned to on different occasions during the last ten years, hence the supporting sculpture studies presented alongside the main figure. It is a fascinating selection of work that informs the main subject, sparsely and thoughtfully put together by the artist. He explains something of his approach:


‘It occurred to me a while ago, that my first encounters with the sculpted figure were the stone bodies laying on tombs in the churches around my childhood home in Suffolk. Add to this the figures excavated in the sandy fields in the same area and my connection to the recumbent body can perhaps be understood.
The impulse to start working with the lying form was also driven by an interest in images of the entombed Christ. I was keen to explore one painting in particular Mategna's 'Entombment'.’


Lamentation of Christ or ‘Dead Christ’ is a painting by the Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna. The Christ figure is set off centre by several mourners on the left of the figure, enhanced by a foreshortened perspective, that interrupts the easy assimilation and elegance of a recumbent figure.  It is intimate, as if Jesus was a family member. The space is tight, the figure and mourners claustrophobically close. Anatomical details are clear, which was unusual in 1480, when the painting was thought to originate. Christ's rib cage is particularly large in comparison to parts of the body that are nearer to the picture plain. The viewer is aware of the distance of the length of the body because they are placed at the feet. This was deliberate. It casts the viewer in the role of supplicant. Art historian Hubert Schrade explains the tension behind the image:“the agitation of dimension of the work, which allows immediate proximity but denies any intimacy.”  The painting resides at the Pinacoteca di Brera of Milan, Italy.


The unusual arrangement of the body was used as a convention on memorials that marked the loser of a battle or a victim of a natural disaster like a fire or a flood, and not generally in religious paintings. It is therefore particularly appropriate that Laurence Edwards has chosen to locate the first bronze cast on the mudflats of Butley Creek near his studio, where the figure is exposed to the river’s tidal waters, floating and out of reach in sharp contrast to the intimacy of its making. The second cast exhibited here in the crypt is placed between two supporting pillars that also restrict access. It's a conceit that works well.
The exhibition opened on Thursday 15 June 11.00 - 4.30 (closed Sunday and 28 June)
and runs until Saturday 8 July. The Crypt Gallery, Cathedral Close NR1 4DD. It is free to access. Check entry details on the Crypt Gallery website:

About the author

Paul Barratt, Director and Curator at Contemporary and Country

Paul Barratt

Paul Barratt started working in contemporary art galleries in 1989, having graduated in Fine Art from Goldmsith’s, London University. He initially worked at Anthony d’Offay Gallery, one of the contemporary art dealers, who dominated the London art market in the 80s and 90s. He was approached by the Lisson Gallery to be gallery manager for the influential art dealer Nicholas Logsdail. This was followed by a short period in New York at Gladstone Gallery, to work for visionary art dealer Barbara Gladstone, working with the artist and filmmaker Matthew Barney.


On his return to London, Paul secured a place on the postgraduate curatorial course at the Royal College of Art, to complete an MA. After graduation in 2001, he worked as an independent curator on several projects in Oslo, London, Brighton and Basel, before joining Paul Vater at his design agency Sugarfree in 2004. He has worked with Paul ever since.