An interview with Sean Henry
You have exhibited in London, New York and throughout Europe, and now you are hosting a collection at the 2013 Glyndebourne Festival. What made you choose Glyndebourne as the landscape for your next exhibition?
I was asked if I would like to show my work at Glyndebourne & was very happy to accept. I have for a long time been interested in working outside the gallery – in the public realm & in non commercial environments such as cathedrals, parks and in urban & other landscapes. The focus of GOH is obviously on theatricality and performance, two areas that are almost a theme in my own work, so the opera house is a unique environment to show my work – bringing architecture and the other elements I have mentioned together in a very rich mix.
Coloured sculpture is enjoying something of a contemporary renaissance but until recently was out of vogue, did your approach to this style of sculpture help revive the current interest?
I think it is likely to be more just a function of our times – historically, and certainly from early history up to the Renaissance, nearly all sculpture was painted, and I think it was only the Victorian habit of scrubbing their sculptures clean that led to the idea that sculpture was all about ‘form’ and colour was by definition ‘decorative’. That feels old fashioned to us now, in the modern age, and with the volume of mass media and images that surround us, to me it seems quite natural to use colour on sculpture.
Have you had a passion for opera for some time? What is it that which drew you to sculpting Bryn Terfel and on to exhibiting Glyndebourne?
I must be totally honest here and say I did not have a passion for opera at the start of this project early last year, although I do seem to have a growing one now!
I am 48, so have seen and enjoyed some opera over the years, but my musical taste is eclectic, with an early preference for punk bands and The Doors! However, I have been very affected by the four performances that I have seen in the last year at Glyndebourne & I’d like to see more. Re: sculpture, meeting Bryn by chance at a party last year was enough of a reason to sculpt him (he has quite a presence) and then following that up with watching him from the wings at the ROH in Seigfried cemented the idea of The Wanderer in my mind.
‘Man on a stage’ has been created specifically for the Glyndebourne Festival, what was it that inspired you in Mozart’s classic, Le Nozze di Figaro to sculpt a piece specifically based on the Count?
I thought Audun Iversson had a tremendous presence in the 2012 production of Figaro, and as you know the entire story resolves around his character and how he behaves.
However, the sculpture is more about the simple idea of a man being on stage – the figure is on the ‘edge of action’ and the mirror is there to reflect both our role as the viewer and his sense of himself (which is quite developed, with The Count!)
The images of some of your pieces juxtaposed in the Glyndebourne landscape have gone viral and been brilliantly received in digital media terms – do your pieces in situ usually get this wonderful reaction?
What’s next? Where will the next Sean Henry exhibition be and would you consider exhibiting again at Glyndebourne?
I have a solo show in a beautiful exhibition space at Galerie Andersson Sandtrom in Stockholm planned for 2014, and I am in discussion with other people in Sweden about showing my work in an urban & religious setting for a bigger exhibition 2015. I would be very happy to show at Glydnebourne again – I think there is a lot of potential for outdoor sculpture & GOH is a wonderful context within which to work.