WILLOW LEGGE A RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION, 27TH September – 12TH October 2008

6th December 2011

EXHIBITION DATES: 27TH SEPTEMBER – 12TH OCTOBER 2008

This exhibition brings together sculpture and drawings spanning fifty years from work made by Willow when she had just graduated from Chelsea Art School to recent pieces made especially for this show.  These sculptures have lain quietly in her home, hidden from public gaze and this long overdue exhibition pays tribute to her exceptional talent.

Willow’s professional career has been that of a successful portrait sculptor, to start with concentrating mainly on family while her children were growing up.  Later her interests expanded to art therapy and this she practiced for ten years in a psychiatric hospital.  Following this, there were many years using her portrait skills at the Tussauds studio creating likenesses of some of the leading celebrities of the day.

Parallel with her portraits however, Willow created a very personal group of works.  In contradiction to her professional persona, these concentrated on the inner, essential, character of a subject, the life that is inside rather than the outward appearance.  Her interests in the writings of Carl Jung, her work as a therapist and a tendency to introspection have all influenced these highly individual pieces.  Made purely for herself they have an exceptional beauty and integrity and have never been exhibited before.

Willow’s work has links with many main stream artists such as Marino Marini, Giacomo Manzù and Elizabeth Frink, while in her carving she aspires to the simplicity of the Inuit sculptors and to certain early works of Moore and Hepworth.  However she describes her work as ‘intuitive’, only when she has finished a piece does she understands its true significance.  Much of her work is autobiographical, reflecting her preoccupations and concerns at the time.

Looking through her sketch books while assembling this show Willow commented, ‘it’s almost like reading a diary, I can travel back as far as the 1960s: remembering, the children, my friends, our holidays, even walks we went on and the different shapes of the landscape’.

There is no dramatic evolution to the work, but common threads unite the pieces across the years.  Willow’s fascination with babies is evident, their shapes, movements, positions and proportions.    Other works are directly autobiographical, the haunting Hangdog represented her despair and depression at the death of her second son, this was followed by the sprightly, animated Greyhound, the two animals representing the different facets of her character.