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The Yorkshire Sculpture Park has welcomed another work by a leading international artist as part of the Park’s 40th anniversary celebrations this year.

As part of their 40th anniversary celebrations Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) has welcomed a beautiful new 7 metre high cast iron sculpture by the internationally acclaimed artist Jaume Plensa.

Wilsis (2016), overlooking the historic lakes at YSP, belongs to a series of portrait heads by the artist. The series depicts young girls from around the world, their eyes closed in a dreamlike state of contemplation.

Wilsis forms part of a display of new work in the open air by leading international artists, as part of YSP’s anniversary celebrations, including Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (2010) by 
Ai Weiwei, Black and Blue: Invisible Men and the Masque of Blackness (2016) by Zak Ové, Matthew Day Jackson’s Magnificent Desolation (2013), Peter Randall-Page’s Shape in the Clouds III (2013), and Untitled: squatboulder (2014) and Untitled: triplestackboulders (2014) by Phyllida Barlow.

By making these portraits on such a monumental scale, Plensa transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary. This treatment is drawn from his belief that all human beings have the potential to be remarkable, regardless of background or status.

In Wilsis, the girl appears to be thinking of something beyond the present and the immediate, her youthful aura suggesting hope and potential.

This feeling of otherworldliness is exaggerated by the elongation of the physical portrait through digital manipulation, which the artist feels removes a sense of the real, material body and instead reaches the spirit beyond.

Experiencing the work at YSP represents a journey of discovery, first glimpsed in a beautiful setting across the lake, and revealed fully as you walk around the landscape to discover it more closely.

The sculpture is a fascinating exploration of perspective through the flattening of form, an idea that grew out of Plensa’s desire to understand what happens on the other side, on the reverse of things with which we are familiar, such as letters printed on a page, or a portrait head on a coin. From the front the head appears realistic, yet from the side it is an extremely flattened relief.

The artist’s use of cast iron marks a return to the material for which the artist first became known. Since that time, he has employed a wealth of different materials in order to express and convey complex ideas, including steel, glass, alabaster, basalt, resin, bronze and wood.

Plensa first exhibited at YSP as part of Artranspennine in 1998, showing his bronze sculpture Personal Miraculous Fountain (1993-4) in the Camellia House. He returned to stage one of the Park’s most successful shows in 2011, which was also the artist’s first significant UK exhibition.

Plensa is one of the most respected and renowned sculptors working today. In addition to a long career of exhibition in traditional museums and galleries, he is a respected innovator and pioneer for his projects engaging with public space, which can now be found in over 14 countries around the world. Plensa’s Tribute to dom Thierry Ruinart (2016) will feature in Frieze Sculpture 2017 (July 5-October 8), curated by Clare Lilley, YSP Director of Programme.

Plensa will be giving a talk at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on November 11 – more details to be announced.

By Paul Goodyear.

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