Artist statement – Hazel Reeves MRSS SWA FRSA
My aim is to move people – move them to tears, to ask questions, to participate, to tell their own stories, to take action.
I am an award-winning figurative sculptor, passionate about people and their stories, with figure and portrait commissions in bronze a specialty. Curiosity in people, their faces and their stories form the heart of my artistic practice. I use the process of clay portrait sculpting as a catalyst. My aim is to move people – move them to tears, to ask questions, to participate, to tell their own stories, to take action.
I am never happier than when I am combining my passion for portraiture with telling stories of struggles for social justice and redressing the lack of women celebrated in bronze. This could be honouring the achievements of rights activists and peace advocates such as my commissions to sculpt the Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst for Manchester, or Sadako Sasaki, who has inspired peace activism worldwide, or my commissions to sculpt disability rights activists Diane Mulligan OBE and Baroness Jane Campbell of Surbiton.
Or it could involve inverting the norms of portraiture and sculpting those who are rarely deemed worthy of capturing in bronze, whose faces and stories are effaced from history, such as my commission to sculpt the women biscuit factory workers – the Cracker Packers – from Carr’s in Carlisle.
I discovered that sculpting was a powerful, visceral form of expression for me… portraits, in particular, are my way of understanding the world around me.
How did you become a sculptor? While working on women’s rights with the UN in the Dominican Republic, I started to get back in touch with my other passions: for art, music, and dance. I discovered that sculpting was a powerful, visceral form of expression for me – and discovered that portraits, in particular, are my way of understanding the world around me and enable me to tell stories.
Where did you train? I have been trained by some of the top portrait sculptors in the country including at the University of Sussex, Heatherley’s School of Fine Art, Kingston University, masterclasses run by the Society of Portrait Sculptors as well as the Florence Academy of Art (Florence, Italy).
What commissions do you undertake? Public art commissions such as my 8ft 6in statue ‘Rise up, women’ of Emmeline Pankhurst (affectionately know as ‘Our Emmeline’) unveiled to huge crowds at St Peter’s Square, Manchester, on 14 December 2018. Working on the commission to celebrate the lives of women biscuit factory workers – the ‘Cracker Packers’ – for Caldewgate, Carlisle, was a real joy, unveiled on International Women’s Day 2018. Others you may have heard of are the 7ft 4in bronze of Sir Nigel Gresley for King’s Cross Station, unveiled in 2016, and my bronze sculpture of Sadako Sasaki for the Hed Wenn peace garden in Wales. I also undertake portrait sculpture commissions.
Where do you exhibit? Since 2007 my work has been shown widely, in over 60 galleries, exhibitions and sculpture trails across England and Wales – from London, to Cardiff, to Blackpool, to Brighton.
What professional bodies are you a member of? I am an elected member of the Royal Society of Sculptors (RSS) , member and former Council member of the Society of Women Artists (SWA), and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA). I am also the sculptural advisor to the Hove Plinth project from its inception (an initiative of the Hove Civic Society).
What awards have you received? We were delighted that the Emmeline Pankhurst Statue Project was given a Special Commendation Award in the Manchester Cultural Awards (2019) and SIr Nigel Gresley statue and the Cracker Packers were nominated for the Public Sculpture Awards of the PMSA. I have also received prestigious awards, including the Falle Fine Art Bronze Sculpture Award, the President and Vice President Award of the SWA, and the Society of Portrait Sculptors’ Masterclass Prize in 2010 and 2012.
Where do you work? I live in Brighton but my rather Gothic studio is in West Sussex.