Artist statement – Hazel Reeves MRSS SWA FRSA
I want to engage and move people – moving them to tears, to ask questions, to participate, to tell their own stories, to mobilise.
Curiosity in people, their faces and their stories form the heart of my artistic practice. I’m passionate about telling stories of struggles for social justice and redressing the lack of representation of women, including working class and disabled women, in sculpture. I want to celebrate those effaced from history. I want to engage and move people – moving them to tears, to ask questions, to participate, to tell their own stories, to mobilise.
Beyond commissioned work, as a life-long dance-lover, my obsession is the intersection of dance and sculpture, and collaborating with dancers. Sculpture, as with dance, is visceral, it’s story-telling, it’s choreography. We choreograph ideas together, searching for dynamism, that gravity-defying dance pose that exudes the ecstasy and the agony of dance.
But despite my efforts to breathe life and movement into sculptures, ultimately bronze is inert. My latest experimentation takes the natural next step – working with groups of dancers as my dynamic modeling material, to create unique moving sculptural landscapes. By working with dancers with different physicalities, we also challenge narrow ideas of who can perform dance, ‘right’ ways of moving, ‘ideal’ body shapes.
I discovered that sculpting was a powerful, visceral form of expression for me…
How did you become a sculptor? While promoting 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.
Do you undertake portrait sculpture commissions? Yes, particularly to redress lack of representation of disabled women. I had the pleasure of sculpting disability rights activists Diane Kingston OBE and Baroness Jane Campbell of Surbiton.
Where do you exhibit? Since 2007 my work has been shown widely, in over 70 galleries, exhibitions and sculpture trails across England and Wales – from London, to Cardiff, from 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 the 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 the heart of the countryside, in West Sussex.