Eye Cue (2015) is the second part of a triptych of site-specific sculptures exploring the sensory experience of life in West Dean House. The interplay of eye and hand is the subject of this piece, conceived for the Library, a space that used to be the Billiard Room. The elevated form is modeled on the feline shape of the eye of Austrian ballet dancer Tilly Losch, one time wife of Edward James. The hand is carved as a pure white alabaster shell, set on a base of black slate. The forms make reference to Losch’s famous Dance of the Hands, particularly as documented in Norman Bel Geddes’ film of the same title from 1930 in which Losch’s hands are featured, curling and flexing against a dark background. Losch had become renowned for her hand dance in ‘Arabesque’ – which she performed “crouched in plain black silk on a black dais” – part of Charles B. Cochran’s 1929 revue Wake Up and Dream, with music composed by Cole Porter.
The three stone elements are joined by a length of acrylic rod, a visually delicate yet rigid material that links the eye and hand while allowing them to remain incomplete fragments. In this sculpture the acrylic serves as a notional conduit for information, taken in through the eye, and passed down via the hand to be inscribed on the slate below. The curving rod, as it travels away from the eye, therefore takes on its own role as a scribing tool, and the slate base becomes a surface ready to receive information. The optical qualities of acrylic also call to mind a prism, capable of splitting light into its component parts. In this case the black and white of the Zebra Soapstone is ‘refracted’ as it moves down the rod into the separate tones of the alabaster and slate. An awareness of the room’s previous purpose began to resonate as the sculpture took shape. The acrylic material can be read in relation to a billiard cue just as the slate base may reference the traditional construction of billiard table tops.
Jane Fremantle (MFA Year 2)