Anna Gillespie - Evolution of the Artist

Anna Gillespie - Evolution of the Artist
Anna Gillespie - Evolution of the Artist


Evolution of the Artist

I’ve been in this art collecting business a long time, more than twenty years, and often get asked by people coming into the gallery and those I meet socially, “What’s the best thing about being a gallerist?” It’s not so easy to point to one aspect of it. Selling artwork is what has kept the show on the road – through the good times and bad – for over two decades. It’s also validation, when someone parts with their hard-earned money, that we must be doing something right!

At the same time I’m thrilled for the artist, it’s a validation for them to have connected with a collector who so clearly likes – and endorses – what they’re doing. I call it…”the acid test,” for gallery and artist. Vitally important though that clearly is, it’s actually not what gives me the biggest boost. That comes through working with an artist over the years, seeing them grow and evolve (as an artist and individual), knowing that I’m playing a significant role in that process.

Artwork by Anna Gillespie
Artist Anna Gillespie's solo exhibition, “Quercus”, at artzu


All artists evolve over time

Looking over the years, I’d say that all the artists I represent have ‘evolved’ on one level or other, in terms of style, technique and sometimes media and scale. All artists evolve over time, some more than others. Just look at Picasso, ever-evolving as an artist through his very long and productive life, right up to his death at over ninety. We talk about his "this period", and "that period" that emerged over the decades. He would either get bored with a certain style and form of expression or take it as far as he wanted to… and relentlessly move on to the next phase of his creative journey. Only in retrospect do we appreciate them as distinct phases or “periods” in this context.

In this same regard, it’s a joy for me to work with Anna Gillespie and see how she has evolved as a sculptor, stylistically and the different media she works in. Seeing her gain a growing reputation with collectors at the leading-edge in the cannon of contemporary British sculpture is what makes doing this worthwhile for me, at the end of the day. When I first started working with Gillespie in 2004 she was chiefly using organic materials, such as beechnut casings and acorns as the surface of her figurative work. These always had enormous appeal to art collectors and continued to do so when translating them into limited edition bronzes.

Bronze limited-edition sculpture, called
Bronze limited-edition sculpture, called
Bronze limited-edition sculpture, called

We could call this ‘early period Gillespie’ which then transformed into the more flowing bronzes featured in the Chelsea Flower Show. Gillespie took that further, into multiple figures, as seen here with “Between Two Shores”:

“Between Two Shores”


Freedom from oppression

Gillespie has since embarked on a new artistic journey with her multiple figures on a much larger and more visceral scale and has been pushing this boundary out in different directions, such as with her sculpture “What It Takes”, an expression of the desperation in the human condition that comes from forced migration. I think it’s redolent of Rodin’s haunting “Burghers of Calais” that represents the idea of freedom from oppression. One of his twelve original bronze castings is in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament, sited there on the advice of Rodin himself.

Working as a sculptor is a very challenging media, not something easily or readily embraced. Gillespie comments “ my old art-master at school used to say, You really have to mean it…”. The sheer physicality of the processes involved makes it extremely demanding in every sense. Sculptors are a breed apart, like goalies in football, in many ways. "You really need to be a bit mad to want to do it!". Gillespie is not the biggest person, physically speaking, but she simply gets ‘stuck-in’, no nonsense, and does it... exceptionally well!

Bronze limited-edition sculpture, called
“Song”, collectors home in Cheshire
Plaster sculpture
“What It Takes”
The Burghers of Calais statue by Rodin in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster, London.
“The Burghers of Calais by Rodin”
Image: Patche99z, (CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

To places yet unimagined

The direction Gillespie has been going puts her sculpture in the rarefied “highly collectable” bracket and I can see her in the Elizabeth Frink category as far as reputation is concerned. I’m looking forward to seeing where that artistic odyssey takes us. To places yet unimagined, I would think. I’m just so delighted to be able to play a part in that unfolding story.
Nick Betney, Artzu founder.

Discover more of Gillespie’s sculpture to collect - here.


artzuFocus | Issue 002