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Barbara Hepworth, Figure: Churinga (1952)


Walker Art Center



Institution Walker Art Center
There are fundamental shapes which speak at all times and periods in the language of sculpture. . . . The forms which have had special meaning for me since childhood have been the standing form (which is the translation of my feeling towards the human being standing in a landscape).--Barbara Hepworth, 1955

Churinga is a word of Austral derivation referring to a wood or stone object carved by aboriginal tribes in central Australia and believed to be sacred. It represents the bond between an individual and his or her totem ancestor. In this work, Hepworth has developed a spiritual icon by piercing the solid mass of a bent cylinder of wood, thereby penetrating to the core or life of the material.

The hole, or elongated slot, as exemplified in this piece, is a convention that Hepworth and her contemporary Henry Moore consistently employed in their works, and it is one of their unique contributions to sculpture. The effect of light upon the exotic mahogany of this piece causes shadows and contours to swell, contract, and disappear as the viewer moves around it.

Walker solo exhibition: Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings, 1955

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Type: Commentary, object label
Source: Label text for Barbara Hepworth, Figure: Churinga (1952), from the exhibition Art in Our Time: 1950 to the Present, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 5, 1999 to September 2, 2001.
Rights: Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center
Added to Site: March 1, 2009