Bryan Kneale RA (b1930) was born and grew up on the Isle of Man, where, in the postwar years, art books were not easy to get hold of, but the library had volumes of the then Studio magazine, which he used to pore over and draw inspiration from. His ideas come from everywhere, though: in particular, Kneale recalls a lump of shrapnel from a German bomb that his father brought home for him when he was bedridden with whooping cough. This story, which Kneale told us at Pangolin London, where he is currently showing five decades of his work in a mini-retrospective, is expanded on in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition.
Full of tales, Kneale also talks about his unconventional ways of working with metal and forming new shapes. Elected a Royal Academician in 1974 (after being made an Associate in 1970), Kneale famously accepted the honour only on condition that he could mount an exhibition – the Academy’s first – of abstract sculpture. Including the work of 24 sculptors active in the UK at the time, it has since been described as “the most groundbreaking exhibition of contemporary sculpture held in Britain”.
Kneale originally trained as a painter, studying first at Douglas School of Art and then at the Royal Academy Schools from 1948 to 1952. Today, alongside sculpting, he also draws, and some of his works on paper are included in this exhibition. Despite suffering a serious stroke two years ago, Kneale continues to make work – albeit with a little help where necessary – and his ideas haven’t dwindled at all. Nor has his wry sense of humour. He began by telling Studio International about the risk of death by sculpture …
Bryan Kneale: Five Decades
25 March – 2 May 2015
Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY