Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Different dimension

  • Comment
Le Corbusier: The Sculptural Collaboration with Savina At Leeds City Art Gallery until 29 April

This small, instructive, if inconclusive exhibition focuses on Le Corbusier's collaboration with a Breton furniture maker, Joseph Savina, who had ambitions to be a sculptor.

Ten sculptures from the Fondation Le Corbusier are variously displayed in the study galleries at Leeds City Art Gallery - three of them placed surprisingly high, as photographs show Le Corbusier sometimes liked.

The collaboration was initiated by Savina, who in 1944 isolated a figure from a Le Corbusier painting, realised it as a wooden sculpture, and presented it to the architect. Le Corbusier was clearly intrigued by the possibilities it suggested and a 20-year creative relationship ensued, with Savina continuing to wield the chisel and sometimes to determine either the content of the sculptures or their polychromy - a prominent feature.

The show seldom clarifies the respective contributions of the two collaborators.

Some of the bases are incised JS.LC. (with the date), others LC.JS. What does this reflect? Who selected the subject and what latitude for interpretation, even transformation, of a motif was there from its two-dimensional source? And who chose the paint? Here, primaries predominate, plus black, white and grey; this is not the nuanced colour world of Le Corbusier's Salubra wallpaper range (AJ 5.3.98).

But while the question remains open about just how directly these sculptures express Le Corbusier's intentions and choices, they clearly have some bearing on his architecture over these two decades, whether in iconography and composition or in finish; in which last respect the roughlychiselled wood, so lacking in finesse, is much like the Marseilles Unite's beton brut.

Cubist tactics (a shorthand sign for a wine glass, a profile and full-face combined) are still discernible, beside the biomorphic progeny of Surrealism (strange creatures, etc), in a period when Le Corbusier drew increasingly from the study of organic forms. Chandigarh's open hand, painted red, splays out at the bottom of Cathedral (1964), which, like the earlier Still life (1957), incorporates a framing device identical to the belfry of Sainte-Marie de La Tourette (1953-59); while the vertical element in Ozon, opus 1 (1947), sliced open at the top to mimic an ear, could be one of the Unite's swollen pilotis.

Le Corbusier included these sculptures in his exhibitions from 1948, presumably to acknowledge their importance for him. But an illustration of Ronchamp in the show's accompanying pamphlet points up their limitations. Unlike Ronchamp, they are not truly conceived in three dimensions. A circuit of that church brings ever-new formal qualities and relationships, and with those recompositions the connotations, the resemblances and 'meanings', change too - as reams of commentary have recorded. For the most part these sculptures, decidedly frontal and with one viewpoint privileged, are just vigorously modelled reliefs.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.