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ONLINE EXHIBITION Elemental inspiration

Terence Coventry's closeness to nature strikingly informs his sculptures of animals and birds, says JOHN GREEN

Terence Coventry: Vital Image
Pangolin Gallery, London

ROOTED in the figurative tradition, Terence Coventry is a sculptor who draws most of the stimulus for his work from farming.

His sculpture explores forms familiar to him such as birds, dogs, bulls and cows as well as the human figure and he takes inspiration from the land itself, where its contrasts and changing atmosphere are detectable in the surfaces and textures of his works.

Born in Birmingham in 1938, Coventry studied painting at the Royal College of Art  but left after a year and instead took up farming in Cornwall.

He sees parallels between farming and sculpture: “It is elemental in the same way: one may not be dealing with clay but one is dealing with earth to a large extent. I get a tremendous amount of my inspiration for subject matter from my association — for the greater part of my working life — with farming,” he has said.

Animal sculptures can very easily become twee or blandly generic but Coventry’s work reveals a strong comprehension of form and movement based on exact observation.

His animals are not only immediately recognisable but capture what bird watchers call the “jizz” of a particular species, that essence of form, character and behaviour that tells you immediately what animal it is. Only someone relying on meticulous observation can capture this.

His sculptures are full of energy and vivacity — he simplifies the forms and reduces them to more lineal structures and a series of cleverly intersecting planes often reminiscent of origami.

He completed several series on ravens, either in flight, squabbling over some food source or simply conversing. With their bifurcated primaries, wide gapes and hefty mandibles, you can almost hear the birds honking and croaking and the sheen on the polished metal matches that of the birds’ real luminescent plumage.

The contrasting planes he creates reflect light in fascinating ways that bring out the underlying skeletal forms and the scratched and scored metal surface conveys the look of plumage and skin.

Coventry says he spends as much time on the textural surface as he does on the actual construction of the sculpture. Like any good artist, he helps you see rather than just look and he conveys his own sense of fun, joy and exhilaration.

Even his working drawings have a sculptural quality about them and each finished piece becomes a personal statement about a particular bird or animal.

Available to view online until August 14 at



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