Book review: The Sculptor Bernard Reynolds
by Gwynneth Reynolds and Pat Hurrell: Sansom & Company, £30
People who knew Bernard Reynolds (1915 -1997) will find a great deal of interest in this book. His sculptures which can be seen locally, his teaching at Ipswich Art School and the College, his life drawing groups at home, his involvement with local societies and his family life are all vividly recalled in the book. But as I read it through and related the text to the photographic illustrations it dawned on me more and more that Bernard Reynolds wasn't just a good regionally based sculptor but an artist worthy of national respect and appreciation.
I marvelled at his range of interests and skills which were so inter-related - drawing, woodcarving, etching, photography, and the use of several kinds of metals which he could master thanks in part to his war-time experience as an engineer in Norwich. But all this craftsmanship was put to the service of his observations of nature and mankind. "I was one who was always interested in things, in specimens, and so that brought me round strongly on the side of sculpture ... the forms of solid nature rather than views of nature." And to quote Bernard again, this time apropos of his bird skull series, " ... .it's symbolic of primaeval life which runs through nearly all my themes ... an upthrust of growth and energy."
These are the qualities which make his work perennial. Far from being an artist of gimmickry, his work was deeply serious and the product of years of experience. In his later life he thought it might have appeared unfashionable, but I don't believe work that is so rooted in nature can ever be sidelined. So we should treasure his semi-abstract Ship on the Civic Drive roundabout, his little Mycomorph in the garden behind Christchurch Mansion, his Conch Avian 111 and Head of Jonathan purchased by IBC, and should conserve his Pylons at the College, and should help to find a home for his Sea Bird Skull. The photo below is of Bernard supervising the re-locating of the Ship on the roundabout in February 1995.
The book contains a well written text and good illustrations of his sculptures and drawings of many subjects. There are a few works which sound important but aren't illustrated, unavoidably I presume. However, it is a splendid production, both sophisticated and homely and therefore a very fitting tribute to a fine artist.