A Place Apart – Elisabeth Frink’s Studio



The working world of Elisabeth Frink arrived at Messums West with the resurrection of her Woolland studio in our historic tithe barn in 2019. The studio, which Messums rescued from collapse, has been reconstructed to display a collection of original plasters alongside tools and objects salvaged from Woolland, providing a never seen before insight into one of Britain’s foremost sculptors. Elisabeth Frink lived and worked at Woolland, Dorset from 1977 up until her death aged 63 in 1993, and her studio there bore witness to over a decade of prolific drawing and sculpting.

Partnering with renowned architects Stiff + Trevillion, the studio has been revived as an exhibition space displaying works from Frink’s studio and elements of her working practice and environment. As well as providing insight into her creative process, it formed a backdrop to a programme of events exploring creative environments. Running throughout the exhibition was a programme of talks, panel discussions and performance, as well as an architectural installation that gravitated around the concept of ‘creative spaces’.

Our Performance Associate Anthony Matsena presented a new performance Geometry of Fear in response to Frink’s work on 5 September and from 12 September, the building was filled with architectural models on the theme ‘Living within’ – an architectural consideration of space from the point of view of creativity. A Place Apart included a remarkable body of photographs by Ian Chapman: White Out of Dark documenting the process of uncovering more than 80 original plasters that had been removed from her studio and we discovered storage between 2017 – 2019. Some were damaged, some mere fragments, but the sculptures bear the marks of Frink’s hands and express humanitarian feelings and concerns. Their poignancy, strength, mastery and beauty are revealed through the images that Ian made over those two years.

Born in 1930, Frink is amongst the most notable sculptors of the last century whose works continue to be widely exhibited in public and private collections throughout the world. In 1969 Frink was awarded a CBE and in 1971 she was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy. During the decade of 1982-1992 she was awarded a DBE, had a solo exhibition at the Royal Academy and was awarded a Companion of Honour.

The exhibition was made possible with the assistance, support and loans from Dorset History Centre, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Annette Ratuszniak as well as private collectors, Frink’s family and the Messums West friends programme.

Elisabeth Frink’s blue door studio was once at the heart of her creative process. It has been brought back to life and re-imagined to help us better understand her artistic practice, using plaster and other materials, to create sculptures that were generally cast in bronze. We are grateful to all those who have loaned objects and expertise to illustrate her working methods.The building will continue to tell this story but will also evolve. Our vision is to inspire other creative minds, nurture established and new ways of working, and develop a legacy of work that embraces different cultures and cultural practices. To date this has included the performative dance of Anthony Matsena and poetry of Gommie. Ultimately we hope that the building will find a permanent home in the South West and enable future generations of artists to find their own inspiration. Elisabeth Frink was drawn to this region as a place to focus on her humanitarian concerns which she expressed through her art. Within this rural landscape she honed her working practice and drew more deeply upon ideas regarding human actions, as well as the dignity of other species.



Elisabeth Frink

[ 1930
- 1993 ]
Born in Thurlow, Suffolk, Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993) trained at Guildford School of Art (1947-49), and at Chelsea School of Art (1949-1952) under Bernard Meadows and Willi Soukop. These studies, combined with visits to Paris that acquainted her with Giacometti and the works of Rodin, culminated in Frink’s first major exhibition at the Beaux Art Gallery in 1952.

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