Bill Woodrow, R.A. 1948 -
Photo: R.A./Paul Highnam
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Fingerswarm, 2000
bronze with gold leaf, 580 X 350 X 310 mm
Cast made by AB Fine Art Foundry.
Diploma Work given by Bill Woodrow, R.A., accepted March 2008
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Bill Woodrow's Fingerswarm evokes a variety of responses from the viewer. The piece represents a balance of literal and abstract expressions. As a result, Fingerswarm's meaning evolves as more time is spent with it. Initially, one is lured in by its shiny exterior, or perhaps by an attraction to the gold-leaf covering the outside, causing it to glimmer. However, on closer examination other things become more noticeable, and more sinister qualities are revealed that seem in opposition to its outward appearance. Fingerswarm is unified by the gold, but also is individualized and as a swarm of bees on a hive.

The reference to something living adds to Fingerswarm's sense of warmth. However, the contrast between the warmth of the main body and the coolness of its supporting structure also becomes distracting. The contradiction between hot and cold forces the eye to examine the base and recognize the structure as human fingers, one of which is immersed in a pot. A sense of unease is created by the awareness that this piece has a potentially sinister quality.

Fingerswarm is part of Woodrow's thematic series The Beekeeper. Like other works in the series, Fingerswarm has a variety of interpretations and meanings. In one moment sinister, in another as a potential positive life-force. Taken literally, one may begin thinking of the adage 'the finger in the honey pot' which may lead to an analysis of the work as a symbol or statement about consumerism. On the other hand, Fingerswarm also illustrates the symbiotic relationship between bees and humans, which is a theme that recurs in The Beekeeper series. The possibilities of interpretation are seemingly endless.

From November 2001 until January 2002, Fingerswarm was featured in the exhibition 'Close Encounters of the Art Kind' at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The exhibition explored how contemporary sculpture functioned in the homes of ordinary people. The householders hosted each work for a period of time and recorded their reactions and interpretations. The hosts were not given any artist information or the work's title so their experiences would not be influenced by outside information.

The information is documented on: the Victoria & Albert Museum website