Skip Navigation


Tree of Life bronze, Rondo marble

13 Jul 2018 - 28 Oct 2018

An enlightening and unmissable exhibition at Ely Cathedral showing major new works by nationally acclaimed artist and contemporary sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld.

This is to be one of her largest exhibitions in Europe and has been curated by Jacquiline Creswell. 'Tree of Life' takes its name from one of the most important and enduring themes occupying Blumenfeld's work. It captures all the powerful symbolism of this imagery and describes a compelling narrative of renewal, energy, optimism and hope - all themes developed by Helaine over a lifetime and now fully realised in this exceptional exhibition.

Helaine Blumenfeld has been creating bronze and marble sculptures in her Cambridge and Italy-based studios for almost fifty years. Formerly hailed as the next Henry Moore, she had a seminal joint exhibition with him at the Alex Rosenberg Gallery, New York, in 1985. In 2008, the Royal British Society of Sculptors held a major retrospective of Blumenfeld work and, in 2011, she was awarded an honorary OBE to mark her achievements in sculpture.

Helaine Blumenfeld has exhibited her work extensively both in the UK, including at Salisbury Cathedral (2013) and London's Berkeley Square (2015), and internationally in Europe and the United States. She has created more than 90 public sculptures, among the most notable are 'Tempesta' overlooking Hyde Park in London and 'Fortuna' in Jubilee Park at Canary Wharf.

Entry included with Cathedral admission fee.

Exhibition Narrative: Tree of Life

To be human is to experience strength and vulnerability. Today, we frail, brave humans live in a world full of conflict, crisis and aggression, hope and opportunities. It is small wonder that humanity turns toward the arts, to bear witness to the most precious part of what makes us human our human spirit. This exhibition looks fearlessly into the depths of our humanity to seek out the light within us.

Art offers us an oasis for reflection, individual expression and freedom to question and debate. It has the ability to hold a mirror up to the worlds' complexities and offers insights for us to contemplate. The role, the vision and the voice of the artist is now more crucial than ever, within the framework of contemporary debate. The generosity of the artist is to share their creative decisions, choices and conflicts, to risk all to create work that speaks to us. Helaine Blumenfeld expresses herself thus: "To be creative, I must be in touch with my inner vision. This means exposing what is most vulnerable, which requires courage. It means being able to accept and embrace uncertainty."

Sharing her creative challenges, her hopes and struggles to communicate her vision on illuminating the human spirit. This inner searching and striving is expressed in all of her work. In the sculptures, Taking Risks, Crescendo, Exodus and Destiny, we witness the conflict between the sensory pleasures of smooth swelling, folding organic forms, which in turn become precariously whisper thin. We encounter ever-changing surfaces with no definite orientation, sharply contrasted with, frayed, fractured and broken edges. This beauty is precarious. She creates a feeling of energy alongside a sense of stillness and fragility. These sculptures may bring about within us a sense of serenity, melancholy or spiritual longing.

Helaine works, for the most part in bronze and stone. Nicola Upson writes, "The hardness of the materials she uses and the physical process of carving, is a determined rebuttal of the notion that is wrestled from within; but at its most fundamental level, it expresses the fear, pain and risk involved in everything she does. Words like 'turmoil', 'vulnerability and 'tension' appear again and again in the notebook diaries that chart the progress of her work, but each piece that she creates is, in some sense, an effort to transform torment into beauty and hope." Helaine Blumenfeld believes that only by recognising the upheaval and disruption in our lives can we hope to transcend it. This exhibition makes us aware of our vulnerability as well as illuminating our humanity. Empowering us to harness our strengths.
(Jacquiline Creswell, Visual Arts Advisor and Curator).