The latest addition to Peter Jensen's gallery of oddball muses is British sculptor Barbara Hepworth, who, at the pinnacle of her success in the early sixties, was the most famous female sculptor in the world. Just like her lover Henry Moore, her specialty was organic shapes with holes in them, the
kind of things that modern-art-phobes made very merry with. Jensen placed those holes at the very heart of his new collection, either literally (the shoes, the Bernstock Speirs hats) or figuratively, in the sense of a hole being something that reveals layers and depth. So one viscose dress was "holed" to reveal another one underneath. And the notion of layers was expressed in doubled pants, jackets, bags, or shirts with doubled sleeves. Roll one set up and you'd be ready for work, just like that tough old bird of a sculptress.
Hepworth had to be tough. She was a woman in a man's world. Jensen has always toyed with the male-female dynamic. Here, he duplicated the short-sleeve smocks Hepworth wore in her studio in a masculine banker's stripe. He also showed the same shape in virginal white lace, but he made sure to layer it over a man's white cotton shirt. As for the influence of Hepworth's work, you could point to the sculptural feel of coats with softly padded hips, or a shift patched from her signature shapes, or the skirt with the sculptural hole cut high on the thigh—or the latest of Jensen's wonderful prints, which collaged the artist's studio and garden into one attractively obtuse whole.
Hepworth lived by the sea in Cornwall, so another print featured sunbathing couples. It had a slightly porny Kama Sutra vibe, perfect for Jensen, who thrives on not-quite-rightness. But it also unwittingly highlighted the problem with this collection. In the past, Jensen's muses have always had a deep connection with his own skewed view of life, so whatever they inspired was a natural extension of him. But Hepworth was a recent addition. She needed research. It showed. There was something overly academic about the collection. Jensen himself probably nailed the problem when he described Hepworth's appeal for him: "So bland." Mind you, his effort to capture the austerity of her era with a print of hand-drawn sequins—remember the women who used to draw lines down their legs to copy the seam of a silk stocking?—could very well be a gift for wannabe glamour-pusses in Europe's downward-spiraling economies.