Leslie Turner Bowrey: Hand Sculptures

Mark on his paintings: What I found captivating about Leslie Turner was the way she unconsciously produced these shapes with her hands when she hit the ball. They are so beautiful to me. In a way they are like reifications of her concentration. Hand sculptures! And as sculptures they are forms that reflect her capacity to focus and hold time so as to direct her energy into each ball, which contributes to each point, and to each game, and to each match. I like to think that throughout her career she produced millions of these hand sculptures.

Hand Sculptures

Leslie Turner Bowrey hitting a groundstroke, fingers elegantly splayed in her non-racquet hand.  In tennis the off-hand’s balance, ballet. Not primary, but partner. Unnoticed, noticed. A viola in symphonies. A viola in string quartets.

I read books and books about hands: visionaries, carpenters, lovers, musicians. Pianists, violinists, classical guitarists–the instrument I played–the right hand’s combination of flesh and fingernail touching just right each vibratory string while the left hand stretched mind’s desired presicion up and down the neck’s fretboard in endless combinations. Hand sculptures! Mind making hand doing something to be done as well as possible. Leslie Turner did it with her elegant groundstrokes, her control of spin and power and angle and depth, her two French Open titles on clay, her eleven grand slam doubles Championships, her seven victories over Margaret Court.

Mark Shorter: I did two paintings. My preference is probably for the “long-arm” one, because of the way it has a more complex relationship with the figure and ground. It reaches across the plane shifting forward and back, shimmering in time. The “just hand” one is different in that it is produced in fewer strokes and that confidence is direct and exciting in the way it captures a moment. I painted it last and very quickly, by this point I had come to know Leslie’s hand so well I could have probably painted it by heart.

Artist Bio: “Leslie” is painted by Mark Shorter. This work is the result of a collaborative dialogue of art and words on famous Australian tennis players with Mark Shorter, the endlessly innovative Australian artist and head of sculpture at the University of Melbourne. My thanks to Gertrude Contemporary, the leading incubator of contemporary art in Australia, for hooking us up. You can check out our previous collaborations here.

More on Leslie Turner Bowrey at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

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