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Posts Tagged ‘public art’

Every now and then Michael Condron emails those who’ve taken a previous interest in his sculptures with news of his latest creations. You may recall that he is the artist who created the sculpture “Progression” for Basildon Town Centre, which was later moved by the local council in an act not far short of municipal vandalism:

"Progression" - Michael Condron

“Progression” – Michael Condron

He has certainly been busy, creating a series of exciting and beautiful designs for very varied audiences. The gallery below uses the pictures in his newsletter, reproduced here with permission. I am also cribbing his text for the descriptions.

  1. The History Tree is a collaborative public art project with Anne Schwegmann-Fielding for Kent’s new central library & archive.   Rising up the library wall is a polished stainless steel sapling, sculpted to depict life through all seasons. LED lighting illuminates the artwork at night, with strands of colour leading up the trunk of the sculpture. Work is now under way on the paved “shadow” tree, extending across the paving at the foot of the wall artwork. Its leaves are engraved metal, with text and images to reflect the history of Kent and the thoughts and memories of its people.  These stories were gathered through a programme of art workshops across the County. Participants drew, wrote, etched and sculpted their experiences of Kent in a variety of media.
  2. As part of the History Tree project Michael has created a flurry of mosaic leaves to set along the frontage with gorgeous coloured glass mosaic. A way-marking scheme is to follow, with leaf trails along pedestrian routes to the new library.
  3. He was commissioned to make a sculpture for a Civil War heritage site in Newark.  The “Queen’s Sconce” is a large 18th century cannon emplacement earthwork set up by the royalist defenders of Newark.  Usually, these things were destroyed by the victors, but thanks to a bout of plague at that time, the attacking forces moved on sharpish.  So Newark has one of the best surviving examples of this structure in the UK.
  4. After consulting with Newark’s museum services and local residents, he developed a design and created the Royalist Cannon.
  5. The surface of the artwork is a decorative design using images and phrases from the Royalist side. Heraldic emblems from King Charles I’s and Newark’s town crests are combined and woven together to form the surface detail.
  6. He was also asked to create artwork for the new footbridge that links the monument to the “mainland”. In the design a chained portcullis representing the Parliamentarians flows towards the centre of the bridge, meeting strands of fleurs-de-lis, ermine and other imagery from Charles I’s coat of arms at the “sconce” end.  The curve of the bridge is based on the trajectory of a cannonball.
  7. Molecular is a commission for King’s College Hospital in London
  8. Each sphere in Molecular is made up of a variety of figures supporting each other. This artwork was developed with Acrylicize, a design company he worked with on his Braintree Hospital sculpture.
  9. Finally, he created a piece for Standlake primary school in Oxfordshire. The children made drawings for their new Peace Garden and the sculpture incorporates their ideas in its surface detail.

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I’ve mentioned my love of illusions before.

One of the things that has captivated me since I first stumbled across it online is that genre of art where artists compose 3D illusions on pavements, usually out of chalk. There is something genuinely fascinating about the way the brain tricks the eye and some of the pictures are simply genius.

A number of those below are by the Belgium-based British artist Julian Beever, whose work has become world-renowned. According to his own website, he has been creating street art like this for over twenty years. However, it’s only in the age of the Internet, that people have been able to showcase work that is often ephemeral, washed away with the next big downpour.

The YouTube clip, below the gallery, shows the construction and reaction to a piece of work created in the centre of Stolkholm by Erik Johansson, a Swedish artist. His giant artwork was covered by various newspapers around the world, including Metro.

For all its beauty, street art remains controversial, being regarded by many as graffiti. I enjoy the anarchic beauty of it, however, and its potential for breaking up the grey angularity of so many of our modern urban spaces.

Enjoy.

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Michael Condron emailed today with details of his latest sculptures.

Interested readers, and particularly those in the Basildon Arts Collective, may recall that at the height of the furore surrounding The Woodsman I blogged on several occasions about Condron’s works of public art, bemoaning the treatment meted out to Progression.

I’ve extracted the photographs from his email and placed them in the gallery below.

Enjoy them, admire them and appreciate a quite extraordinary local talent. And then question why it is that Basildon’s Conservative administration have consistently demonstrated such hostility to public art, including Condron’s own Progression.

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There is something excruciatingly emotional about the loneliness of buildings abandoned to decay. I touched on it in my previous post Cold War ghosts: legacies in concrete and film and thought it a fairly solitary interest of mine.

I was completely wrong.

Sitting on the train tonight, and casually flicking through the Evening Standard, I came across an article on the UrbEx movement – UrbEx short for ‘Urban Exploration’. UrbExers combine a passion for adventure and exploration with a love of crumbling urban landscapes, testing the boundaries of the law in terms of trespass and safety. Regardless of your view of this last particular aspect, the results of their efforts can be startlingly beautiful and moving, capturing that sense of past lives that haunts abandoned buildings.

The Standard’s definition of UrbEx is succinct:

“Urban Exploration is the art of gaining access to parts of the city that are off-limits, including catacombs, tunnels, abandoned industrial sites and old municipal buildings. This often involves trespassing but rarely breaking and entering, as true UrbExers make their way in through existing breaches and frown upon theft. If caught, they will usually be escorted from the premises without prosecution. Dangers such as rotting floors, asbestos and faulty electrics are set against the adrenaline of discovery. Most UrbExers are keen photographers, drawn to the beauty of decay and, as Scott Cadman says, “being as far away from other people as possible”.

Cadman is a seasoned UrbExer with a stunning gallery of photographs. His series on West Park Mental Hospital are particularly amazing – click on the corridor picture below to see his UrbEx collection:

Corridor - West Park Mental Hospital

Corridor - West Park Mental Hospital, Scott Cadman

Flickr is host to dozens of UrbEx collections, many of which are pooled. Both urban explorers and UrBexer’s (Urban Exploration) are two such pools worth checking out if you find yourself mesmerised as I do by these broken, empty buildings.

Thierry Buysse is a Belgian UrbExer whose website is simply stunning. Closer to home, urbex|uk is a stylishly minimalist site that highlights some of the UK’s most striking abandoned buildings. There are even UK forums such as 28dayslater where enthusiasts can discuss different sites.

And the cross-over into art doesn’t end with photography.

Urban Explorers: Into The Dark is an award-winning  U.S. documentary. Even if you never get around to watching the film, you can see it clipped on CBS:

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At last night’s Council Meeting I moved the following motion (see item 13):

“The Council welcomes the demonstration of public support for reinstating The Woodsman in St Martin’s Square, recognises the talent and generosity of Dave Chapple in giving “The Woodsman” to the people of Basildon, and commits to its restoration and reinstatement in St Martin’s Square at the earliest practical opportunity.”

I regretted that no administration had looked after “The Woodsman”. However, I pointed out that “The Woodsman’s continuing neglect, taken together with what they had done to other pieces of public art and Cllr Tony Ball’s comments on the funding of “Progression”, showed that the Conservative Party in Basildon (not nationally) had a clear position: they are not supportive of public art. I said that this seemed inconsistent with their Conservative colleagues at County Hall, their own press release and survey – and the public response on Facebook to “The Woodsman”. (I pointed out that “The Woodsman” had more than ten times more friends on Facebook than Stephen Metcalfe, the Conservative PPC, on his campaign page – and that the page for “The Woodsman” had only been running for a few weeks.)

The public survey is very interesting.

As you can see, response was low.  220 people offered an opinion. (I’ll state it again, despite the Council saying this survey had wide coverage, I saw nothing and so didn’t take part.) However, whilst it does show that 74% of people thought “The Woodsman” should be replaced, it also showed that a majority of people wanted a piece of public art in St Martin’s Square: either “The Woodsman”, another piece by Dave or a newly commissioned piece of public art. Just to be clear, I say a majority as if you take the totals for “The Woodsman”, “King Edgar’s Head” and a new piece of public art you get 130. That is 59% of 220 – a majority. Sadly, though, I suspect this survey was just another cynical manipulation of figures to present the result they wanted: “The Woodsman” gone and purple squid lights installed instead. (They are actually going to be putting the Town Clock where “The Woodsman” used to be. It’s a marvellous and unique piece of engineering, as Cllr Horgan said, but surely it should be put back in the Town Centre – where it was designed to be?)

Whatever people’s views on public art in general, I made the argument that “The Woodsman” was different: made from material from Basildon, made in Basildon, by an artist from Basildon, in front of people from Basildon and then handed over to Basildon – for free.

Finally, earlier in the meeting, Cllr Ball, talking on another item, had said that his Conservative Council was a listening administration and that they would hear what the people wanted and then deliver. I concluded by reminding the Council of what he had said, pointing out that 162 people had said take “The Woodsman” down in their consultation – but more than 1500 people were now asking for it to be put back. The people would be waiting for him to listen and deliver.

The Conservative Councillors commended Dave Chapple on his work. However, during the meeting I was accused of electioneering, making politics out of “The Woodsman”, and was told that the Conservative administration would take no lessons on support for public art as they had repaired the “Mother and Child” fountain.  I was also told that that Dave had always wanted to see “The Woodsman” in Wat Tyler. They had consulted the public – and the public had asked for it to be taken down (all 162 of them).

The motion was defeated with every single Conservative Councillor present voting against – the three Liberal Democrats and the Labour Councillors present voting for.

I am a little wrung out with it all now to be honest. How sad to think that we are in this mess because no-one could be bothered to put a bit of teak oil on “The Woodsman” as Dave had requested.

I didn’t know Dave and I don’t know his family. I know one or two of his friends, but not very well. I simply want to see the “The Woodsman” repaired and restored and put back on display, either in St Martin’s Square or a suitable location that is actually in the town, not tucked away like some unofficial sculpture museum (graveyard?).

Let’s hope that the years of neglect have not left it damaged beyond repair.

And if they are not going to put him back, at least listen to what the majority of respondents were telling the Council in that survey: they want a piece of public art there.

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You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I posted a picture of the “Mother and Child” statue in Basildon Town Centre covered in ice. Thursday morning I was in Basildon very early and the statue looked spectacular. I thought it worth sharing a picture.

“Mother and Child” iced over again

“Mother and Child” iced over again

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Those who are interested in “The Woodsman” may wish to know that at the next Council meeting (18 February 2010 at 6pm) I will be moving the following motion for discussion:

“The Council welcomes the demonstration of public support for reinstating The Woodsman in St Martin’s Square, recognises the talent and generosity of Dave Chapple in giving The Woodsman to the people of Basildon, and commits to its restoration and reinstatement in St Martin’s Square at the earliest practical opportunity.”

It is the last item on the meeting’s agenda – and the agenda is a very long one as it will also deal with setting the level of Council Tax (there is therefore a danger that it might not be reached).

The Council meets in the St George’s Suite and it is a meeting open to the public (public question time is the first item on the agenda – questions have to be submitted in writing three days before (the deadline is usually regarded as 10am on Monday).

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