Top Five Public Sculptures: Cardiff

Cardiff is home to over 200 public artworks, from 19th-century commemorative statues to abstract works and celebrations of local industries commissioned as part of 20th-century regeneration projects. It is not difficult to spot many public sculptures as you walk around and they enhance what is already a fascinating City.

This is my personal top five. Let us know if you have any other favourites.

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5. Nereid, by Nathan David, 1996, The Friary

In Greek mythology, the Nereids are sea nymphs which often accompany Poseidon, the god of the sea. This bronze nymph stands on a wave, above a shoal of fish, and holds a sea bird in her left hand. Nereids can be friendly and helpful to sailors fighting perilous storms, so hopefully this one will offer some protection to the sailors setting out from Cardiff harbour.

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4. Sculptures on the National Museums Wales, 1914–1915, Cathays Park

You’ll need to look up to the top of the building to see these sculptures. A number of different sculptors designed the embellishment to the National Museum, including John Thomas Clapperton, Gilbert Bayes, Richard Louis Garbe, Bertram Pegram and David Evans. Some sculptures represent industries and artistic pursuits, including shipping, mining, music and learning. The figurative groups at the front of the building represent different historical periods – prehistoric, classical, medieval and modern. The image above shows the prehistoric and classical periods, both designed by Gilbert Bayes.

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3. All Hands, by Brian Fell, 2001, Custom House Street

Installed alongside the Glamorganshire Canal, this large sculpture depicts the hands of canal workers pulling their boats along with heavy ropes. The Glamorganshire Canal used to run from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff Docks, transporting raw materials from the valleys into Cardiff and beyond, but it went out of use in the 1940s. Most of the canal has been filled in.

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2. Alight, by S. Mark Gubb, 2014, Mary Ann Street

A fairly new public artwork in the City Centre, this 10-metre high illuminated lightning bolt, made from painted steel and glass, was commissioned by Admiral Group, Stoford Developments and EMP Projects, and is sited outside Admiral’s offices. Alight was designed to contain movement and its sides are inset with coloured lights that scroll down from top to bottom, making it very eye-catching, especially when it gets dark.

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1. Welsh National War Memorial by Sir J. Ninian Comper, 1928, Alexandra Gardens

This striking monument commemorates the servicemen and women who died during World War I. A commemorative plaque for those who died during World War II was added in 1949.

The memorial has a circular colonnade surrounding a sunken court, at the centre of which is a group of three bronze sculptures arranged around a stone pylon. The three figures are a soldier, a sailor and an airman, each holding a wreath. Above them, on top of the structure, is a winged male nude representing Victory.

The memorial was designed by Sir Ninian Comper and sculpted by Alfred Pegram. The stone masons were William D. Gough and Messrs E. Turner & Sons. The bronze statues were cast by A. B. Burton.

If you want to find out more about Cardiff’s public art, the city council has produced a Public Art Register. Their Public Art Strategy is also available online.

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Sculptures with attitude – a digital activity for young people

What do you get if you cross a public sculpture with a group of teen somethings? I suppose it could be many things, but our experience tells us you get sculptures with attitude…

We asked a group of music-mad teenagers if they were interested in public sculpture. 55% said ‘perhaps’. Could they name any sculptures? Well no, not really. But give them an iPad, Addtext and background eraser apps, and access to a bank of photographs of public sculptures, their imaginations ran wild. The results certainly made us chuckle.

As part of Culture 24’s Let’s Get Real: Young Audiences project, we at Art UK had the pleasure of working a group of teenagers who had signed up for a week long music workshop at The Hive in Shrewsbury. Curious to discover more about what teenagers think about sculpture and how creative they are with digital technology (very), we asked if they would like to join in with a lunchtime activity. We had been inspired by a little book, ‘Talking Statues’ by Julian Nieman, in which he gives captions and slogans to some of London’s public sculptures. These range from the witty, to the romantic, the slightly risqué to the downright daft; whatever the message, giving these public monuments something to say changes the way you look at them.

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Over the course of four lunchtime sessions, our group captioned dozens of images. Some participants were more active than others – some slogans seemed to trip off the tongue, others required a bit more thought.

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Some participants thought about the message – how could these sculptures voice issues that mattered? Others were quick to quip.

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The project was fun, light-hearted and greatly enjoyable. Some young people stretched themselves further and used the background eraser app to cut out their sculptures and relocate them to a Shrewsbury backdrop.

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How did this project affect me? Well, I now walk around putting words in other sculptures’ mouths. And I think our group of teenagers do too – 70% thought they would notice public sculptures more in the future as a result of the project.

60% also said that the project had increased their interest in using digital art-resources. Art UK is the nation’s online home for public collections with over 200,000 oil paintings, which will shortly be supplemented by watercolours, prints, drawings and from next year, sculpture. We aim to be a digital art resource for everyone – young and old.

80% of participants said they would like to share their results on social media. Over the coming days we will do just that, in partnership with The Hive. You can see the results on Instagram: @artukdotorg, Twitter: @artukdotorg and Facebook: Art UK. Do share your own versions with us here at Art UK.

Camilla Stewart, Art UK Commercial Partnerships Manager

Photo credits: Katey Goodwin and Camilla Stewart

Top Five Public Sculptures: Llandudno

I recently found myself with a free morning in Llandudno, a beautiful seaside town on the north Wales coast. Searching for things to do in the Tourist Information Office, I discovered that the best way to explore the town on foot is by following their Alice in Wonderland Trail. This was especially interesting as the main markers on the trail are a series of sculptures and statues. As part of Art UK’s upcoming sculpture project, it is public sculptures like these which will be catalogued and photographed, and made available for free on Art UK, giving world-wide access to public art and monuments across the UK.

The connection between Llandudno and Alice in Wonderland is through Lewis Carroll’s inspiration for Alice – Alice Liddell, whose family had a holiday home in the town. The landscape is also thought to have inspired Carroll, as some local landmarks make an appearance in the Alice books. Some of the rocks on the western shore, for example, are thought to be the Walrus and the Carpenter.

I bought a trail leaflet from the Tourist Information Centre, but the trail can also be downloaded as an app. Both cost £2.99. Following the trail around the whole town would probably take a whole day and because I didn’t have time to visit every point on the map, I chose a few sculptures that would take me around the town, along Llandudno Bay and across to the West Shore. Here are my highlights:

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  1. The White Rabbit, North Western Gardens, 2012, carved wood by Simon Hedger

Located in the middle of Llandudno, this large rabbit clasps his over-sized watch under his arm. His pose makes it looks as if he will run off any moment to his next appointment.

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  1. Alice, on the corner of Augusta Street and Vaughan Street, 2012, carved wood by Simon Hedger

Alice herself is depicted in a larger than life statue in front of a small door, having just consumed the ‘Eat Me’ cake.

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  1. The Mad Hatter, Promenade, North Shore, 2012, carved wood by Simon Hedger

The Mad Hatter sits on the sea-front holding a teapot, with the dormouse by his side. This was a popular attraction on the sunny spring morning I was in Llandudno and I had to queue up to take a photograph.

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  1. The Queen of Hearts, Gloddaeth Street, 2012, carved wood by Simon Hedger

This imposing statue of the Queen of Hearts depicts her in the middle of shouting ‘Off with her head!’

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  1. The Cheshire Cat, Gloddaeth Avenue, 2012, carved wood by Simon Hedger

This lovely, big ginger cat has a grin so large it takes up most of his face.

All of these sculptures were made by Simon Hedger, who was commissioned to create this series of characters by Llandudno Council to commemorate the 160th anniversary of Alice Liddell’s birth. They were all carved from a giant oak tree sourced in Bedfordshire.

There are many more sculptures to explore around the town, including a whole park of Alice-related sculptures in Happy Valley commissioned in 2000 as part of a National Lottery refurbishment programme. Unrelated to Alice in Wonderland, I am going to squeeze in one last sculpture – this Kashmir goat which sits on top of the Great Orme at the edge of the town.

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Sculpted by Graham High, the goat was installed in 2002 at the opening of the refurbished visitor centre. It’s worth pretending to be a mountain goat and climb to the top of the Great Orme, as on the day I was there it was so clear you could see across to the Isle of Man.

All images by Katey Goodwin.

Antony Gormley’s ‘A View, A Place’ – where is it now? We now know!

Historic England’s exhibition, ‘Out There: Our Post-War Public Art’, which has just opened at Somerset House, London, highlights the fates and fortunes of sculptures and reliefs created and installed across the country over the last 70 years. Whilst some have been saved, celebrated and are widely loved, many pieces of our public art have been lost, damaged, moved or destroyed.

To prepare for the exhibition, Historic England put out an appeal for information on missing or unidentified works, and received a much greater response than they anticipated. With the help of organisations such as the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (partners in our Your Sculpture project) Historic England has tracked down works that had previously been thought to be lost forever.

I was recently told about a missing sculpture last seen in Stoke-on-Trent in the 1980s. Antony Gormley’s sculpture ‘A View, A Place’ was one of a number of art works sited at the Stoke-on-Trent National Garden Festival, which was held in the city from 1 May to 26 October 1986. ‘A View, A Place’, a life-sized lead, fibreglass and plaster statue, was positioned at the Festival’s highest point looking out over the Fowlea Valley, next an OS trigonometry marker-stone.Gormley_Sheffimage

In the following image you can just see the statue on top of the hill, provoking interest from visitors to the Garden Festival. Other sculptures can be seen in the pond in the foreground.

Gormley at The National Garden Festival 1986 . A View A Place

Apparently, after the festival had closed, the statue was removed from its position, but its current whereabouts are unknown. There is no mention of the sculpture on Antony Gormley’s website. The site is now completely enclosed by woodland, although the OS marker stills remains.

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Update (9 September 2016): I am very happy to say that I have been contacted by Vivien Lovell who was the Sculpture Co-ordinator for the Stoke-on-Trent National Garden Festival in 1986 and commissioned the Antony Gormley ‘A View, a Place’ amongst many other artworks. Vivien reports that the sculpture ‘was damaged towards the end of the Festival and returned to Antony when the Festival ended. The hollow eyes of the lead sculpture had become distended by people poking their fingers into the work. I photographed the damage and sent slides to Antony and he and I agreed that the sculpture should be de-installed and returned to him at his studio. … The work in question by Antony Gormley was not a purchase commission for permanent installation: the artist was paid a facility fee to create the work as a temporary piece on the basis that it was returned to him after the Festival.’ Antony Gormley has confirmed with Vivien that the sculpture was returned to him at the time and is still in his storage.

Many thanks to Vivien for this most useful update.

Some of the other artworks from the National Garden Festival still exist and have been re-sited around the City:

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Her Head, 1986, by Dhruva Mistry, now installed in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. Commissioned for the National Garden Festival in 1986 with funds from the Henry Moore Foundation, then donated to the City of Stoke-on-Trent in 1987.

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Capo, 1986, by Vincent Woropay, now installed in Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent. This colossal brick head of Josiah Wedgwood was in storage for many years before being repositioned in 2009. It is now sited by Etruria Hall, previously the home of Josiah Wedgwood and close to the location of his 1769 pottery factory. Etruria Hall (which can be seen in the background) is now part of a hotel.

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Tree Thought, 1986, Denise de Cordova, now installed in the Secret Garden at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent. Made from Ancaster Stone, a Jurassic oolitic limestone, about 170 million years old, from Lincolnshire.

Image credits, from top to bottom:

By SleafordSue (via English Wikipedia) – Uploaded at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9741722

Image taken by Dave Ball, 1986. ©Sheffield Hallam University http://public-art.shu.ac.uk/other/0000008b.htm

Image taken by ©Terry Woolliscroft, 1986, and reproduced with kind permission of the copyright holder

Image taken by ©Glen Stoker, 2012. http://glenstoker.co.uk/index.php/work/once

Images of Her Head, Capo and Tree Thought by Katey Goodwin, 2015.

 

Call for papers: Émigré Sculptors Conference 2016

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The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA) and 3rd Dimension, in collaboration with the City and Guilds of London Art School, will be presenting a two-day conference in London on 26 and 27 May 2016, looking at the ways émigré sculptors working in Britain between 1540 and the present day have contributed to the development of British sculpture.

The conference has a broad remit, and the organisers are interested in hearing from scholars exploring a wide range of themes relating to the experience, reception and artistic activity of émigré sculptors who came to Britain during this period. While this includes those who were forced to leave their home countries due to political, social or religious pressures, such as refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in the 1930s, we are also interested in papers on artists who chose freely to migrate to Britain, whether permanently or temporarily.

Closing date for proposals for papers: 1 February 2016.

Please visit the 3rd Dimension website for further details, http://3rd-dimensionpmsa.org.uk/emigre-sculptors-conference-2016/

Image credit: ‘Alfred Wolmark’, 1913, by Henri Gaudier-Brezeska, York Art Gallery, YORAG:876. Photograph by Colin White on behalf of the Public Catalogue Foundation, 2015.

Recreating Sculptures in Minecraft

I haven’t really taken much notice of Minecraft in the past, as it just seemed to be another computer game which kept my teenage son from interacting with the rest of the family. A few recent museum-based initiatives, however, have sought to use the game as a means to reach young people and engage with their collections in new ways.

Anyone with children will be familiar with Minecraft. This open-world, sandbox computer game is enormously popular with 5-16 year olds of both sexes, with over 100 million users having registered since the first full version was released in 2011. Players mine for resources and then use those resources to craft things. There are multiple game-play modes, including survival mode where players mine as much as they can before night time (when bad things happen), adventure mode where users can visit other crafted worlds, and creative mode which allows users to create landscapes and buildings without being threatened by the monsters at night.

A special version of the game designed specifically for schools, MinecraftEdu, has been developed, as the game has been shown to be a useful tool in teaching STEM subjects, art, history and computer coding. Minecraft is now being made available to every post-primary school in Northern Ireland as part of a project devised by CultureTECH, with funding from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

A number of museums have started using Minecraft as a tool to engage their audiences. Projects include:

Tate Worlds where Minecraft worlds have been created based on Tate art works;

Museumcraft where users are invited to build the exterior and interior of the British Museum in Minecraft;

Shakescraft, a competition by Shakespeare Birthplace Trust which challenged users to use Minecraft to imagine what Shakespeare’s final home may have looked like.

Museum of London Archaeology Challenge Days and Family Festivals, which have included challenges to build the Rose Theatre and the Roman Baths in Minecraft.

Despite it have been available in my home since its launch, I had my first go at Minecraft at the Museum of London in December, as part of a meeting on interacting digitally with family audiences, (the meeting was called Digital Families and was organised by Kids in Museums). A workshop on using Minecraft to engage families included a practical session to create the Temple of Mithras, in creative mode, using blueprints provided by the Museum of London. We worked on iPads in groups of three to help promote collaboration, although the youngest member of our group was so much faster than the others that he’d built one end of the temple in the time it took me to put down a few blocks. I meant to take some photos of the workshop activity, but I was so engrossed, by the time I looked up from the IPad everyone else had gone.

Spurred on this first experience of the game, I decided to spend some time during the Christmas break seeing what else I could create. My son is 18 now and doesn’t play Minecraft much these days, but he still has copies on his PC and X-Box, and promised to help me. According to him, the PC version is slightly better, but as he’d forgotten his password to his PC Minecraft account, we had to use the X-box.

My idea was to recreate some sculptures in Minecraft creative mode. Due to the nature of the game and its blocky style, I thought that an abstract, blocky sculpture would be a good place to start. I chose Barbara Hepworth’s ‘The Family of Man’, from ’Nine Figures on a Hill – Ancestor I, Ancestor II, Parent I’. Made in 1970, these three sculptures are on permanent loan from the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, to Snape Maltings, Suffolk.

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We chose a green block to match the bronze of the Hepworth sculpture and got to work:

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I made a start on the right-hand sculpture, but very quickly had the X-box controller taken off me as I was taking too long to put the blocks in the right place. My son took over and progress was much faster. We did work together though, deciding on how many blocks should make up each section of the sculptures and where they should be placed.

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The result wasn’t a like-for-like recreation of Hepworth’s sculptures, but hopefully it does represent the essence of her work. We also attempted to recreate the Suffolk landscape in which the sculptures are sited. There weren’t any rushes in Minecraft, so we had to use long grass.

Having recreated a real sculpture, we had a go at recreating a work and its surrounding landscape depicted in a painting. The oil painting ‘Sculpture in a Landscape’ by Patrick Caulfield was painted in 1966 and is in the Arts Council Collection. It features a large sculpture, consisting of two white blocks, on a grey plinth in a rocky grey landscape.

Patrick Caulfield screenshot

We couldn’t create circles very well, so used a cross to represent the circular holes in each of the blocks. To represent the grey landscape behind the sculpture, we built up layers of grey blocks, removing the grass and replacing it with granite. We would have built a bigger landscape around the sculpture, but we didn’t have enough time. If I do some more on it, I’ll post a new photo.

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I was pleased with our first attempts at recreating sculptures in Minecraft, as it gave me a few ideas on how it could be used as an activity during the Your Sculpture project. We would probably need some help from more expert Minecrafters though, to develop this into something meaningful and beneficial!

Help find missing public art

You may have seen this is in the news this week, but Historic England’s initiative to locate missing post-war public art and sculptures is worth repeating.

One of the organisations which has contributed to the research is the Public Monuments and Sculpture Associations (PMSA), a major partner in the Your Sculpture project. One of the outcomes of Your Sculpture is to identify sculptures at risk and we hope to be able to contribute to Historic England’s initiative by creating a thorough visual catalogue of all public sculpture in England (and beyond).

The following is from Historic England’s press release:

‘Historic England has warned that England’s post-war public art, created by some of the most important artists of the twentieth century, is “disappearing before the public’s eyes”. It has revealed that a growing number of sculptures, architectural friezes and murals – made between the Second World War and the mid-1980s – have been destroyed, sold, lost or stolen. Through its own research, and information from the Twentieth Century Society, the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, historians and some of the artists themselves, the government body is building up a picture of just how much art has disappeared. It says England has lost a worrying amount of artwork from the streets, housing estates, work places, shopping centres and schools for which the pieces were designed. Although many of the works have been destroyed completely, some could still be out there. Historic England is issuing a call for information, evidence and photographs from the public to help track them down and inform a major exhibition at Somerset House in London, as part of its Utopia Season.

From a bronze Henry Moore sculpture stolen to order for its scrap value, to an abstract sculpture by Barry Flanagan in Cambridge that was vandalised beyond repair, or the seven metre long steel structure by Bryan Kneale that was sold at auction last year, these public artworks are vulnerable and need protecting. In 2012 Wakefield Council went as far as to remove its Henry Moore from public display and put it in secure storage because of the spate of thefts. Often, the artists themselves don’t know their works are in danger until it’s too late. The public is rarely consulted on what should happen next. Since they were installed from the early 1950s onwards, works have been vandalised, destroyed, sold and stolen. The price of scrap metal, the need for many public bodies to fill funding gaps, pressure from redevelopment, and vandalism, are all reasons why this national collection of public art is being eroded.

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Historic England (previously known as English Heritage) is currently identifying the Post-War public art that could be protected through listing. It’s also running an exhibition at Somerset House, “Out There: Our Post-War Public Art” from 3rd February to 10th April 2016, to help people to learn about this national collection and the stories behind it, so they will recognise the importance of these works. The organisation wants to strengthen the public’s sense of ownership of its own collection, making it harder for it be stolen or destroyed.

Historic England has compiled a list of works that have been lost, sold, stolen or destroyed which can be found www.historicengland.org.uk/missingpublicart .

If anyone knows anything about the fate of these works, or other Post-War works not mentioned here, they can get in touch by emailing OutThere@historicengland.org.uk or calling 0207 973 3250. The organisation is also asking for any pictures of the missing pieces that have been taken over the years by members of the public. It’s hoped any further details can become part of the “Out There” exhibition, and the stories behind the disappearance of these works of art can be told.’

Featured image at top: The Watchers, Lynn Chadwick, 1960, Roehampton University, South West London © Historic England. STOLEN – In 2006 thieves stole one of the three figures that make up the Grade II listed piece called “The Watchers”. The sculpture sits in the grounds of Roehampton University and the two meter high figure was sawn off at the legs. Police estimate it would have taken at least eight people to carry the art work away. Despite investigations, no one knows what has happened to the sawn off figure.

Second image: The Pineapple, William Mitchell, 1977, Basildon, Essex © Historic England. LOST – Affectionately named “The Pineapple” by Basildon residents, the sculptural fountain was commissioned by the Ford Motor Company. The work was outside the front of Trafford House, the firm’s newly acquired premises in Cherrydown East, Basildon. It only came to light the piece had gone missing in 2014 but it was last seen in 2011 when Colonnade, the owner and redeveloper of Trafford House, moved it into storage as it planned to turn the building into housing. Colonnade reported it missing in 2012. Made of Corten metal, a kind of weathering steel, each triangle was hand cut and painstakingly dipped in water to achieve the rusted red colour Mitchell wanted. The artist estimated it would cost around £0.5 million to recreate the work today.