Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Big V

I take it all back – I just didn’t get it. Two St Albans residents felt that St Albans did not have enough public art and so they set about doing something about it.

As a lover of art and would-be artist I’m all in favour of public art. Go to Southwold for instance and there is a delightful humorous piece of public art ‘The Water Clock’ by Tim Hunkin on the pier.
At Marlborough school in St Albans every day the pupils walk past a beautiful piece of sculpture created by Barbara Hepworth in the 1950s.
In the magnificent re-furbished St Pancras Station there is a charming sculpture of Victorian architecture and train loving Poet Laureate John Betjeman.

All works of art that, for me, add to the beauty of the environment.

So our two, Andrew Carruthers and Morgan Howell, despite, as far as I can tell, having no experience whatsoever of creating public art, came up with this idea of a sculpture to go into Verulamium Park. And whaddya know, the name of the park begins with 'V', so why not have a sculpture that is the shape of a 'V' and called 'The Big V'? What a novel idea. We could have them up and down the country 'The Big H' in the grounds of nearby Hatfield House, 'The Big L' enhancing the Capability Brown landscape of Luton Hoo. I can see why Goodwin Steel Castings are championing the project.

One of my many faults is that I can be too earnest. I take things too seriously. So after seeing photographs of the artist's impression in the local papers I dashed off po-faced letters to the press, stating my objections. You know the kind of thing, you don't start with the sculpture, you start with the brief, you invite artists of proven excellence to submit proposals, you involve the local community, yah de yah de yah etc.

And now I'm feeling rather foolish. I get it now. It's a huge joke isn't it guys? I mean who could possibly think that two men, who have no track record of producing public art, would be allowed to inflict a huge, steel V-sign in the middle of our beautiful park, on future generations of St Albans' residents?

I now realise that you have a worthy underlying motive of wanting the public to discuss the provision of really good public art in our city. Well good on you, it
's a brilliant way of provoking a debate on the subject – but if you're really serious about it you need an area for public comment on your website.

In the meantime any Snorbens residents (or anyone else who has a view) please feel free to give your opinions here, or to St Albans Council or to the contact e-mail address St Michael‘s village website here.

* Thanks to I Like for the use of the photo which I found on Flickr


Blogger Judith said...

I've sussed it out - it's an enormous split rivet dropped out of some giant's workshop in the sky. It's not meant to be there at all, that's why it's impact is jarring. Wish I could post a link and you would see what I mean.
But if you search google images for split rivets you soon find it.

11/13/2009 8:48 AM  
Blogger Julie Oakley said...

Yes that's a perfect description Judith. They also say, on their website that the maquette they've had made was polished by the very same company that polishes Anish Kapoor's sculptures. I think it's a case of them hoping to have some public art credibility by association.

11/13/2009 12:21 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Best comment i've read against it:

"siobhan87, st. albans says...
12:15pm Sat 7 Mar 09
i was born and raised in st albans but i also work for the public art dept in brighton and hove - now there's a city with artistic vision. we are told by two 'artists' who have appeared out of nowhere that st. albans is the most artistically 'learned' place outside of london. may i just say that the vast majority of londoners cannot even read or write and that artistic learning has got absolutely nothing to do with the appriciation of art. so please stop patronising and flirting with us.
i have commissioned many pieces of public art in brighton and the design for this truely hideous sculpture would never even get pass the application stage. CVs please guys? who are these people and why are you demanding to be allowed to place your piece of junk on a piece of publicly owned land? put it in your back garden.
the idea of more public art in st albans is a good one, what with us being so artistically learned and all. however, the council is infamous for getting everything wrong and there is not even a dedicated public art dept set up in order to deal with commissions. the way public art should and is working in other cities is this; the council writes and sets out the artists' brief in accordance with what the public have first of all requested. artists then respond with their ideas, and members of the council, fundraisers and public representitives all formally discuss and select a successful bidder. this is not happening here; we are being dictated to by the artist, who is telling US what WE need; this relationship is the wrong way around: it is the artist who meets the public's demands, not the other way around.
i do also feel that st albans is far too conservative for any crazy distasteful public art, monuments and benches are more in keeping with the society of the district. i am not saying that they would not be willing to be open minded - far from it, but i think that art should reflect its surroundings and be socially engaging and imaginitive - something this sculpture is not.
it is a badly concieved idea, has had no planning in to the materials or maintenence or cost of cleaning -it is surrounded by ducks remember. and the idea of a 'V'? COME ON! please try harder, this is not a GCSE art project. it is neither interesting, engaging, cost-effctive or what the doctor ordered; if you truely love this park you will be wise to leave well enough alone.
investing the money into cleaning and laying wider paths, perhaps commissioning benches and lampost designs - something which would actually service the public to a greater end, and not just become an eye-sore in 5 years time, would be a better way to spend the money. but this all requires planning, reports, meetings, site visits and a commission to be set up. THEN we will welcome your ideas, but please do not try to force them upon us until then."

11/13/2009 6:57 PM  
Blogger Julie Oakley said...

Thanks Tom, I'd forgotten how perfect this comment was

11/14/2009 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're not at war - we don't need a tank obstacle like this

11/17/2009 9:58 PM  

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