As one gets older you begin to realise how quickly time passes and how much things change (shades of Dylan again…). One day (and it doesn’t seem so long ago) I accompanied the sculptor Paul Mason on a trip across to Clipsham just north of Rutland Water to see him finishing off a new work in stone – Leaf Fields.
This piece had been commissioned by Hertfordshire’s RIBA branch to be sited in the county – there were (I now have discovered) three potential locations for it but the one chosen was St. Albans and, specifically, adjacent to the Alban Arena (appropriately enough designed by Sir Freddie Gibberd, a long time supporter of Paul’s work). Like so much public art its life has been marked by both love & devotion and hostility & admonishment, and often just plain neglect. Luckily for this piece it has its protectors – in particular those pictured above, foremost among them Professor Chris McIntyre of Herts University (centre in picture) who was instrumental in having it relocated a short way from its original site.
Of course the passage of time has given the creamy Clipsham limestone a deal of patina, some mosses and lichen. Whether or not this ought to be removed when it is finally re-sited (due to happen in a few years when a new City Centre Museum & Visitor Centre, – an ambitious redevelopment of the Town Hall – will be completed is a debatable point. What it does prove beyond any doubt is that a relatively short passage of time, just over thirty years, and nature reasserts its primacy over culture.
over times long past. Many eons ago I was party to an explosion of public art across the United Kingdom…aiding and abetting a variety of schemes that, for better or worse, were intended to ‘beautify’ and ‘edify’ public enjoyment of the environment. It seems it wasn’t confined to the UK as here in the Lunigiana (wedged in the borderlands between Tuscany and Liguria in Italy) there’s a fair amount of it too. Including this rather splendid piece in Piazza Cavour in Aulla. It seems we are witness to a lively game of geometric footie…or calcio as its known here. Or perhaps, given the garb sported, a game of volleyball or some such. Whatever the occasion and the exercise there’s a deal to admire – I’m especially taken with the knees myself. It got me to thinking about who gets to make these works and who selects them…and that’s a topic on which I’ve quite a few stories from my involvement back in the UK (don’t get me started on the Shoe Last in the pedestrian precinct in Northampton…). Anyway I rather like this one though I doubt many people give it so much as a glance nowadays.
And a good holiday is an excuse to have a play about (as well as sit pondering) on projects that as yet maybe don’t make a deal of sense. I’m cutting out canvas letters to join my sewn canvas shapes using odd snippets of text that I wrote down from poems into a sketch book almost thirty years back. They are so obscure I cannot begin to recall what the texts were or why I chose them. But I did it here in Italy and I’m here again (courtesy of my chum Sue) where I’ve been shaping and sowing the canvas pieces over the past few years so there is a connection though what it is and why its significant to me I have no way of articulating as yet.
But of course time away from your usual haunts is mostly for the simple pleasures of experiencing other cultures and environments. This part of Italy is framed by the Appenines to the back of us and the Apuan Alps away to the south east, its quite rugged and hilly, and at this time of year looking its best, the blossoming of the vegetation in springtime before the more arid days of summer…though we’ve been blessed on this occasion by warm and sunny weather.