One thing that struck me during our visit to Oxford last weekend was that there was very little public art in the city centre. There’s lots of stunning architecture to see but very few examples of sculpture in the streets and squares. You have to look hard to see one rare example – a work by Anthony Gormley – which sits on top of the Blackwell’s arts bookshop on Broad Street. Perched right on top of this 4 storey building, I bet most visitors walk right past without realising that it’s there.
The statue is part of Gormley’s “Another Time II” series of figures and is owned by the University’s Exeter College. An anonymous benefactor provided the funds.
But there’s another work by Gormley, even less visible, in the City. Walking past Mansfield College, which is slightly off the main tourist route, I noticed a sign inviting the public to enter the grounds. So I did. And there, in the centre of the quadrangle was a sculpture – which couldn’t be mistaken for anything else but a work by Gormley.
A little research revealed that the work was Present Time (2001), which is on a long term loan to the college.
On his website, Gormley tells us
PRESENT TIME (2001) is my attempt to engage with the mind/body problem. It is a materialisation of embodied mindfulness. The lower form is an enclosed mass, armed like a marine mine; the upper one open with all its limbs free, embracing space.
He goes on to tell us
It uses the stasis of sculpture to interrupt the living time of the viewer. The stillness of this materialist proposition invites us to reassess our position in time and space.
To be honest, I don’t understand what he’s going on about. But it’s a nice work.