Sculpture in Lyme Regis

Later this year, Lyme Regis will be holding its annual Arts Fest.

In preparation for the main event, the organisers have started to install a Sculpture Trail featuring works by local artists, with additional pieces to be added during the summer. We saw quite a few of them as we explored the town during our holiday.

This work was the first we spotted as it was just down the road from the cottage where we were staying. It’s on the display in the garden of the cottage at 1 Mill Green

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Fish Boy by Gerta Berlin

These works are all on show in Langmoor Gardens

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Wolf by Clare Trenchard

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Skateboarder by Gerta Berlin

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Ripple by Michael Fairfax

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Trapeze by Clare Trenchard

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Lost Identity by Gerta Berlin

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Cirrus and Cumulus by Michael Fairfax

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A work inspired by the local landscape, located on the South sea wall

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A Landscape in Transition (from Nlack Venn to Stonebarrow) by Michael Calder

You can download a map showing the location of the sculptures from the event website

Hi Jimmy!

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I saw this sculpture towards the end of my walk along the Clyde and back through Anderston during my recent visit to Glasgow. Made from plasma cut sheet steel, a technique that’s used in the traditional local industry, shipbuilding, he three figures represent “local heroes” – Tom Weir (a climber, writer and broadcaster), James Watt, of steam engine fame flanking a modern figure representing former communist and shop steward Jimmy Reid.

Born in the Gorbals in 1932, Jimmy was one of the leaders of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Work-in which took place between June 1971 and October 1973, a  response to the decision of Ted Heath’s Tory Government to shut the yards.

In a speech to the shipyard workers he said

We are not going to strike. We are not even having a sit-in strike. Nobody and nothing will come in and nothing will go out without our permission. And there will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying because the world is watching us, and it is our responsibility to conduct ourselves with responsibility, and with dignity, and with maturity.

The campaign was successful and the Government backed down, keeping the yards open. Alas, few are left today.

Jimmy left the Communist party, joining the Labour Party. Later, disillusioned with “New Labour” he defected (sadly) to the SNP. He died in August 2010.

W G Collingwood’s War Memorials

Walking back to the car park after our walk up Easedale last Tuesday, I spotted this distinctive cross in the park next to the access road.

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The monument is Grasmere’s war memorial and my first thought was that it looked like it had been designed by W G Collingwood. A little research on my phone confirmed my suspicion.

William Gershon Collingwood was an antiquarian and artist, born in Liverpool, who was secretary to John Ruskin. Collingwood designed a number of war memorials for towns in the region, including Coniston, Hawkshead, Ulverston and St Bees. In some cases the monuments were carved by his daughter, Barbara.

The secretary of the Grasmere memorial committee was Rev Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the founders of the National Trust, who lived at Allan Bank. Rawnsley was a close friend of Collingwood and it may have been his influence that resulted in him being given the commission.

During our visits to the Lake District we’ve spotted a couple of Collingwood’s other war memorials. In Hawkshead

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and Coniston.

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He also designed Ruskin’s Memorial in Coniston churchyard, the other end of the church from the war memorial.

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All these monuments resemble Celtic crosses. However it is more likely that Collingwood, the author of Northumbrian Crosses of the Pre-Norman Age, was inspired by the Anglo Saxon crosses of Northumbria which were similar in design to the Celtic version with abstract designs including interlacing, animal symbols and often with a ring surrounding the intersection. Before the Norman invasion Anglo-Saxon art and decorative designs were similar to what these days we consider to be “Celtic” style.

The Hawkshead cross is very similar to the Anglo Saxon cross at Gosforth in Cumbria and the Ruskin memorial is clearly inspired by the Irton cross (also in Cumbra)

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Collingwood and members of his family are also buried in the churchyard, in graves very close to that of Ruskin.

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Performing Art?

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Last Tuesday while I was in London, I had a few hours to spare after my meeting finished and before I could catch the off-peak train back home. The meeting took place just round the corner from Tate Modern so I took the opportunity to visit Performing Sculpture, the exhibition of work by Alexander Calder that’s showing there at the moment. I’ve been keen to see it but as we missed out on visiting London in January, opting to go walking up in Cumbria instead, I was pleased to be able to grab the opportunity.

Calder was a sculptor of “kinetic sculpture” and  is best known as the inventor of the “mobile”(a name coined by Marcel Duchamp when he first saw one of the sculptures). Delicately balanced sculptures constructed of wire and metal.

As is usual with Tate Modern’s exhibitions it was a very comprehensive retrospective covering the evolution of Calder’s work. No photos allowed, so pictures are sourced from the Tate’s exhibition website.

Calder was also a master of wire sculptures. He expertly bent wire to create three dimensional ‘drawings in space’. Animals, circus performers and even portraits of friends, fellow artists such as Miro and Cocteau and other well known people like Josephine Baker.

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Alexander Calder with “Edgar Varese” and “Untitled”, Saché, France, Gelatin silver print, 1963

I wasn’t aware of this aspect of his work and was fascinated by the works on display in two of the rooms at the beginning of the exhibition. Despite being constructed of wire which defined an empty volume, they almost seemed solid.

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Hi! c 1928

Early in his career he visited the Paris studio of Piet Mondrian (we’d seen a reproduction of the studio at the Mondrian exhibition in Liverpool 18 months ago) and this experience inspired him to the extent that he  was “converted” to abstract art. Seeing the coloured rectangles pinned to the wall he suggested that it would be interesting to make them move about. Mondrian clearly thought this was a stupid idea but Calder went away and started experimenting with creating abstract works that moved, driven with motors. There were examples of these “stabiles” – pieces that were anchored to the floor or other horizontal pieces in several of the following rooms.

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Red and Yellow Vane 1934

I particularly liked those works inspired by the planets and constellations, such as A Universe  a motorised work, in which a complex pattern is traced by two spheres, moving at different speeds along the looping wire paths.

When the sculpture was first exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Calder was told that Albert Einstein stood watching it for forty minutes, waiting for the mechanism to work through the ninety cycles of movement before it began to repeat itself. (exhibition website)

The culmination of the exhibition were the final three rooms which featured his mobiles, delicate structures hanging from the ceiling. I was fascinated by how he had been able to balance them. A process which would require a good understanding of mechanics, carefully balancing the metal elements by calculating “moments of force”, a combination of the mass of the elements and the length of the wires. So it wasn’t a surprise to learn that Calder trained as a mechanical engineer at the Stevens Institute of Technology in his early twenties, only becoming an artist a few years after he’d graduated.

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Vertical Foliage 1941

There was only one work in the final room, but what a work it was. Black Widow, a 3.5 metre mobile suspended from the ceiling. The sculpture belongs to  the Institute of Architects of Brazil in São Paulo. Usually hanging in a central space in the Institute’s headquarters, this is the first time it has been allowed out on loan.

Calder’s mobiles and stabiles were designed as kinetic works. They are meant to move. So it was disappointing that there was very little movement in the exhibition, despite the video on the Tate website showing one of the mobiles slowly pirouetting in the breeze as Calder intended.  The works are delicate and many of those meant to be driven by motors are too old and delicate to allow them to be operated. That’s understandable. But there was also very little movement with the mobiles suspended from the ceiling. They swayed gently, but there were strict instructions not to touch them or blow at them.  Given that the whole point of these works is that they are meant to move, this was disappointing. The “Performing Art” didn’t perform. The mobiles were largely immobile. However, despite this I have to say that this was an excellent exhibition. Some beautiful works – particularly the wire sculptures, astronomical works and, best of all, the mobiles.