Sunday, January 15, 2006

Public sculpture - a public good

click to enlarge photo
Public sculpture in Britain has seen a renaissance in recent years, and a good thing too. A well-wrought piece can brighten our day, make us think, and enhance the location. The last quarter of the twentieth century saw works appearing in growing numbers as towns and cities sought to use sculpture to attract attention and define their character. Probably the best known work to come out of this period is Antony Gormley's "Angel of the North" (1998). The appearance of this massive figure at Gateshead caused a further burst of activity which continues today with ever larger, more exotic pieces filling squares, precincts, parks and riversides up and down the country.

These cormorants at Morecambe, Lancashire, are part of the refurbishment of the promenade area and Stone Jetty that began in 1994. This work, known as the Tern Project, sought to improve the town's sea defences, revitalise its shopping and leisure facilities, and strengthen the town's identity. Birds are the main hook on which this project hangs. Morecambe Bay is known for its seabirds and waders, and has been designated a RAMSAR (Wetland of International Importance) site. The town's location made a bird theme the obvious choice. Lapwings, gulls, waders, coot, falcons, and other species can be seen all along the sea front. Some are literal interpretations, others have a greater degree of abstraction.

I have photographed these cormorants, by Brian Fell and Gordon Young, a few times. Previously I have had a sea or pier background. On this occasion I decided to use the deep blue of the winter sky as the backdrop, and to emphasise the deep shadows from the low sun. So I positioned myself quite low down. The arrangement of the birds allows a number of good compositions, but this time I went for asymmetry, leaving a lot of sky at the top left.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen