Monday, December 05, 2011

An orrery

click photo to enlarge
I've said elsewhere that I welcome the increasing number of sculptures and monuments that the past twenty years or so has brought to the public spaces of Britain. Even when they are of no more than routine quality they often add a focus and some interest to a location. Good examples do more than that, of course, contributing high quality art and lifting not only the spirits of those who see them but also lifting the place and its surroundings. But what about the less than admirable examples? Few of these actually make a completely negative contribution but some leave you wondering what they do offer - or indeed, quite what they are.

I came across an example of the latter in the Market Place at Grantham in Lincolnshire recently. On first inspection the piece has something of Soviet era "heroic" sculpture about it, though it would need to be several times its actual size to be from those days. After further study it's clear that the big reflective ball rests on a polar axial mount and therefore probably represents the earth, and consequently the adjacent, smaller sphere must be the moon. Unless of course it's the sun and the earth. The visitor is left to suppose that it is here at all because the King's School, Grantham, is where Isaac Newton received several years of his early education, and the physical laws that he first stated are in some way referred to through the sculpture. If the sculpture had a descriptive panel all might be clear to the inquisitive viewer, but such a simple expedient seems to have been overlooked. A quick search online found the sculptor's site and his statement that it is "based on Sir Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion...celebrates his work", and takes "the form of an orrery". I also came across comments by local people, very critical of the piece which was, apparently, the most voted for of three offerings.

The fact is, this unexceptional piece is lost in the expanse of the market place, and when one finds it some of its limitations become more evident. Foremost, from a photographer's perspective, is the fact that the shiny ball that has the potential to nicely reflect the surroundings is marked by rain and anything else that falls from the sky and pigeons. It needs to be cleaned regularly, but doesn't seem to be. Consequently in my photograph it has had to be digitally cleaned to the best of my ability.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 82mm
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 160
Exposure Compensation:  -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On