Saturday, 22 July 2017

Statues in the street

Not only do real human beings catch my eye. There are street statues everywhere.

Past statues to cross my path have included animals too, such as Snooks on the promenade at Aldeburgh in Suffolk, as seen in this 2001 shot...


...and Ruswarp (pronounced 'Russup') on the platform at Garsdale station in the northern Pennines, captured here in 2010...


The story of Ruswarp's incredible faithfulness and endurance was set out on an adjacent plaque, reproduced above. What a dog.

Then there have been other statues, some of them surprising, poignant, shocking or intriguing, such as the statue of Andy Capp, Reg Smythe's cartoon creation, on a street in Hartlepool, on Teesside - also stumbled upon in 2010:


Or this evocative couple on the waterfront at Cardiff Bay in South Wales, whom I shot in 2013:


Or, also seen in 2013, Damien Hirst's gigantic, very pregnant, and (depending on which side you see) very visceral statue called Verity, on the harbourside at Ilfracombe in North Devon:




Or Antony Gormley's rather narcissistic beach figures at Crosby Sands on Merseyside - they are apparently casts of himself in the nude - seen here in these 2014 shots:


Extraordinary. What exactly were Hirst and Gormley trying to say? 

There are also perfectly ordinary statues dotted around, such as this birdwatcher, observed in 2015 at North Berwick in Scotland:


Or this pair of Gordon Highlanders, soldiers from two different eras, seen in an Aberdeen square, also in 2015:


Or, continuing with 2015, this impassioned Welsh orator, a local nineteenth-century politician, seen at Bala in North Wales...


...and, much more sombre, this grim soldier's head at Cardiff Castle in South Wales:


This year's crop of 'street statues' have been no less interesting or various. Let's stick with my recent holiday. First up, the Diving Belle by Craig Knowles, on an arm of the harbour at Scarborough:


Shifting northwards to Newcastle, I came upon this pair of Tyneside statues. One was a River God, up on a pole, grasping a ball on a stick, and possibly in chains, blowing his cheeks out:


At first I thought this work was referencing slavery. I'm still not quite sure. And maybe he wasn't blowing, but kissing, for he was facing inshore to this formidable female statue not far off, called Siren:


The plaque wasn't especially enlightening:


Moving further north into Scotland, and in the city of Perth, I discovered this intriguing pair of figures, linked by a metal ring or hoop. One was leaning back on it, the other pushing forward. I felt the one leaning back didn't want the other to escape, but wasn't his captor or jailer. It was another kind of relationship.


I thought it was a brilliant composition, amazingly dynamic. But what was it about? Two men; one content with the space inside the ring, the other yearning to break out. Were they linked by more than just the ring? Were they perhaps father and son? I looked at their faces.


The older man did seem to have the expression of a father watching his son. He was half-smiling, in a kind way, and you could imagine him shaking his head at his son's thwarted energy and ambition. It could of course be an older brother. Or indeed two versions of the same person, one young and restless, one older and more understanding of life's limitations.


The younger man, pushing at the ring, had on his face a grimace of frustration. He was blindfolded. Did the blindfold mean that he couldn't yet fully understand how things really were, that he might never escape the ring? And yet the precarious dynamism in the work made it clear that both men needed to support the ring, otherwise it would fall to the ground. But if it did, both could then step over it and go out into the world at large. Perhaps if the younger man could only see, he'd release the ring at once, and walk away free. Would the other want to do the same? Was he afraid of life without bounds?

It's a most intriguing work.

And just down the street was this girl sitting on a bench. You were obviously meant to sit with her.


She had a vaguely medieval style of dress. I couldn't see a plaque to explain who she was. I'm guessing she was somebody from the city's long history. She seemed pretty glum. It seemed appropriate to be glum too:


Well, there's no cheering some people up!

Scotland had plenty of other street statues. On the outskirts of Glenrothes, I saw two hands rising out of the grass, and had to stop to take a closer look.


The hands made a pair of seats. I sat in one of them. It did seem weird. What if those fingers came to life, and closed in on me?


But of course I was being silly. I put on a bright face.


Did those fingers twitch?

That same evening, I was in Glenrothes to attend the Slimming World group at Rothes Halls. Inside the Halls complex, on the ground floor, was this relief. It commemorated the agricultural and industrial history of the area:


Close by was this young couple, who reminded me strongly of the Cardiff Bay couple, who were also a pairing of a young black woman and a young white man. I wondered whether that was meant to be significant. Maybe there was no ethnic angle at all, and these works were simply saying that Sex Is Sex The World Over, and that Young Love Never Runs Smoothly. Both unarguably true.


Back in England now, in Cumbria, and it's sunny Maryport, mentioned at the end of my last post. The revamping of the harbour area had given the town this twee group of 'typical local characters' - possibly based on actual townspeople of fame and note - although to me, a mere visitor, they look rather generic, and the brown colour was all wrong:


Time to wrap up. On the breezy Lincolnshire coast is Skegness, a major resort with lovely sands, devoted entirely to the accommodation and amusement of holidaymakers from the North and Midlands. I have in mind a post specially on Skegness, or at any rate the lure of the East Coast Resorts, of which Skegness is but one. The town is proudly associated with a railway company poster depicting a frolicsome fisherman, a very carefree and jolly man indeed, skipping along the sands. The Jolly Fisherman has become the town's trademark. And I found two statues of him when visiting the place recently. 

One is outside the station:


Is it just me, or does the Jolly Fisherman look uncannily like Noddy Holder of Slade, aged a little from the 1970s picture above? Be that as it may, there was yet another version of the Jolly Fisherman near the beach, in a sunken area where you could sit and admire him. This version was skipping in a manner so carefree that he looked drunk!


Those people were clearly trying to get both themselves and the Jolly Fisherman into the same picture. I strove to do the same.


You can see what I mean about the strange way he's skipping along!


The moral is, of course, not to grow whiskers, nor wear boots like that. You'll be fine then.

3 comments:

  1. An excellent compilation, Lucy. Ruswarp is the most heart-warming and Verity the most shocking. Indeed, I don't think I'll ever grow to like Damien Hirst's monster.

    We have an anatomically complete fisherman in Chepstow. I must introduce to some time.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What does 'anatomically complete' mean, Angie? Does he have all his bits? (Which the Jolly Fisherman alias Noddy Holder outside Skegness station seems not to have)

    Lucy

    ReplyDelete
  3. By the way, I actually like Verity (the pretty side of her). In any case, she is like a Colossus at Ilfracombe harbour entrance, a genuine landmark for mariners.

    Lucy

    ReplyDelete

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