Monday, 22 June 2009

The Navigator

Well I was much torn this morning on how to impress you. I was not sure whether to go so subtle and small, but beautiful and meaningful or large and impressive.

As you can see I went large and impressive (but if you are lucky I will give you small and sensitive as well this afternoon)

This was my first large scale commission. What a rush! I was actually still in my final year of college, albeit my fifth year, which was a research year only - I had no assessments, which is just as well because I seemed to get so much work that year that I could hardly cope with it. If only that had continued - but that is the 'joy' of being an artist, famine or feast, but usually famine!

As I said, in my final year - 1999-2000 - I answered an ad to apply for a public commission. I pottered along to the site-meeting in Cobh, County Cork (formerly Queenstown and where the ill-fated Titanic sailed from) which is a very pretty, colourful port town. A little bit run down in bits, but with pots of character and as you can see from this photo a spectacular Cathedral (although I note that I have managed to cut off the tip of the spire - oops!).

There was the usual motley crew of artists and Arts officers at the meeting and we were all filled in on the brief. The requirement was a sculpture to celebrate the Christian Millennium and Cobh's maritime heritage. The site was the newly designed Millennium Park - formerly the Promenade. It is a lovely site, facing right onto the sea with the town and cathedral behind.

On the technical side the sculpture had to be made from durable materials and be reasonably vandal-proof.

My humble design somehow came out on top and I when I got the phonecall i remember it was the best thrill in the world.

My design is a Christ figure, an Everyman. He is sitting in a boat - or is it a bathtub? and in his large, very strong, yet gentle hands he tenderly holds a paper boat. Around the boat/tub are scattered some tools of his trade - a compass and sextant - he is after all 'the navigator' steering us through this life. The paper boat represents us and our fragile journey through life. He is about to set us off on that great journey, but he is taking care that we will have the best start possible by cradling us and protecting us until we are ready.

Including the base - which was designed afterwards at the suggestion of the architect, and I think does improve the stature of the piece - the sculpture measures approximately 6ft tall. the figure is a bit larger than life - his boat is smaller.

An added feature is the use of water which dribbles between his fingers and drops into his tub which increases the sense that is in fact a bathtub. The water adds movement and a draw for children.

For me, I love the playful, yet sensitive feel of this sculpture. I think it was successful in a lot of ways. It fits the space, it addresses the brief, it is very popular with tourists and children, the figure does look like the gentle giant that I envisaged, everything went reasonably smoothly with the creation and siting of the piece (not entirely, but that would not be normal!) - and I am very happy with it still.

I hope you are impressed

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