New works for Wickhurst Green.

Just a quick peek at works in progress, who doesn’t love watching a cherry picker in use?  The sculptural gateway ‘Bridges’ is part of the series of artworks for the development in Broadbridge Heath, West Sussex.

The sculpture will act as a focal point for the neighbourhood centre which opens in April.  Watch this space for progress update.

Field Notes from Warnham

A stormy day, a class of school children and an out-door writer, that’s all it takes for the beauty of the wind and rain to be captured and transcribed into perfect haiku’s.

Warnham Nature Reserve is the location for our first Arts Council and HDYOC Funded project organised by CIC, Half Moon Creative Arts, and part of the Horsham District Year of Culture. It’s been a great project so far and now entering the sculptural phase our artist Will Nash is preparing to build two new artworks to be sited in the reserve.  The bat bothy and tri helix will be fantastic additions to the reserve, meaning that there is always something to see even when the wildlife is hiding.

the art of straw-plaiting

There is always a nugget of social history to uncover, and the cottage industry of straw-plaiting is just one example.   In the winter when the work in the fields was completed, the women of Sible Hedingham used lengths of straw to plait and make into bonnets and other items to sell.  This was not only for their own benefit, but the work was of such high quality there was a regular consignment sent to sell in London, forming an important source of income.  There are some beautiful examples in the local museum, and artist Tim Ward has used this as inspiration for railings commissioned as part of the Bloors housing development in Sible Hedingham.


Railings referencing straw-plaiting cottage industry


The brown-field site formerly had industrial uses, including the Rippers’ carpentry company making windows and air-planes, whichever was required.  Tim has used this to create beautiful benches installed in the pocket park at the entrance to the development.


Bench referencing Rippers carpentry workshop

The sweep of the top-line reflects the curve of the waterway.  Formerly piped, Bloors have opened up the stream providing a new habitat for insects, but also providing greater capacity to prevent flooding.   The waterway flows through the centre of the development and into public open space that was previously closed off by the factory.  It’s a very successful development made all the more memorable by the artworks created by Tim Ward.

Working in partnership with Bloor Homes

walking the line

Nihill Place in Croydon has been named after the local race walker, Paul Nihill, and now the public art is installed the new development is complete.

Tom Pearman has produced a suite of contemporary pieces that reflect the tram and train network and this concept of moving along a line.   The tram and train system was crucial to the growth of Croydon as a major suburb of London.  The town grew quickly in the 1930’s and the art deco colours are used in the artworks.

A new development of blocks of apartments is difficult to navigate so Tom’s design includes signage for each of the blocks.  The signs relate each individual block to each other and the  ‘map’ at the entrance shows the arrangement around the inner street.  They are colour coded for easy reference and look very classy beside each entrance.   The colour scheme and repeated lines are taken from the main artwork, a panel of repeating lines representing the network of infrastructure and movement along it from station to station.   The piece although flat has a 3D effect particularly when viewed from different ends of the inner street – moving along the line and looking back the artwork appears to fold.

Tom Pearman has also completed another impressive commission for the Mayor of London as part of the ‘Clean Air Campaign’.    He has a very clear, often humorous, graphic style that is well-developed but always reflects the place and the community represented by the artworks.  This is the mark of a high quality public artist.

Working in conjunction with Bellway Homes.

The stones have landed

Will Nash (artist) and Global Gardens (landscapers) have completed the beautiful installation of ‘Tipped Discs’ at Wickhurst Green.  The design for ‘Tipped Discs’ arose as Will investigated the archaeological reports from the site.  The idea of reflecting the remnants of early habitation appealed to his sense of the romantic, and also to the themes from the poem ‘Ozymandias’.    Shelley lived in the area and the poem speaks of a traveller from an antique land.  The tipped discs and the etched columns of the way-markers are just such references of another time.   The images etched onto the columns have a storybook quality.  The columns themselves were salvaged from St. Marks Church when it was demolished to make way for a new road.  Since then the columns have lain un-noticed in a farmers field.   Now they have a much more elegant purpose and the polished areas of stone glisten in the sun.


Whose land is it anyway?


public park and green space, benefits everyone

Despite the known benefits for physical and mental well-being,  and a positive impact on house prices and  local economies,  our public parks and green spaces are under-threat and in decline.   This fact was the main conclusion in a recent report from the Communities and Local Government Committee who have called on  Councils to develop a strategic approach for the management and development of public open spaces.

However, many new public open spaces are the result of planning  regulation.  Councils will require the creation of parks and open space as part of green infrastructure within new housing developments.   Whilst this gives rise to  the creation of new public space, they remain outside the control of the local council.

Historically open spaces have been adopted by the local council with a sum of money from the developer to pay for maintenance ‘in perpetuity’. More recently, developers have argued that councils have been unable to maintain the open spaces to the desired standard, seen the money as a tax on their profit. and have  set up management companies to service the developments.   Crucially these management companies, which represent a cost benefit to the developers, are funded by the property purchasers in the form of annual fees. Fees the council would not currently be permitted to charge.

But if Councils don’t adopt these new public amenities, to whom do they belong? When is public land not public land? The answer seems to be when it’s part of a new development that uses a management company. Finding out who the land belongs to is difficult, and accessibility to the open space is not clearly established with some owner occupiers regarding the open spaces and parks as their own.

One example that illustrates the problem is ‘Merrington Place,’ developed by Campbell Buchanan. Highly regarded within its village, it boasts contemporary architecture, landscaping with elements of public art, a public pocket park, and a public footpath.  Seloc Asset Management Company have recently taken over upkeep of the public open space. The residents pay for for this landscaping service, and they also pay the community charge to the council.   Notably, the owners who part-buy as shared owners, and the tenants of the affordable housing, contribute financially through the housing association, but have no right to participate in the resident decision making process. This is not unusual, but it is certainly undemocratic and divisive. The clue is in the title – asset management – but whose asset? There’s the rub. The publicly accessible open space is private land with a public right of way. The public artworks sit on privately owned land.


public art, private land

The Land Trust has a different model.   Established as a charity to hold in trust land polluted by former use as part of the northern coal fields initially it was government funded but is now independent.   The Trust invested funds and created public park-lands, bringing both social and economic regeneration to the areas. Since then the trust has grown and taken on new housing developments. The crux of the difference seems to be that as a ‘not for profit’ organisation it is open about it’s resources, it’s aims and its accountability. The focus is on community building rather than profit making for individuals.  All residents of all the tenures, have an equal stake in the management of their neighbourhood.

This model seems to be so much more than a profit making estate management company. But the issue of residents paying twice remains. Is this acceptable? Perhaps, if the residents choose to buy this service. An alternative would be to allow the local council to make these similar charges, and employ local people to maintain these areas. It would be a more democratic and accountable approach and enabling all our urban areas to be improved.  Public parks, green spaces and play areas cut across gender, ethnicity, age and socio-economic group helping to build social cohesion. The benefits for our health and economy are already demonstrated. The mechanism for achieving these benefits is less obvious.

CB1 still a work in progress

The Station Plaza at Cambridge Station,  is noted for finely detailed buildings, discreet brick work, tiled elements, intricately laced balcony treatments which are subtle and tasteful. It’s also noted for being bland and having lost the impact of arriving at a particular destination. There is no sense of arrival in Cambridge.

As the redevelopment reaches its conclusion, there is a void. It is a box without tricks and the public art is an unconnected series of pieces that are mostly invisible to people passing through. Artworks that invite interaction give that element of surprise and fun that make a journey positively memorable. The public art here is a series of pieces that need signposting. The artworks are so quiet, so subtle that they are obscure and ignored.

Just because art is outdoors or in a public place, does not necessarily make it accessible. The point or success is however, judged by the public. Does it reflect local identity? Does it create a sense of place? Does it perhaps reference an historical connection? In a civic space there is an opportunity for artworks to comment, to make statements about who we are, where we are, and to reflect what we are about.

As far as referencing the history of the area, the historic ‘Ceres’ bronze by William Boyd was renovated following its re-discovery in Spillers Mill. The renovation of the Mill is one of the most successful, combining the form of the industrial building with a streamlined street scene that complements the surrounding new architecture and the station building itself. The ‘Ceres’ sculpture however, is rather isolated located in a courtyard to the rear of the building.

To the front, Dryden Goodwin has a series of portraits, embedded in the pavement around the bus stops. The miniature portraits etched into stainless steel discs, the material has

the dryden-goodwinappearance of service covers, and most people queuing at the bus-stops are unaware that they are there. This isn’t surprising as it’s difficult to get close enough to see the portraits without causing a trip hazard. There is a mismatch of design elements, material, scale and location that is disappointing.



‘Continental Drift’ by Troika, is not very public installed in the entrance to the cycle park. Antoni Malinowski’s ‘Transparent Drawing’ – located on an elevation opposite the bus stops is well above eye level, too discrete to catch the attention. The less said about Jem Finer’s ‘Super Computer’ the better.


The curved bench by Partridge cb1benchand Walmsley is the most successful piece to date. Elegant and functional. It’s a high status bench in an area where seating is really quite limited.
Doug Alsop’s ‘Reflective Editor’ is a geometrical work designed as a gateway piece. The highly polished surfaces reflect the form and movement around it. It Image result for troika cambridge stationinvites interaction but is most useful as a perch seat and closely resembles an architectural design element. How many people notice it as an artwork is debatable.

One piece has yet to be installed. Gavin Turk has been commissioned to create an artwork for the central space; there is a definitely a need for something dramatic, inviting interaction, filling the void. Curator is a most overused word at the moment, and as a curated space this is sadly lacking in any commentary. The voice of the storyteller is silent. Maybe the Turk piece will bring it all together. Currently the most exciting part of the station area is the movement, the dance within the plaza, created by the travelling through of people, taxis, buses and bicycles. It’s worth visiting to watch the drama unfold, but if your interested in the artworks, you’ll need a pair of binoculars and a map.

The article was first published in January business pages of Cambridge News

scientific research and art collide

If you’re looking for works of art, it’s not hard to find.  Art is in public places, in galleries, museums and most commonly on-line.  There’s no need to take the trouble of visiting a gallery or museum, you can usually view all the exhibits on your computer, from the comfort of your sofa.    And yet, attendance at art museums has been rising over recent years.   Recent research helps explain why: people enjoy art more at the museum, they find it more stimulating, understandable, and they remember it better.

Psychological research illuminates perceptions of art

David Briimageseber and his colleagues invited 137 psychology students to view 25 artworks from Vienna’s Museum Startgalerie Beauty Contest exhibition – a series of paintings, photos and collages that explore self-image, sexuality and beauty.  The students viewed the works as part of a controlled experiment, either viewing in the physical space of the museum and from a screen or only in the virtual world.

The outcomes showed that the students found the actual art work at the museum more stimulating, positive, and interesting. They liked it more, compared with the digital reproductions.  Long-term memory of the artworks was also higher than works viewed on a screen.

Pmemory_studyart of the explanation for this might be that the physical layout of the exhibition acts as a mnemonic aid. When the students successfully recalled one exhibit, they also tended to remember other pieces nearby.

Taken together, the findings are consistent with theories of situated cognition:   there’s something about the physical space of a museum and an exhibition that changes how our minds respond to what we’re seeing.  This suggests that the physicality of a public place such as a park or a street may have the same impact on how works of art are viewed.

gallery Formalist art theory, the idea that the effects of art upon us are independent of time and place is contradicted.    There is the presence factor – of standing in front of the real thing that has an impact of size and colour.  A reproduced screen image doesn’t convey this.  Nor does it convey the power of the artwork that can provoke an emotional response.  This may explain why people are willing to commit to visiting museums, instead of taking inexpensive virtual tours.

So what does this mean?

The impact of works of art in  public places may well be because of their context, conversely the location is more memorable because of the artwork.  For public art in new developments, the physicality of the buildings and the relationship to works of art within the physical space may change the perception of the development as a whole. The power of the works make it more positively memorable, easier to navigate and more highly appreciated.  It’s an interesting piece of research that supports the power of the moment, the presence of the works in a physical place.


Art affects you more powerfully when you view it in a museum

Brieber, D., Nadal, M., & Leder, H. (2015). In the white cube: Museum context enhances the valuation and memory of art Acta Psychologica, 154, 36-42 DOI: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2014.11.004

What happens when the public are invited to participate?

The David Attenborough building is the new home for The Museum of Zoology, (University of Cambridge) Cambridge Conservation Initiatives, and public art by Ackroyd and Harvey.buildingPublic engagement is a mantra for contemporary art. At the recent exhibition ‘Conflicted Seed and Spirit’ by Ackroyd and Harvey,  interaction was at the forefront of the works and presented a number of challenges.
conflicted_seeds_and_spiritThe ‘Red List’ of endangered species was faintly printed on a 7m long canvas, and the public were invited to choose one species, look it up on a tablet and then carefully write over the name. This process revealed the species both on the canvas and in the minds of the participants. As many of the species are obscure with names that tantalise, curiosity was quickly aroused to establish whether the choice revealed an insect, reptile, bird or mammal. Unfortunately, one person got rather carried away and instead of carefully tracing the script started in huge letters and then crossed it out, using the permanent marker pen provided. Other visitors to the exhibition were spotted investigating the pots of soil to find the seeds of the endangered trees. The beautiful crystalline whale skeleton was not exempt as another visitor started moving crystals in order to photograph them. It seems that where interaction is invited, the public take it to another level.  If the exhibition is a metaphor for the planet, then the clumsy and thoughtless behaviour of a small number of visitors is surely representative of humanities lack of regard for the planet.

images-1For Ackroyd and Harvey the process is important, the text work ‘Seeing Red ..Overdrawn’ is not completed and the data is always changing, as species become extinct and new ones are discovered. The work will be updated, reprinted and housed in the new building as an ongoing engagement.


The permanent artwork for the David Attenborough Building consist of two slate walls. It doesn’t sound very exciting, but the detail revealed is elegant and refined. The slate has been sourced directly from mines in Wales as a waste product. Each piece hand cut to an exact measurement, and laid edge to edge in stacks to create the artwork. Representing the sedimentary process that creates slate itself, each piece is positioned like a series of repeated drawn lines to reveal patterns. These patterns are archetypal shapes that can be read in different ways. One wall reveals the shape of a nautilus shell, the other reveals organic growth, reminiscent of ancient crinoids, unfurling fern like shapes. The cut, nibbled edges refract light giving the images a 3D effect. Within the slate are carefully concealed boxes for bats, and empty snail shells for solitary bees.

CCI is an interesting assortment of academics and practitioners brought together to develop innovative collaborative programmes addressing major challenges in conservation, biodiversity and ecosystems. It’s the first time there has been a clear interface between academia, business and local communities with local knowledge. This last element is the most important and represents a shift in attitude that will bring sustainable benefit to communities as well as ecosystems. It may well prevent some of the clumsy approaches to conservation in the past.

There is a synergy of artists and organisations in the choice of Ackroyd and Harvey to work with the CCI. If the basis of conservation is ‘right plant, right place’ then this is surely a case of ‘right artists, right organisation.’ The Ackroyd and Harvey involvement with the Botanic Garden, and CCI continues, who knows where the drawn line will take them this time.

This article was first published in Cambridge Business, part of the Cambridge News group, August edition.

Bridging the Gap

The newly commissioned artworks for the development at Broadbridge Heath (Wickhurst Green) for Countryside Properties, uses the crossing of the river Arun,  the passing through physical and metaphorical thresholds as the starting point for two artists.  Having appointed Will Nash and Tim Ward last year, with this brief, it’s time to reveal part one of the designs that Nash has been working on.

Using the weighty tome of the archaeology report arising from site,  Nash has taken the patterns of post-holes and  evidence of early habitation and woven together a programme of workshops with the help of Maia Eden. Maia is sculptor of willow and tissue paper and led students at Shelley Primary School through the process of creating Mesolithic creatures.

tipped circlesNash has worked using the local sandstone,  and ideas about layers of habitation, hidden histories. The final proposal is for an installation currently called ‘Tipped Circles’ and  series of stones creating ribbons alongside footpaths through the site.

‘Tipped Circles’ references the circular form of early dwellings and is intended to be a sculptural landscape form to be situated in one of the smaller open spaces.  Formed to look as if its always been there, and as a play feature, linking the pre-history with the new development.

A series of stones, one of the local sandstone and one from the stone recycled from Christ’s Hospital, will be placed to form short trails along the footpaths and at pedestrian junctions.  The sandstone series will have polished top surfaces, with sides left rough revealing the sedimentary layers and ripples.

trail of rocksPaw prints and animal images  will be etched into the tops to be weathered,  like the blurred edges of a memory, half-glimpsed remnants of long-extinct animals.

The laser-cut designs for the stone from Christ’s Hospital use repeated images of animals used as food sources, such as geese and deer, and that are present around the site today.  The repeated imagery creating lace like patterns held within the circle.  The stone is a hard granite that will hold the crisp image as a counterpoint to the weathering images cut in the softer sandstone.   All the stones will be ‘perch’ height, to stop and rest upon, or for kids (of all ages) to jump across, bridging the gap.

The designs were well received by the AGM of the Broadbridge Heath Parish Council and will be shortly submitted for planning permission.

Nash currently has a solo show ‘Element’ at William Bennington Gallery, showing until 30th June 2016.

Will Nash Portrait13244655_10209642889295588_5005295883895293002_n