Sculpture for Eastbourne Pier

Soon the judges will decide which of the four finalists will be commissioned to  make their sculpture to commemorate the fire on Eastbourne Pier. Yesterday we all set up our displays at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne. They were very different.

Phoenix Vane is the sculpture I designed with Caroline Pick who was a fellow student on the Brighton MA course. We have roped in James Price who is a blacksmith designer who lives near Lewes.

Phoenix Vane utilises girder from the pier as well as burnt wood and was inspired by the photographs of the enormous billow of smoke which the fire produced. The bird is a weather vane and the smokey tail will move in the wind while the beak of the bird will point out the wind

Phoenix Vane: Sue McDougall and Caroline Pick with the Time and Tide Bell display in the background

Devon artist Marcus Vergette had a display of Time and Tide Bell;  Marcus is aiming to install twelve bells around the country and a number of these are already in place  including at Appledore, Devon, Bosta beach in the Outer Hebrides, Trinity Buoy Wharf in London and in  Aberdyfi, Wales, July 2011. The idea would be for it to hang under the pier. You could listen to the sound effect as the waves caused the bell to toll.

Certainly a strange and mournful sound and an exciting project, wonderful in an unpopulated part of the coast, but which might possibly become annoying to those living in the vicinity or even for holiday makers on a sunny but breezy afternoon.

Gulls by Cynthia de Wolf

Cynthia de Wolf had been inspired by the seagulls surrounding the pier and produced a striking seagull sculpture Gulls.

Finally, the London firm George King Architects produced Forged by Flame a sculpture which would be made out of the burnt twopenny pieces which were salvaged from the amusement arcade where the fire started. They hope that it would be a meeting point for people on the beach. The mystery hand which has somehow got itself in the photograph is not included.

Forged by Fire: George King Architects

The four sculptures will be on display  near the cafe at the Towner Gallery.  Devonshire Park, College Road, Eastbourne,BN21 4JJ until June 29

Members of the public are invited to comment to  

If you felt moved to support Phoenix Vane – that would be very nice.











Doppelgänger at the Eagle Gallery

I often feel that artists should keep quiet about their works. I know that the concept is important and in some works the concept is everything but particularly with paintings you can sometimes see something marvellous on the wall and then read what it means and either find it is about something completely different from what you had imagined, or sounds so pretentious that it diminishes the work. Painters can often express complicated multi layered ideas in paint better than they can in words: that is why they are painters.

Explanations are not a problem with James Fisher, whose exhibition has just opened at the Eagle Gallery in the Farringdon Road. He believes in giving very little information, allowing the paintings to speak for themselves.We have the title of the exhibition: Doppelgänger which suggests an exploration of  identity and there are titles which in some cases are people’s names – Thomas Bernhard – Sophia Jex Blake, though there is no information about the people and no obvious link to the subject.

In other cases the names are ambiguous; Eiko could be referencing a Japanese born choreographer and dancer an illustrator or even a playable figure in Final Fantasy IV. Okiku is Japanese for doll and indeed looking it up I find there is an story of a supposedly haunted okiku where its hair is supposed to keep growing. Is that relevant? I liked the painting; do I need to know what it means?

Not even gallery owner Emma Hill knew quite how to interpret them  We discussed Thomas Bernhard shown below. “There is clearly a hat;” I said, “Are those rabbit ears? But what is the shape above the hat?”WP_20160617_16_12_02_Pro (2)

She too was unsure; “I don’t know; I’ve been trying to work it out. He will tell me eventually,” she said.

I rather liked the mystery; it made one look more closely at the paintings which are highly skilled. The paint is built up in layers, has been sanded and repainted so that elements of the original marks are evident. The geometric shapes add  complexity; whereas the recognisable representational shapes tend, as in this painting, to appear two dimensional, in some the geometric areas have a 3d effect that suggest flex and provide solidity.

Birds and cats are a reoccurring theme. In Margaret Morse Nice, the birds are apparent while in  Althea R, you realise that the bird is half hidden; the geometric patterns are in the shape of a cat’s head.JAMES-FISHER-Althea-R-2016-oil-on-linen-81-x-71cm-

But the painting I liked the best, Neko, which is the Japanese for cat, had, I thought at first, portrayed no cats at all.

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Then looking at the photographs later, I wondered whether the projections at the top were ears and the geometric part was a cat’s head. I hope not: I preferred to think of it as representing the brain or multi-faceted thought. That is the way with interpretation: sometimes you prefer your own.

James Fisher, Doppelgänger is at the Eagle Gallery, 159 Farringdon Road from 16 June to 16 July