An ongoing project, where over 20 statues have been gaged and photographed in central London.
A suspicion that, before long, there would be less tolerance for artists in Lycra climing and gaging statues prompted this project into action, and for a while this was the case. Then lockdown opened new opportunities to ‘exercise’ and I found myself revisiting the project. Demonstrators pulled a statue down and I felt similar themes being visited. No statues were harmed in the making of this collection but people stopped, looked and asked who the characters were.
All black and white prints available on Somerset enhanced 100% cotton paper 33cm x 48cm with archival ink. White exhibition frame with glass £650 US$900 €760 (example at end of page)
Thomas More, the inspiration for this project, sits in black robes with gold face and hands. More was killed for ‘treason’, in truth he was killed because he wouldn’t bend to indulge Henry VII. He believed his daughter as wise as any man, encouraging her education, and he coined the phrase Utopia with a book of that name.
Utopia (1516) depicts a pagan island governed by reason. It provided a cure for egoism; his reaction to a world he saw governed (and divided) by self interest and greed. The book covered ideas on punishment, education, multi-religion society, women’s rights and was the first in a new genre of books.
Apparently this is a portrait of the huntress and fleet runner Atlanta. It’s based on the marble sculpture held at Manchester Museum by Derwent Wood.
Atlanta’s father abandoned her on Mount Parthenion; he wanted a son. Suckled by a bear and raised by hunters she grew up to be an athlete. Modelling herself on Artemis she wore a sleeveless tunic and lived in the wilderness whilst avoiding men – the oracle warned marriage would be her undoing.
She sailed and fought alongside the Argonauts, although she was excluded from some adventures; Jason worried she’d cause trouble between the men. She appeared frequently in Greek art as a woman arm wrestling with hero King Peleus, it was popular because she won.
In another story, Artemis sent a wild boar to cause devastation, Atlanta and the Argonauts were sent to hunt it. Some of the men were angry she joined the hunt, yet Atlanta was first to injure it and was subsequently awarded the hide. However, it was taken off her because she was a woman.
After the boar hunt Atlanta’s father decided having a daughter wasn’t so bad and started planning her marriage. Atlanta agreed as long as her suitor could outrun her (an impossible feat) and if they failed they’d be killed. Several suitors died. Until Hippomenes cheated by getting magic apples off Aphrodite. When Atlanta overtook him he threw a golden apple, and she ran after it. In so doing he won the race, but he forgot to thank Aphrodite so she zapped them with sexual passion whilst they were in a sanctuary for Zeus. Zeus was not amused, and changed them into lions. Lions, at the time, were believed to only be able to mate with leopards. And so Atlanta was left sexually frustrated, and Zeus proved the oracle right.
Atalanta blended female and male attributes. A complex character, as she posed a threat to male order whilst being the subject of male desire (Barringer, 1996). As a character she offers insights into the tension of gender dynamics in Ancient Greek society. She exists as a feminist metaphor for the misrepresentation of women, from Ancient Greece to today. It’s ironic the sculpture captures none of this friction, yet captures the stereotypical view of femininity.
Barringer, J. M. (1996). Atalanta as Model: The Hunter and the Hunted. Classical Antiquity, 15 (1), pp. 48-76.
Selection of statues – central London
Burghers of Calais – This Rodin sculpture, in the garden next to the Houses of Parliament, formed inspiration for the later ‘Thank You’ piece.
Battle of Britain – ‘The few’ that Churchill referred to were 3,000 RAF men. Mostly British but many from occupied Europe and the Commonwealth – Belgium, France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), as well as from the neutral United States and Ireland.
The Animals in War Memorial – located near Brook Gate (Hyde Park). The inscriptions read “This monument is dedicated to all the animals that served and died alongside British and Allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout time.”
The second, smaller inscription simply reads: “They had no choice.”
Peace – Originally one of 5 statues (temperance, hope, faith and charity) the others were removed and have been ‘lost’. Peace echos the statue of Lady Justice atop the Old Bailey, which is visible in the distance. Made in 1879 by John Birnie Philip, who had 10 children, one of whom married James McNeill Whistler.
Churchill & Roosevelt – Mayfair
Gandhi – Russel Square
Paddington Bear – Interestingly the only statue I had to ask permission to gag. People got upset and one man (in an angry stern voice) asked ‘Is this sexual?’ I promptly replied ‘Not for me’..
Faraday – The third of four children Faraday had a rudimentary education, but at 14 he worked at a bookshop and discovered Jane Marcet (author of Conversations on Chemistry). He became prominent in the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. He refused both a knighthood and to help with chemical weapons during the Crimean war (for ethical reasons).
Freud – I went to a lecture at the Freud Museum, a psychoanalyst was talking about Blake through Freudian and Jungian analysis. She dropped out that two types of people come for analysis ‘those who feel too much, and those who feel too little’.
Britannia – Sitting under Lord Clyde with olive branch in hand and sword resting against the lion.
Buddha – Covered in gold leaf, the statue seems to glow.
Newton – Based on a rare print and watercolour by Blake, the opposing views of the two characters make the statue as much a portrait of Blake as Newton. The heavens opened as I climbed the statue.
Black Man Brixton #BLM – The first public sculpture of black British people in the UK. The sculpture ‘Platforms Piece’ by Kevin Atherton is of residents Peter Lloyd, Joy Battick and Karin Heistermann. The works were given listed status in 2016 by Historic England but were left off the BBC list (July 2020) of statues of black individuals in the UK, because they are “not named historical figures”. The gagged man is Peter Lloyd.
Plimsoll – The gagged sailor is part of memorial to Samuel Plimsoll (1824-1898), a Victorian politician who invented the Plimsoll Line drawn on ships‘ hulls to indicate safe loading. He tried to get a bill passed through Parliament in 1867. It failed, so he wrote a book Our Seamen. An Appeal. It set out his concerns and a Royal Commission on unworthy ships was set up. In 1876 the Merchant Shipping Act made the load line mark compulsory.
The prints have been exhibited at Art 14 (Kensington Olympia) and more recently at Fiumano Projects (2019). A selection of the images and a story were published in the award winning magazine Less Common More Sense, no 15 The Uncensored issue.
A lack of female statues/voices led to a feminist off shoot of this project called ‘Bouville’. ‘Bouville’ references an interaction between Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, which took place in a cafe near Euston Station. Sartre believed he could capture the essence of London in a sentence and she did not. Sartre later wrote a book (La Nausée) about Le Havre, which he called Bouville, in this instance Beauvoir believed he had managed to capture the essence of a place. The discussion between the two writers remains a point of contemplation for feminists. Did Sartre succeed in capturing the essence of Le Havre or did Simone de Beauvoir fall into a classic female trap?
The piece uses the images from ‘What’s left unsaid’ and invites male artists to respond to the images with text. A variant of the artists book was exhibited at Kaleid and ArtWars Project Space (Redchurch Street). It was also exhibited as part of Dazed Live (in conjunction with Dazed and Confused magazine and Absolut Vodka).
33cm x 48cm Glicee print on Somerset Enhanced 100% cotton. Framed in discrete white exhibition frames (pictures on request) £650 $US900 €765
The piece is an ongoing work and captures an open ended reflection on London.