PSC is delighted to be partnering with Vitrine gallery again for the second phase of SCULPTURE AT Bermondsey Square. As with its first incarnation, it commissions large-scale, temporary works by mid-career and emerging artists. The sculptures are all sited in Bermondsey Square, South East London, for a six-month period. There are no guidelines for the commissions, and by avoiding the need for permanence it gives artists the freedom to experiment and create works that might not otherwise be possible.
The fourth public sculpture commission in the series is by our very own Lucy Tomlins. Lucy, in her capacity as PSC’s director, will then go on to co-project manage SCULPTURE AT Phase Two with Vitrine’s director Alys Williams, including supporting the production of the fifth sculpture by UK artist Charlie Godet Thomas (October 2017 – March 2018) and the sixth by Swiss artist Edit Oderbolz (March – September 2018). This dual role as artist and producer continues the approach of the initial programme (SCULPTURE AT Phase One) in which Vitrine worked with artist Karen Tang in this way to ensure that the development would be artist led.
Alongside PSC, SCULPTURE AT Phase Two partners are: Arts Council England, Contemporary Art Society, Penta Patterns, Aesthetica, Bermondsey Square, Southwark Neighbourhood Fund and Team London Bridge.
Objects, installations and assemblages combine a range of traditional materials including stone, concrete and metals with contemporary materials including light, moving image and sound. Through a process of remaking and rearranging the ready-made objects of our society, Lucy’s artwork creates uncanny relationships between seemingly disparate materials and things in an attempt to make sense of her everyday, situated, social context.
Unapologetically defining herself as a ‘sculptor’ in a time of dematerialised art practice, she embraces the deeply rooted commitment to craft skills within this art form and offers elasticity to sculptural technique that harnesses the values, principles and commitments of a sensibility preoccupied with the phenomenological experience of materiality and space.
With Pylon and Pier, Lucy takes the public square as the work’s starting point. Traditionally this is where statues of distinguished people are sited, usually placed there to reinforce notions of power or national prestige. Lucy’s sculpture reverses this, however, presenting a statue of the Titan Atlas – not as in Greek mythology holding up the sky for eternity, but fallen from its plinth and, grasping the globe, lain on its side. The viewer’s gaze, which would normally be directed upwards in awe, now stares across on the felled colossus drained, the loss of his mythological strength underscored by the diminutive size of his body – he is only 1.4 metres in height, thus allowing the beholder a more intimate interaction with the work.
Lucy’s use of Atlas is a direct visual reference to another inspiration for the work, American poet Wallace Stevens’ poem, The Public Square (1931), which describes the demolition of a modernist building as a metaphor for systemic collapse. After the dust settles, all that remains, Wallace avers, is, ‘The bijou of Atlas, the moon/Was last with its porcelain leer.’
Charlie Godet Thomas is concerned with the connections between visual art and literature, the act of writing, the autobiographical, the tragic and the humorous. His work is summoned from unlikely places; be it street signage, American drain cleaning products, documentaries about motorcycle stuntmen, or an extensive archive of personal photographs.
Trauma and photography have some similarities that intrigue Thomas, namely that a traumatic experience can render a moment continually present in a person’s life, whilst photography has the same ability to hold a moment still, ever recurring by proxy of the image. His manipulation of his source material towards total abstraction comes from his desire for the images to be something else, the works become, as Thomas says, “Liberated from the brutality of their content.”