Category Archives: reframe

Stolen Art

Originally published on Facebook last year:

Missing the Missing Art

Sadly, a small number of sculptures have been stolen from the Harlow public art collection over the years, thankfully none recently. For most people it’s not a case of missing something that has been taken away but rather never knowing works that should still be available for all to enjoy. The stolen sculptures are listed on the Sculpture Trail pages of which is a good way to promote awareness of them. They are:

Boy Eating Apple, anon, 1930s, bronze cast
Lion, Antoine-Louis Barye, circa 1833, bronze cast
Self Encounter and Sower, anonymous, 1960, bronze

One can only imagine where they have ended up, perhaps in some criminal hideout along with other stolen art works? In any case, they are truly missed.

360° image:

Gibberd Virtual Residency 360° Videos

The following three 360° videos represent the final creative outcome of my virtual residency at the Gibberd Gallery, Harlow, which ran from September to December 2016. I was asked to ‘reframe’ the town’s post-war art collections in the context of the new town legacy. I was particularly interested in attitudes towards the town’s sculptures, being highly visible symbols of Harlow’s unique heritage.

Study #1

Locations of the nine most popular Harlow sculptures, as captured by Amanda Westbury in 2012, are juxtaposed with monumental renderings of key economic statistics published by the Office for National Statistics. Original footage was shot over a two hour period from the top of Terminus House, the joint tallest building in Harlow.

Study #2

Ryan Karolak talks about growing up in Harlow, the new town design legacy and recalls the sculpture Solo Flight when it was located at the Harvey Centre.

Study #3

Imagining the sculpture ‘Screen’ by Gerda Rubinstein as a tower which can be climbed up, one floor at a time. Commentary by Jenny Lushington.

Favourite Forms and Lesser Known Treasures

Harlow is certainly blessed with many amazing sculptures. Even a brief shopping trip around the town centre will bring you into close proximity with works produced by some of the world’s best known sculptors such as Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin.

Not living in the town, but getting to know it better over the course of my virtual residency at the Gibberd Gallery, I have come to appreciate that there is a deep connection between Harlow citizen and Harlow sculpture. Judging from the number of comments I’ve read and heard recently, many people feel a tangible affinity to one or more works, be it through everyday observation or childhood memory. Perhaps there are also subconscious connections for those who look but don’t necessarily see the many fine sculptural forms located around the town.

An article published on the BBC Essex website suggests that “Harlow’s sculpture collection has become as much part of the social history and human geography of the town as its housing, public buildings and open spaces.”

Back in 2012, artist Amanda Westbury encouraged Harlow residents to vote for their favourite sculptures which then featured in her work “The Glass Bead”, currently displayed on the ground floor of the Civic Centre. At that time the top nine were:

  1. Family Group (Henry Moore) Civic Centre
  2. Donkey (Willi Soukop) Pittmans Field
  3. Solo Flight (Antanas Brazdys) First Avenue
  4. Energise (Clare Bigger) Leisurezone Carpark
  5. Pisces (Jeff Watkins) Water Gardens, Town Park
  6. Boar (Elisabeth Frink) Water Gardens, Town Centre
  7. Contrapuntal Forms (Barbara Hepworth) Glebelands Housing Area
  8. Shenzhou (Simon Packard) Addison House Courtyard
  9. Eve (Auguste Rodin) Water Gardens, Town Centre

But what about lesser known and possibly overlooked works?
Through my Facebook page, I invite readers to share with me their favourite Harlow sculpture, particularly if it is not on the list above. And if you have the time and inclination, please do tell me why you like it.

portrait-figure-cropPicture of ‘Portrait Figure’, F.E. McWilliam, Bronze, 1956, located West Walk.

Harlow Early Growth Indicators

As part of my research into the Harlow post-war collections and new town legacy, I’ve been looking at some of the statistical data used to track the growth of the new town economy (population, houses, jobs etc). Collection of statistics was an important element of managing growth and anticipating change for the Harlow Development Corporation right from the beginning, with greater sophistication of analysis developing over time.

An early, rather ‘rough and ready’ analysis of the new town’s demographic make-up likened the age structure of Harlow ‘to that of a developing country’, 20% of the population were under 5, 40% were under 15. These were easy-to-digest figures that chimed with the Daily Mirror moniker for Harlow at that time, ‘pram town’.

Taking a step back from the detail, a couple of things strike me, firstly the sheer scale and quantity of data that was collected and remains available to this day, for example at Harlow Museum. Secondly, the entirely visceral speed of urban growth that these statistics bear witness to: in terms of houses built, school places fulfilled, square metres of shop and factory floors created etc.

I’ve been playing around with a selection of the key indicators to see what they look like when plotted side-by-side over time, an infographic if you like. Data and quotes taken from “Harlow: The Story of a New Town” by Gibberd, Harvey, White and others.


Reframe Virtual Residency

I’m pleased to announce that I have been commissioned by the Harlow Art Trust to undertake  a virtual residency at the Gibberd Gallery, Harlow, culminating in an online interactive art work to launch in November 2016. The commissioning strand is called ‘reframe’ and I’ll be posting thoughts using the tag ‘reframe’ until as and when I think of a better name for the final work! Essentially, I’ve been asked to ‘reflect, challenge and celebrate the Harlow aesthetic, its post-war collections and the unique and utopian New Town values.’

Having been over to Harlow only briefly to discuss the commission with staff at the Gibberd, I thought I would visit today purely to get my ‘feet on the ground’ and find out a bit more about the way the town as it is came into being.

Harlow was one of the ring of new towns built around London in the aftermath of the Second World War when strategic planners attempted to cater for and manage population growth and movement rather than let it expand organically. Harlow was unique among the designated development areas in that its original population was particularly low at 4,500 being chiefly dispersed between small hamlets and villages. Perhaps this unique situation was thought of as a  particularly ‘blank canvas’ by town planners led by Frederick Gibberd, namesake and forefather of the Gibberd Gallery.

“The design of a town – like the design of a car – is based on function. It has to work smoothly and efficiently. But, as with a car, we like a town to give pleasure to the eye, to be beautiful. So the history of Harlow’s design is also concerned with art, with the imagination that has been put into soving the practical problems.” Frederick Gibberd, quoted in ‘Harlow the Story of a New Town’, 1980.

The process of creating a new town such as Harlow was certainly imbued with idealism. It had to be as there were no immediate comparable precedents that had proved succesful although the earlier Garden City Movement was certainly an influence. The pre-war development of new housing estates outside of London, such as at Dagenham, was seen as problematic due to lack of local infrastructure and employment opportunities. Conversely, the post-war development strategy was to create self-sufficient, self-employing new towns that would attract industry and be able to provide for themselves.

It seems unthinkable now that central government would have the audacity, let alone the political will, to commission the planning and development of new towns designed for 70,000+ inhabitants on green field sites.

1947sketch1947 sketch imagining civic life in the future new town of Harlow.

townHarlow today showing part of the cast bronze sculpture ‘Trigon’ (1961) by Lynn Chadwick.