Since opening in 2005 the Spitalfields Estate has fostered a rolling art programme showcasing large scale sculptures in a variety of mediums across the public spaces.
The current display includes works by members of the Royal British Society of Sculptors and recent graduates from some of London’s leading art schools. The exhibitors are Royal British Society of Sculptors member Graham Guy Robinson, Ali Grant, and Royal College of Art graduates, Gabriel Birch and David Teager-Portman & Jack West.
The varied works encompass both figurative and abstract sculpture made from a variety of traditional and non-traditional materials including bronze, steel, aluminium, concrete, wood and plaster. All the works have been selected to respond to the rich layered history and contemporary vibe of Spitalfields and are on public view in and around Bishops Square and in the Charnel House below.
Frame Break 2016
Oak, laser-cut aluminum, laser-cut stainless steel, bolts
A machine is an object that reduces the need for a human hand; throughout history new technology has brought a threat to the working man’s livelihood. Frame Break loosely takes its form from that of a loom, and like much of Jack West’s work, the relationship between man and machine is the central theme. The title comes from The Frame Breaking Act that was passed by Parliament in 1812 in the wake of the Luddite revolts in northern England, when a large number of industrial looms were destroyed in protest at mechanisation.
The loom has been central to the social and economic development of Spitalfields and in particular references the Huguenot weavers – 16th century refugees who, having fled religious persecution in France, migrated to England and settled and prospered in the area. Frame Break takes on the appearance of having once performed a specific function, but now stands broken and unresolved. It questions ideas of work, purpose and the perceived threat of ‘the other’ that new technology, people or changing ideas can elicit.
Jack West lives and works in London and is a recent MFA graduate from the UCL Slade School of Fine Art, London. He was selected for the Liverpool and London Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016 exhibition and was winner of the 2016 Kenneth Armitage Young Sculptor prize.
Hollow Reef 2015
Hollow Reef is a mixed media installation made specifically for the reflecting pool at Bishops Square. It celebrates the luxury of everyday consumables such as aluminium, newspaper and printed packaging, materials that are normally taken for granted and discarded. Inspired by the islands of waste packaging floating in the Pacific Ocean the work attempts to imagine a fictional site where these fragments of waste are crushed and eroded, beginning to evolve an un-natural life.
The work aims to question and re-narrate the parameters of everyday experience, asking viewers to think again about products they normally use and discard. These products are the forgotten monuments to our contemporary globalised experience, creating an ecosystem of reference from the everyday.
Gabriel Birch has a BA in Sculpture from the University of Brighton and graduated from the Royal College of Art, London with an MA in 2014. He now lives and works in London.
Choosing the Losing Side 2014
The Last Explorer 2014
David Teager-Portman’s sculptures reflect the history of figurative representation. Playful and questioning, yet at the same time recalling funerary and tomb figures, Choosing the Losing Side and The Last Explorer communicate directly with one another, whilst each existing in their own right. With mask-like bronze faces, the sculptures are covered in a glistening colourful glaze containing layers of pure pigments to achieve the deep colours.
Indeterminate Object draws its form from the idea that ‘permanence is born in flux’. A monument to transience, the orange and mirror-polished steel sculpture is, like Spitalfields, located at a point between the past and the present. An exact replica of familiar orange temporary fencing, it is an object of paradox, both permanent and temporary, absent and present.
In the Jerwood Sculpture Prize 2007 catalogue, The Times Art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston wrote: “Challenging our preconceptions of outdoor sculpture as solid and monumental, [Graham Guy-Robinson’s] structure seems to question its very status as an object”.
Funded by Arts Council England, Indeterminate Object is the latest in a series of ‘temporary fence’ sculptures made by Guy-Robinson since 2003. Previous work from the series has been selected for and exhibited at Jerwood Sculpture Prize, Northern Print Biennale Newcastle and National Sculpture Prize (winner).
Guy-Robinson’s studio practice is based at Karst, Plymouth.
The winning design of the Spitalfields Sculpture Prize 2010, Kenny Hunter’s hand-sculpted goat stands atop a stack of packing crates to create the 3.5metre high I Goat, which was inspired by Spitalfields’ rich, ongoing social history.
“Goats are associated with non-conformity and being independently-minded. That is also true of London, its people and never more so than in Spitalfields.” said artist Kenny Hunter at the official unveiling on 20 January 2011.
Scottish sculptor Hunter beat seven other shortlisted designs to win the £45,000 commission. Hunter is known for his monumental sculptures and his works have been exhibited worldwide.
A Pear and a Fig
Ali’s bronze is not just a simple reminder of the days of the market: A Pear and a Fig is a still life, the fruits of which are shown ripe and ready to eat. The fabric and the block create the composition; these fruits are not casual windfalls. Artists have depicted still-lifes since the time of the Romans, as a celebration and a reminder of the opulence that came with commerce.