Marsh Award 2017
We are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s PMSA’s Marsh Awards.
Women of Steel by Martin Jennings FRBS wins
The PMSA's Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture
The Four Brick Reliefs by Rodney Harris MRBS and Valda Jackson win
The PMSA's Marsh Special Prize for Low Relief
Perseus and Andromeda Fountain, Witley Court, conservation by Sally Strachey Historic Conservation Ltd. wins
The PMSA's Marsh Award for Excellence in Conservation of a Public Sculpture or Public Fountain
The judges spent the summer travelling up and down the UK to assess potential candidates for the shortlist and of course the eventual the winners. As in previous years, the variety of sculpture, fountains, and conservation projects has been astounding. To see the shortlist and read about the winners, visit the 3rd Dimension website.
The Awards Ceremony took place at the offices of Grosvenor, with each award being presented by HRH the Duke of Gloucester, the President of the PMSA.
Martin Jennings for Women of Steel
The statue represents both the cameraderie that helped these young women triumph over the exceptionally difficult task allotted to them and the pride they felt in achieving expertise in an industry that was traditionally the preserve of men. I have modelled a welder and a riveter to stand for the many roles required of them. They are jauntily marching along arm in arm with their heads held high. At the end of the war, the women were dismissed from their work in the steel industry with little thanks. Now, by erecting this statue within the lifetimes of the surviving Women of Steel, we all have an opportunity belatedly to record our gratitude. There are countless war memorials to men. My hope is that this statue will help us never to forget these women, without whose courageous endeavours victory in two World Wars would have been very far from assured.
Martin Jennings read English Literature at Oxford University before training as a calligrapher and letter-cutter at the City and Guilds of London Art School in 1980. He then served a part-time apprenticeship to Richard Kindersley in Kennington. After working briefly in Carrara, Italy, Jennings turned to figurative work and took a course at the Sir John Cass School of Art in Whitechapel. He now concentrates on portrait sculpture and public statues, often incorporating inscriptions. He has received commissions from many national institutions including the National Portrait Gallery, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the University of Oxford. His subjects are taken from the world of politics, the military, royalty, academia, industry, medicine, law and literature. Two of his bronze statues John Betjeman, 2007, at St. Pancras Station in London and Philip Larkin, 2010, at Hull Paragon Station have become celebrated landmarks. While his Charles Dickens, which he made for the author’s native city of Portsmouth, was the first full-size statue of the author in Britain and received an honourable mention at the PMSA’s Marsh Awards in 2014. Two statues by Jennings were installed in 2016. The first commemorated the ‘Women of Steel’, who worked in the armaments industry during WW2 and was sited in front of Sheffield City Hall. The second paid tribute to Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole and was positioned outside St Thomas’ Hospital in Central London. Jennings’ larger-than-lifesize sculpture of George Orwell for the exterior of BBC Broadcasting House, London will be unveiled on 7 November this year. He is currently working on statues of John Radcliffe for Oxford and Stanley Baldwin for Bewdley, Worcestershire. All his bronze and silver sculptures are cast by Pangolin Editions. Martin Jennings lives and works in Oxford.
Rodney Harris and Valda Jackson for The Four Brick Reliefs
I am concerned with identity, relationships and belonging. This is evident throughout my work, whether drawing and painting as part of my own studio practice, or making a sculpture commissioned by housing developers, or a city council. As a visual artist, who writes, I like to create narratives in the work and this also comes into play within my collaborations. In the Mare and Foal made in 1994, when my own first-born was just six months old, the bodies of the mare and foal overlap. Physically and emotionally linked, they are bonded together as one small unit – a family. Similarly, in composing the image for the girls’ pinafores, my preoccupation was the possible narratives that could be brought to bear on two separate items of clothing. Having studied the siting plan, I could not conceive of the possibility of giving each of these items its own individual space. For me, these representations of childhood, of innocence, must not float singularly and vulnerable in their own isolation on a wall. To each I gave the gift of the other. Each has ownership of the other within the world that they inhabit. In the positioning and placement of these garments, I create a visual narrative – to evoke the human spirit of the possible wearers. And the wearers of these pinafores, sisters, join hands. The elder, straight and steady, responsible for much of the little one’s care while parents work, she takes her sister’s hand in hers. And like the slender colt in Mare and Foal that is bonded against the solid mass of his mother’s body, this younger child leans slightly towards her big sister in a gesture of unquestioning faith – in trust. This is just one moment, one narrative, from which I have drafted a short story. The adult man’s Uniform, formal and bulky, was drawn from an original police uniform from a period when many people across the globe were in uniform, fighting wars, policing, patrolling, nursing. As with the pinafores, we borrowed the uniform from a hire company in Bristol, suppliers of authentic costumes for theatre and film. I try to consider the real people in their real lives, who once wore such garments, as individuals who are often long gone. I then attribute these garments with a quality of the individual…such as introducing the lowered right shoulder, a slightly crooked look, to acknowledge not only that singularity but a vulnerability of the human, whatever the uniform for whatever the job, and whatever the context.
Rodney Harris is both a sculptor and a printmaker. He studied for his BA Hons. in Ceramics at Bristol and graduated with an MA in Ceramics from Cardiff in 1990. He has received commissions from a range of public and private organisations. These include Wallpaper and Sofas, 2013, a 70m. long brick relief for the Bicester Public Art Project in Oxfordshire; Giant Brick Sphere, 2008-9, which was commissioned by Gedling Borough Council, Nottingham, to celebrate the opening of a new community centre and developed in close consultation with the local community; Outdoor Classroom, a public sculpture commission from Notre Dame High School in Norwich, Norfolk and LSI Architects Ltd. which is a relief comprising a pair of upholstered brick chesterfield sofas and Three-Piece-Suite, which was commissioned by Thanet Borough Council’s Department of Regeneration and Development for Ramsgate in Kent. The latter was shortlisted for the Rouse Kent Public Art Award 2001.
Valda Jackson was born in Blue Mountains, Jamaica and came to England at the age of five to join her parents and settle in Birmingham. She studied for a BA Hons. in Fine Art at Bristol and then for a post-graduate diploma in Fine Art at Cardiff. In her work Jackson explores a history shared by many migrants and themes relating to dislocation and identity. She employs memory fragments and historical truths to recall and re-imagine the past, questioning our present, and perhaps impacting the future through the visual arts – painting and sculpture, and with her writing and performance. Her work reflects her experience of a Jamaican British heritage and growing up in a culture that sits, at times uncomfortably, within another that is larger, dominant and imperial. Jackson’s work is about existence – survival, individual entitlement, privilege, and above all, dignity. These themes extend to all of Jackson’s commissions and to projects with her long-term collaborator, Rodney Harris. Her public sculptures include a life-size brick relief, Mare and Foal (1994) in Newmarket and a commission from the City Council in 2002 for the community hub of St Pauls Learning and Family Centre in Bristol. Entitled All Our Tomorrows, this brick carved bas relief celebrates the cultural diversity not only of St. Pauls, but also Bristol. In 2004 she and Rodney Harris collaborated on a 25’ long brick bas-relief, The Newport Castle, a Great Western Railway steam locomotive, for the Station Approach at Newport in South Wales. Their recent collaborations include a series of brick reliefs on the Peabody St. John’s Hill Estate in Wandsworth, London. Jackson’s other recent projects include Literary Archaeology, a collaborative project with the University of Bristol Department of English, Bristol Writers and archaeologists from the University of Cambridge and the University of Exeter. She is one of the contributors to Critical Decade: After the Black Arts Movement edited by Bristol University History of Art Department (publication forthcoming).
Sally Strachey Historic Conservation Ltd for Perseus and Andromeda Fountain, Witley Court
Their work on The Perseus and Andromeda Fountain was commissioned by English Heritage. Set in the centre of the gardens at Witley Court in an ornamental shaped pool, the fountain was designed by the leading landscape gardener, William Andrew Nesfield (1793-1881), in the 1850s for William Ward, Ist Earl of Dudley. It was carved from Portland stone by James Forsyth (1826-1910) in his London studio and transported from there to Witley, where it was installed c.1860. The central group represents Perseus riding Pegasus, rescuing Andromeda from the Dragon. The bases are encircled by alternating grotesque fish and shells. The fountain is fired on the hour throughout the summer, but is not used in the winter. Over time, a large build-up of organic growth had developed on the statues. This organic growth has been a persistent problem. Historic photographs show that the growth has disappeared and reappeared quite regularly, which suggests that there have been a number of previous phases of cleaning. The SSHC contract included cleaning and conservation of the entire Grade I listed fountain and stone replacement, which included the carving of a new hand for Andromeda.
Based in the South West, Sally Strachey Historic Conservation Ltd. are award-winning ICON accredited specialists in the conservation of historic buildings, archaeology, monuments and sculpture. Sally Strachey, who was originally a founding director of Nimbus Conservation, set up Strachey & Strachey in 1997 and SSHC Ltd. in 2010. The company regularly carries out work in the cities of Bristol and London, the South, the Midlands and even further afield. The business has grown organically, building on a passion for heritage and putting time and energy into developing a strong ethos of working with its clients. Their work on a wide-range of churches, monuments and historic sites provides a full service from conservation reports to onsite work by its highly-skilled team of consultants, masons, carvers and conservators. SSHC undertake repair and conservation of historic fabric on projects that incorporate architectural stonework, archaeological sites, museum pieces, church monuments, historic plaster and render, sculpture polychrome and decorative surfaces. They have worked in this capacity for the Historic Royal Palaces, the National Trust, CADW, English Heritage, Historic England, Places of Worship and the Corporation of London.
Our keynote speaker was Richard Wilson RA. The following speech entitled ‘Public Art – Observations’ was made at the PMSA’s Marsh Awards on 8 November 2017. Click here to read it.
The PMSA's Marsh Awards for Excellence in Public Sculpture and Conservation 2017, address by Professor Brian Falconbridge PPRBS:
Your royal highness, distinguished guests,
Before I announce the winner of the award for public sculpture I will comment on the short list and the two awards already made but before both I’ll touch briefly on the topic much in the news earlier this year at home and abroad - that of various public sculptures of individuals now deemed by some as being no longer worthy of prominent display.
Excluding items beyond these shores, I am thinking more of works of commemorative sculpture here in the UK, often of those who, while eminent and lauded in their day, have become susceptible to more modern thinking, and may now be regarded less favourably.
In the case of some individuals portrayed, while they themselves are now consigned to history - if re-seen through a contemporary lens – aspects of their lives and actions may retain the ability to provoke controversy. The history of slavery, and the proceeds and consequences thereof, is an obvious source in this regard. Self-evidently while the past cannot be altered, our perception, our understanding, and our evaluation of it, is inevitably in flux with consensus proving elusive.
Many have offered views on this general and complex issue. For example, in speaking of such as the statues in Trafalgar Square of 19th century military figures from the early days of the Raj, Dr Kusoom Vadgama, co-chair of the Indo-British Heritage Trust, makes good sense in advising that the statues of Generals Napier and Havelock be left well alone, making cogent assessment that could be applied more broadly when she says of the sculptures that:
“They will always remain a part of the shared history of India and Britain, and removing them would not erase them from the annals of history.
Before adding the slightly open-ended rider that:
Their presence remains a permanent reminder of their historical deeds or misdeeds, lest we forget them”.
I might also add lest we forget the sculptor and the art of the sculptor as well and commit a disservice to both.
While one might – and perhaps should - debate the fact of decades’ worth of pre-existing public sculpture, and their merits and demerits of subject and realization, for my part and with these Marsh Awards in mind, I am more concerned that present and future works placed in the public domain are conceived, commissioned, executed and installed to the highest standards pertaining today. The over-arching prerequisite of any example of public sculpture should be high quality in each of these four elements, and it is exactly that we are here to acknowledge this evening.
As External Invigilator my role is advisory rather than executive. As well as exercising judgment to identify and consider recent public sculpture from within the broader spectrum of public art, the task - the challenge - faced by the panel is one of assessing quality across diverse genres. No more so than this year where 80 or so items came under scrutiny. Comparison of chalk and cheese and combinations thereof is never easy - but clear and firm resolution has again been achieved.
As in previous years, the shortlisted works continue to range from the fully figurative and representational to the starkly geometrical and all points in between.
Scale too is comprehensive in range, from the monumental to the more intimate in both figurative and abstract sculpture. The range of imagery tackled is broad, from the direct representation of nature and landscape to the severely monolithic, all reflecting social history both made and in the making. The full gamut of themes too is present, embracing the scientific and the literary, community memory and aspiration, together with sacrifice, endeavour and achievement, from memorializing loss through military conflict or civilian through industrial cause, to mundane but poignant everyday life gone by.
To that list add mythology from classical antiquity as in “Perseus and Andromeda”, the award winner for Conservation. Sculpted in Portland stone by James Forsyth and installed at Witley Court, Perseus is astride the winged horse Pegasus as he slays the serpent Cetus. With conservation achieved by Sally Strachey Historic Conservation for English Heritage, this tour-de-force of affluent Victorian logistical extravagance, and one of the largest fountains in Europe, is successfully restored to its former glory.
From time to time, the panel chooses to give special commendation to a work of note, often when there is particular resonance between the project and its material form and the community. This year the Panel has chosen to recognize the bas relief as an established but perhaps now a somewhat under-acknowledged form of sculpture.
“The Four Brick Reliefs”, at the Peabody Estate in St John’s Hill, Clapham, the collaboration between Valda Jackson and Rodney Harris, recall everyday social history through specific items of clothing, namely two pinafore dresses and a uniform jacket, together with garden tools and a robust double Butler sink. Exquisitely cast and carved in brick, the objects depicted float ethereally, in true Magritte-ian fashion, as subtle echoes of earlier lives and times, reminding both current residents and visitors of those who once preceded them in days gone by.
Before I announce the winner of the Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture, and to finish where I started, while debate about sculptures of historical figures long instated or more recently commissioned is bound to continue - and here it worth noting that meretricious subject matter of a person or a cause does not inevitably produce good sculpture - the act of informed and enlightened commissioning in all its complexities remains a sine qua non in the promotion of public sculpture. I hope that the works in view this evening, and most especially the three items reserved for particular recognition, will serve as beacons of outstanding practice.
It is now time for me to announce the final award of the evening. It gives me great pleasure to announce that the winner of the Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture for 2017 is Sheffield’s “Women of Steel” by Martin Jennings.
Before I comment on the sculpture I should say that Martin is one of our most active and respected figurative sculptors. In addition to works in collections including the National Portrait Gallery, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Palace of Westminster, it is very likely you will have encountered his work on your travels, be it the Betjeman at St Pancras, the Larkin in Hull, the Dickens in Portsmouth, the McIndoe at East Grinstead, the Plumber’s Apprentice at Cannon Street, and of course the Mary Seacole at St Thomas’ Hospital and as of yesterday, and just minutes walk away, the George Orwell at the BBC.
“Women of Steel” could hardly be more timely and welcome or indeed well-named. As we proceed through the centenary years of the First World War, and as those women who were the stalwarts of maintaining industry in the Second World War now leave the scene, it is fitting that a commemorative sculpture is made and sited appropriately in order to recognize their work and their great contribution during times of national peril.
Notwithstanding the obvious comradeship, and socialist-realist flavour in this depiction of the nobility of labour, Jennings has succeeded in placing a figurative sculpture convincingly at street level, located by its descriptive ledger base – a feature at which he excels. At 1.9 metres - a little over 6ft. the figures are slightly larger than life size as the women themselves were probably nearer to 5ft tall, but not so large as to appear overly monumental and unapproachable. The women depicted are of the people in every sense. In presenting two linked figures that are in step but appear to have arrested their step momentarily, as if surveying the scene, Jennings has captured a sense of the continuing dynamic, of confident - celebratory even - forward momentum. Conceived, commissioned, executed and installed to the highest standards, “Women of Steel” by Martin Jennings is seized of humanity and esprit de corps, the fully deserving winner of the Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture 2017.
Prof. Brian Falconbridge, PPRBS
8th November 2017