Marsh Awards


Detail from: Memorial to 158 Squadron by Peter W. Naylor, 2009

We are pleased to announce the winners of the Marsh Awards 2013. The awards were given for excellence in public sculpture, excellence in public fountains and excellence in the restoration of a public monument or fountain.

The standard of nominations for all three categories was very high, which made the job of the judging committee difficult but enjoyable.

The Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture was presented to Philip Jackson CVO DL MA FRBS for Bomber Command Memorial, Green Park, London.

The Bomber Command Memorial commemorates the nearly fifty six thousand crew who died while serving in the Bomber Command during the Second World War. It is located in Green Park along Piccadilly.
The Bomber Command Memorial was designed by architect Liam O'Connor and was built using Portland stone. Within the memorial are the bronze sculptures of a Bomber Command aircrew by Philip Jackson. Within the memorial, the space is open to the sky with an opening designed to allow light to fall directly onto sculptures of the aircrew. The sculpture is the subject of this award.
The scale of the sculpture as a whole means that visitors will always see the profile of the sculpture against the sky above them, day and night - thus rendering that section of the sky powerfully symbolic for the memorial which features a bronze 9-foot (2.7 m) sculpture of seven aircrew, designed by the sculptor Philip Jackson to look as though they have just returned from a bombing mission and left their aircraft.
Aluminium from a Royal Canadian Air Force Handley Page Halifax of 426 Transport Training Squadron that had crashed in Belgium in May 1944 was used to build the roof of the memorial, which was designed to evoke the geodetic structure of the Vickers Wellington.
At least 4 PMSA judges visited the sculpture. “This is magnificent – huge, dark, weighty - like a bomb. The figures are over life-size, with great attention paid to detailed realism as regards uniforms & equipment; I assume they’re portraits – they all look alive without being mock-heroic. On the contrary, the facial expressions are realistically haggard, stressed and unhappy.” “It has such presence and draws you in to walk around the piece and admire the detail of the bombers themselves. Every inch of the piece itself seems to create interest. I thought the expressions on the faces were particularly good, as were the textures of the uniforms and the stances of the men.”

The Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Fountains was presented to The Fountain Workshop Ltd, for their work on the fountains for Bradford City Park, Bradford.

City Park is a high-quality, six-acre public space in the heart of Bradford which contains the largest man-made water feature in any UK city. City Park provides a landscape comprising fountains, trees and attractive green spaces making an ideal environment for walking, relaxing and quiet contemplation. It is a critical part of Bradford’s regeneration and has been designed to bring jobs and prosperity to Bradford by attracting visitors and businesses into the district and helping to create the landscape for future investment.
City Park's 4,000sq m mirror pool features more than 100 fountains, including the tallest in any UK city at 30m (100ft), laser light projectors and mist effects designed and installed by Fountain Workshop. This unique feature reflects and showcases the Grade 1-listed City Hall and sets Bradford apart. City Park, and the mirror pool in particular, is an adaptable environment which is capable of holding events such as carnivals, markets, theatre productions, screenings and community festivals.
Four PMSA judges visited City Park.
“It was a very warm day and it was wonderful to see the City Park so full of people enjoying the area. The 100 fountains attracted many children who enjoyed standing on the actual fountains as they intermittently sprouted to different heights dependant on the force.”
“A very shallow dish shape, with the water right up to the rim in some places and only knee deep for an adult in the middle. And there are some areas of decking for people to sit on round the other parts of the edge. The rather odd metal standards that run right round the pool are quite negligible in themselves but I think they have a purpose in defining the area of the water vertically – they make a more distinctive precinct of it than if they were not there.”

The Marsh Award for Excellence in the Restoration of a Public Monument or Fountain was presented to Jonathan Clarke, for the restoration of Spiral Nebula by Geoffrey Clarke RA, University of Newcastle.

Standing in front of the Herschel Building is an important post-war 20th century sculpture. Spiral Nebula by Geoffrey Clarke RA is a monumental and striking example of the artist’s work and one of few examples from this period sited in a public location in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Spiral Nebula was commissioned in 1962 by the architect, Sir Basil Spence, for the grounds of the Herschel building. Spence often worked collaboratively with Clarke, and Spiral Nebula compliments the building’s modernist architecture. On first view, the sculpture appears to be constructed out of wooden slats, however closer inspection reveals a steel structure with painted cast aluminium panels. Viewed in relation to the then new physics building’s use; the sculpture can be taken as a symbol of scientific advances in the 1960s. Yet, the sculpture caused a dispute between Clarke and Spence. It is understood Spence thought its waxed finish distracted attention from the building and a month after unveiling, the sculpture was flame blasted and painted grey.
Over the past 50 years, the sculpture’s surface and structural condition has inevitably degraded. As custodian of this innovative sculpture, the University embarked on conservation work to ensure it can be appreciated for many years to come. This will allow audiences to appreciate the original condition and concept of Clarke’s Spiral Nebula along with relocating it to an improved position within the Herschel quadrangle. Missing aluminium panels will be re-cast using Clarke’s lost polystyrene process and cleaning will remove the grey paint from the surface, restoring the sculpture to its former glory.
Spiral Nebula comprises a steel armature with aluminium cast from polystyrene which Clarke carved with a heated instrument. The polystyrene was packed into fine sand and vaporised as molten aluminium was poured in, hardening to take the same shape. This was an adaptation of the lost wax method with Clarke the first artist in the world to use it.
Over the years drainage holes had got blocked, moss had grown on the sculpture and pigeons had wreaked havoc. A central mast of steel with an aluminium coating had vanished. Three PMSA judges visited the piece, and whilst having some concerns with the siting, considered this an excellent restoration of a very important 1960s sculpture, which thoroughly deserves the award.

Jolyon Drury, Chairman of the Awards judging committee, welcomed the winners to the ceremony, which was very well attended by members of the PMSA and invited guests. This year the awards were held on 6th November at the Grosvenor, London. We would like to thank the staff at Grosvenor for all their help in making the evening a success.

Richard Dorment, writer and art critic for The Telegraph, presented the awards to the winners. Brian Marsh OBE, of the Marsh Christian Trust, read out a citation for each winner, before Richard Dorment congratulated each winner and presenting them with their prize and certificate. Unfortunately, Philip Jackson was unable to attend the ceremony, so Air Commodore Malcolm White, OBE, kindly received the prize and certificate on his behalf.

Before the presentation of the awards, Richard Dorment and Prof Brian Falconbridge both gave a speech on the role and importance of public sculpture, fountains and restoration to our enjoyment of our public spaces, and the role of the PMSA in the ongoing preservation, protection and promotion of these works.

Address by Prof. Brian Falconbridge, PPRBS.

As External Invigilator in annual Marsh Awards process, I see my role as being that of a critical friend, where my task is to provoke debate, challenge views, offer my own views, and overall to contribute to achieving Panel consensus in recognising and confirming the outstanding exemplars of high quality across the three categories.  The collective hope is that the Awards will also serve to encourage higher standards within the fields, to inspire practitioners, and to inform commissioning bodies and custodians towards subsequent public acceptance and appreciation.

Placing a permanent sculpture, or sculpture-related artefact, in the public realm imposes multiple responsibilities. It is not - and should not be - a trivial or casual undertaking.  The work should provide benefit both to the immediate setting and to the wider community.  In addition to command of the requisite attributes of sculpture (of which more presently) this is achieved through an enhancement of sense of place, with content that will endure, typically reflecting an appreciation of the place of the individual or the group in Society, in Nature, and in the world; of human struggle, endeavour and achievement, presenting a response to, and perhaps an understanding of something of these perpetual complexities.

This year the Marsh Awards have attracted more interest, more candidates, than ever before.  Through increased publicity and raised awareness, over 60 works, of very diverse styles and ambitions, were brought forward for consideration, with the range of work representing the full gamut of relevant practice.  Standards continue to be raised and competition is correspondingly increasingly fierce, and I applaud the vigorous debate that always accompanies the difficult process of decision making, especially when comparing excellence in different genres - the latter being an issue the Panel is becoming increasingly mindful of as it begins to consider future classifications.

At this point I have previously sought to define particularly relevant terminology, and I think it might be helpful to do so again.  I do this not to censor practice but more to encourage clarity of nomenclature in application.  The term ‘sculpture’ has become once again become fashionable and is used increasingly freely.  My inclination is to draw the distinction between public ‘sculpture’ and public ‘art’ and to draw a further distinction between the use of the noun, ‘sculpture’ and that of the adjective ‘sculptural’.  The adjective does not always define or determine the noun.  While the obverse is true, all that is ‘sculptural’ is not necessarily ‘sculpture’.  I appreciate that this is necessarily a contested field but as a fundamental pre-requisite I think that sculpture is that art-form that concerns itself with the penetration of three-dimensional space to enable the consolidation of the plastic and the conceptual into an insightful and creative original statement. 

Furthermore I am in no doubt that sculpture, and the direct experience of it, is an art form of especial relevance and purpose to society now, in this age of an accelerating accumulation of transient visual imagery, visual data,  where the world and people in it are experienced increasingly indirectly, through the digital on a flat screen.

For my part, I am delighted that the works commended this evening meet these required and exacting criteria, the enhancement of place on the part of Bradford City Park, the very welcome restoration of  Geoffrey Clarke’s brilliant and still inspirational “Spiral Nebula” at Newcastle University – in connection with which I am moved to remind us that Clarke is the last surviving member of that elite group of eight “Young British Sculptors” who exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1952, and who were cited by Sir Herbert Read as ‘participating in a general revival of the art of sculpture” - and last but not least, Philip Jackson’s magnificent “Bomber Command”, an absolute tour de force as a piece of public sculpture, in form, scale material, purpose, content - and of course - timing.  I am pleased to confirm the Awards as being fully and rigorously considered, and all richly deserved.

Prof. Brian Falconbridge PPRBS

6th November 2013
©The text is the copyright and intellectual property of Prof. Brian Falconbridge.

Air Commodore Malcolm White, OBE
Air Commodore Malcolm White, OBE.

The Fountain Workshop Ltd
Left to right from The Fountain Workshop Ltd, David Bracey (Technical Director), Ian Kirkpatrick (Managing Director), Ben Hampshire (Project Manager).

Jonathan Clarke

Jonathan Clarke.

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