Marsh Awards


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


We are pleased to announce the winners of this year's PMSA's Marsh Awards.

Habitat by David Nash OBE RA wins

Goodman’s Fields Horses by Hamish Mackie MRBS, and Ustigate Ltd. wins

Market Place Fountain Dudley by James Forsyth, conservation by Purcell and Croft Buildings & Conservation wins

This year we received a large number of nominations for the PMSA’s Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture, Excellence in Public Fountains, and Excellence in Conservation of a Public Sculpture or Fountain.

The judges spent the summer traveling 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. Before each Award was presented by Brian Marsh OBE, a citation was read out for each winner.

Shortlisted work: Habitat
It gives me great pleasure to introduce this year’s winning sculpture by David Nash. At 7m high, this impressive column of carved cedar is situated within the University of Warwick campus to the southwest on the Sustran’s cycle path. The cedar originally came from a tree that had blown down in the Welsh village of Portmeirion, near Nash’s home. The artist has shaped it not only to look beautiful within its new site, but also as an invitation to the natural world to inhabit the work. Entitled Habitat, the column provides shelter for birds and insects and slits have been carved into the upper reaches of the cedar in the hope that bats will nest.

The piece sits within ‘Diamond Wood’ which itself is a new plantation on the campus featuring native species of oak, birch, field maples and hawthorns. It forms part of the Jubilee Woods project to create 60 new woods of 60 acres to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Commissioned for the University’s 50th anniversary, Nash’s work coincides with the establishment of Diamond Wood, which is open to the public and offers a chance to walk along the paths and to play and picnic in the glades. Habitat adds to more than 30 large sculptures already displayed across the University Campus, where Nash was once an artist-in residence.

This highly original work is to be celebrated not only for its aesthetic strength but also as one that responds to its site in its thoughtful encouragement of biodiversity. As it changes and weathers over the years, it will become increasingly part of the wood’s ecosystem as the trees grow up around it and more creatures inhabit it. 

Born in Surrey in 1945, David Nash studied at Kingston College of Art from 1963 to 1967 and at Chelsea School of Art from 1969 to 1970. After graduating, he moved to a village in North Wales, to an environment and landscape which informed much of his boyhood and which still inspires his work today. Nash works primarily in wood and, for the last 50 years, he has explored the different properties of the material and trees from which they originate in a unified approach to art and life. His respect for wood and its own journey over time allows him to both honour and embrace its qualities, letting his own consciousness and the materials’ elemental forces work together. From warping and bending, to cracking, Nash allows nature’s environment to play a key part in his constantly evolving practice, which also involves carving, charring and sawing.
Nash's work is held in over 80 public collections worldwide. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1999 and in 2004, was awarded the Order of the British Empire. Many of you will remember when Nash was artist in residence at London’s Kew Gardens in 2012, where once again his work formed an extended comment on humanity’s relationship with nature; a direct connection between man and world.
©The text is the copyright and intellectual property of Melissa Hamnett. 2016.

David Nash OBE RA and Brian Marsh OBE

Dick Turpin’s Black Bess was a horse stolen from Essex and then hidden in the stables of the Red Lion Inn in Whitechapel. The six incredible bronze horses that Hamish Mackie has created are another reminder that horses once grazed in this area - now a rapidly developing context for the Elizabeth Line. I would urge you to go and look at this imaginative collaboration between a developer, artist and fountain engineers that has created a new landmark for the area. Hamish has made sculptures of animals for a number of years all with his very distinctive and highly textured style of modelling. This project, perhaps one of his most complex to date combines the movement of animals with the interaction and movement of water.

It is very exciting to see a water feature that is reminiscent of water-operated automata of the renaissance. It is also very commendable that the developer commissioning the project has dared to take on all the responsibilities that water features entail!

Ustigate has had to create the system of jets and pulsating water from scratch – for them a new challenge- one that gives the impression of horses galloping in water. The effect is really successful and there is no other water feature like this in the United Kingdom.

We have decided to share the Marsh Fountain Award between Hamish Mackie and Ustigate and hope that their imaginative concepts will inspire future projects. Among the projects submitted this year it was exciting to see several within large scale building developments but in this case a bonus that both sculpture and water were successfully combined.
©The text is the copyright and intellectual property of Tony Mott. 2016.

Brian Marsh OBE and Hamish Mackie MRBS

Ustigate Ltd and Brian Marsh OBE

The Earl of Dudley Fountain, Market Place, Dudley
Together with Guy Braithwaite of Historic England and our fellow panel members we narrowed the candidates for this year’s Marsh award for Conservation of a public sculpture or fountain to a shortlist of three.

Each project involved the conservation of completely different materials; Aluminium, bronze, wood and stone. And each were on display in very different contexts: One located in the busiest part of central London near Oxford circus, another deep in rural Sussex and another in a market town in the west midlands. All the projects needed ingenuity, care, great skill and expertise.  So inevitably the final decision was finely balanced.

Let me just say a few words about each candidate: 
The John Lewis Partnership are to be commended… for in the first place, commissioning a major public sculpture by one of Britain’s greatest modern sculptors- Barbara Hepworth- and secondly for realising that just like its other properties in glass and bricks, sculpture needs to be maintained and conserved. Richard Rodgers company was chosen to conserve the sculpture.  After 50 years’ exposure in possibly the most traffic polluted street in Europe Winged Figure not only needed cleaning but also structural repairs to the cast aluminium and contrasting steel struts. It is elegantly positioned high on the John Lewis façade. Though nearly 6 metres tall, unfortunately, it is often unnoticed by many passing shoppers who are too busy negotiating the crowds to look up.

Eduardo Paollozzi’s London to Paris is a full-scale realization in wood and bronze of a small maquette in plaster. The piece was inspired by Paolozzi’s childhood memories of the long train journey he took each year from Scotland to Milan, changing in London and Paris. He was fascinated by machinery and the technology of producing sculpture. It led him to create in wood and bronze this, his last large scale sculpture- a surreal collage of parts- human and machine. The sculpture is at the Cass Sculpture foundation near Goodwood, not far from Chichester. It has yet to find a permanent home but the Cass Foundation, like John Lewis accepts the responsibility of ownership to conserve the art in their care. If only other custodians were so inclined. Conservators Plowden & Smith carried out the restoration of this unique sculpture overcoming the problems of sensitively uniting new parts with old and improving the siting of the sculpture. It will serve as a benchmark for the maintenance of other sculptures that come and go through this not-for-profit sculpture park.  I urge you to visit the Cass Foundation.  

The Earl of Dudley fountain is listed grade 2 and occupies a prominent position in the centre of Dudley. It had been both neglected and much changed by vandalism and accidental damage before Dudley metropolitan council commissioned architects to survey and propose a restoration programme. Walker and Duckham are now part of the Purcell company. Their thorough research and planning enabled the project to respect the intentions of the original designer and retain as much of the original fabric as possible. These are core conservation principles. Croft Building and Conservation Limited were the main contractors but it was a complex engineering, architecture and sculpture restoration project that involved several companies, high levels of management as well as manual skills. The techniques involved ranged from traditional stone carving to the latest in Nano lime technology. All this comes at considerable cost. The project was grant-aided by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It was part of a wider regeneration scheme for the town centre part funded by the European regional development fund…. not much of that in the future!

Among the judging criteria we consider the wider benefits of a project asking that a conservation project enhance or positively transform its physical environment or its social context – the way people feel or act about it.  We also ask if it has a regenerative or transformative effect by being a focus, a landmark or an attraction in its own right.

The positive effects on the city centre environment of conserving the Dudley Fountain has had a wider regenerative effect on its surroundings. Having been something of a sorry sight before, the repaired and recommissioned fountain now forms an attractive and uplifting centrepiece in the market place.

In the end this impact has swung the decision in its favour and I’m delighted to declare Purcell and Croft Building and Conservation Ltd the winners of the 2016 Marsh award for sculpture conservation and invite Frederick Gibson to accept the award.
©The text is the copyright and intellectual property of Derek Pullen

Croft Building and Conservation Ltd, Purcell UK and Brian Marsh OBE

Our main speaker for the evening was Michael Sandle RA.
Speech made at the Marsh Awards on November 2nd 2016
I am not sure that I am the right person to address this meeting about Public sculpture. Along with the fact that I seem constitutionally unable to dissemble and that the iron entered my soul a long time ago through a lifetime of the uphill struggle of being my kind of sculptor in an appallingly corrupt art world I also happen to be allergic to much public sculpture. 

The Cass artist materials chain has a slogan - "Let's fill this town with artists" - an appalling idea in my opinion - and as for more and more public sculpture! I nearly rammed a Mercedes when I lived in Pforzheim in Germany because I came across a newly erected sculpture called Der Rassler -the sound of boots with metal cleats on cobble stones- by an abysmal sculptor who had been active in the Nazi period but nowhere near as competent as Arno Breker

There was an article in one of the broadsheets not long ago about some terrible public sculpture in London described as Frankenstein sculpture - it used as an exemplar the massively oversized embracing couple in St Pancras station. I think of Public sculpture - a horrible term anyway - as the Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Down Right Stupid. The latter in my opinion would be the present extended thumb on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square - I do not approve of using the fourth plinth for contemporary sculpture anyway - Henry the eighth should be there on a horse because the plinth was designed for an equestrian statue and Henry the eighth was the founder of the modern British Navy and the Navy is what Trafalgar Square was meant to memorialise ... mind you I have read that some members of the public -when asked who was it that was being remembered at the top, of the famous column thought  it was Napoleon!

Bodies that promote public sculpture are skating on thin ice anyway as the Duke of Rutland discovered in the 19th Century when his committee put a grotesquely large equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington on the eponymous arch by the sculptor Wyatt which quite rightly was greeted with howls of derision - I am quoting English Heritage's website here. The memorial to Field Marshal Haig in the last century got panned too - an abortion of a horse it was claimed- it certainly looks as if it is about to defecate.

I am convinced the reason why there is so much terrible sculpture in our age of heroic decadence is because -as the great Swiss Historian Jacob Burkhardt said - Mittelmäßigkeit ist der einziges wahr daemonisches kraft - i.e. Mediocrity is the one true daemonic force ... and how true. If you don't know what mediocrity means a visit to Noddy land ... as my friend and colleague Ian Rank-Broadley calls the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire - will inform you. He calls it this even though he himself has executed - and extraordinarily well too - the sculpture for the winning proposal for the post 1945 armed forces memorial. My team by the way in which I was the architect came second in that competition but frankly I am extremely relieved that we didn't win.

I am not claiming my work is free from mediocrity but at least I do know what that word means - I admire skill -but not smug representational skill without any passion or import and I might add conscience too - the sort carried out by hacks - an example of this -and of staggering hypocrisy too I might add -is the memorial to Bomber Harris outside of St Clement Danes Church - it has been conveniently forgotten that under his direction we deliberately targeted civilians - as in the bombing of Hamburg -never mind Dresden - I could say a lot about the memorial to Bomber Command too which has nothing whatsoever to do with the obscenity of war and the architecture of which could have been designed by Albert Speer. 

The Royal Artillery Memorial by Sergeant Jagger is a different kettle of fish - it does not glorify or sanitise war - it shows at the sculptors insistence a representation of a dead soldier and the figure of the driver who leans against the stonework in a decidedly un-military fashion looking sardonically at the passers by chimes exactly with what Siegfried Sassoon said was the contempt the soldiers in the trenches held for the general civilian population because they could not begin to imagine the horrors of that terrible war.

OK maybe I live on a different Planet where the word excellent is used sparingly but concede that there are indeed some sculptors who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of excellence so I don't think I am just being pusillanimous. The Royal Artillery Memorial is however what I understand by the word excellent and this work contrasts with the vacuity of the New Zealand and Australian memorials in Hyde Park ...and in another Hyde Park. In Sydney there is a stupendous First World War ANZAC memorial which I kick myself for not seeing in the flesh when I was in Sydney many years ago and only know through photographs and which is called Sacrifice by Rayner Hof who interestingly enough was born in the Isle of Man. The whole ensemble in the ANZAC memorial by Rayner Hof was to have included as an allegory of the inhumanity of war a crucified naked woman but this was blocked by the Australian Bishops unfortunately and it was never executed.

Having said all of this that you probably think I am moralising rather a lot - well I am - but sheer excellence can transcend the defects of the subject as in Thomas Brock's equestrian statue of the Black Prince in Leeds. The Black Prince was the Bomber Harris of his time - not remotely Mr. Nice Guy but it is a superb sculpture which commands the surrounding square - I salute it every time I am in Leeds. I hope you get my drift and I think this is more than enough from me.
©The text is the copyright and intellectual property of Michael Sandle. 2016.

This was followed by an address by Prof. Brian Falconbridge, PPRBS.
Marsh Awards 2016
Good evening,
First of all I would like to add my voice in tribute to Ben Read - sculpture has lost a great authority and supporter.

It is a pleasure to find myself on the same bill as Michael Sandle. I have admired his forthright work for more than 40 years. Earlier this evening we heard him give honourable mention to Charles Sargeant Jagger. To my mind, he and Jagger are interconnected both by their points of view on practice and their achievements in sculpture – for which I thank Michael. I know that he’s a hard act for me to follow this evening.

As External Invigilator my role is advisory rather than executive. My task is to guide and challenge as the need arises towards a clear and firm decision. I prefer a light touch. 

The criteria for assessment were reviewed and revised a year or so back and are now fully operational. I will now refer to some over-arching issues before making some observations about the nature of works submitted for consideration this year, offering some thoughts on the works commended, before making my concluding remarks. Each year prompts - provokes even - new comment on the wider aspects of works submitted as well as comment on the individual works or projects receiving special recognition. 

Across the disciplines the Awards seek excellence in concept, execution, and context, with permanence – or at least reasonable longevity – remaining a pre-requisite.

Those who have heard me speak on earlier occasions know that, in order to aid understanding and critical judgment, I do like to establish meaning and definition. 
Allowing for the fact that assessment of quality and personal taste are not interchangeable currencies, I myself hold a firm line on understanding sculpture   as essentially the penetration of three-dimensional space through the disciplined and responsive medium of the plastic to convey creative and interpretative content. And furthermore that public sculpture obliges strict additional considerations of material, scale and context along with the opportunities for aesthetic enhancement, the fostering of social cohesion and the acknowledgement of history and human endeavour via commemoration.

That is not to say that ideas and conventions are not there to be challenged and boundaries extended, but while all public sculpture is public art not all public art is public sculpture, and if everything is sculpture then nothing is sculpture.

As the volume of works submitted has increased, so the variety of forms and ideas contained therein has also increased. This year the committee has had to consider over 100 items - and the diversity offered presents both its own challenges and its own opportunities. Inevitably the committee is required to weigh in the balance works of radically differing genres and points of view. 
Each year sees work coming to the fore that addresses particular situations with conviction and originality – and this year is no exception. Each category, be it for excellence in public sculpture, in conservation, or in fountains, invariably contains a considerable – one might even say an ‘extreme’ – span of aesthetic reach.

In sculpture though, however diverse the commissions, the broad themes are perhaps a little more easily categorized and the works a little closer together than one might think, namely:- remembering and marking human endeavour, both singly and collectively; depicting and interpreting the natural world of flora, fauna and landscape; proposing images of order, both organic and mathematical, as metaphors of understanding what it is to be in the world, and perhaps all embracing the continuity of time passing, the duality of permanence and flux anchored by sense of place.

Before I comment on the principal award winners, I would like to say a few words in praise of An Suileachan installed on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Designed by Maclean and Leven, and with its component parts assembled by a skilled and committed local work force, this is a comprehensive work commissioned by the Bhaltos Community Trust. In commemorating the history of land clearance and land raids and eventually land ownership, as a built installation, it explores sculpture as land art and land art as sculpture, encapsulating many of the broad themes I have just cited - integrating the landscape with the marking of social history and, in multiple ways, integrating the sculpture with the community.

The Market Place Fountain at Dudley - I believe known locally as The Spout - was commissioned from James Forsyth by the Earl of Dudley and enjoyed a grand beginning on display at the Paris Exhibition of 1867 before installation in situ. Having been out of action for almost all of the second half its life thus far, and not before time, it is now returned to its former glory - thanks partly to (well-timed) European Regional Development Funding. With its menagerie of horses, lions and dolphins it is a wonderful example of Continentally-inspired Victorian extravagance

To continue the theme of combining water with sculptures of animals, in Goodsman’s Fields Horses, in Leman Street in the East End, by contrast the horses have broken free and are made to appear to gallop through water. The modeling and casting by Mackie coordinated with artful water interaction and installation by Ustigate has created a total work that is a tour de force of the static and the dynamic to enhance a major new inner city development.

“Habitat”, by David Nash, a 7-metre 5-ton chain-saw-carved column of cedar is both a sculpture and a prospective home for bats, birds and insects. It has the benefit of being located very precisely by Nash himself and embraces the fact that the more it remains the same, the more its relationship with surrounding trees will change as they in turn grow and it does not. As an organic material, the sculpture is both permanent but will change over time.  The sculptor’s thinking is long-term as will be Habitat’s interaction with the natural world. If I could stray into Japanese aesthetics for a moment, it personifies the concept of wabi-sabi, that of rustic simplicity and understated elegance tinged with solitariness and beauty in the patina of aging.

I conclude by saying that the works we praise this evening would not have happened without informed commissioning.  Germane to the awards I assert that commissioning in this context is not and must not be mere casual procurement. It should be understood as a discipline, one might even say an art - as well as a balance sheet – an art upon which the success of a project is fundamentally dependent. As an art, commissioning is sometimes underestimated - and not simply in terms of required finance - but under-estimated as an opportunity to place works of a genuinely high order into the public arena – as the viewing public rightly deserves.

I hope that the works and projects celebrated this evening, and the means by which they were brought to fruition, will serve as exemplars of informed practice to encourage not only to those engaged directly in making sculpture, in conservation, and fountain design but also to those commercial, corporate and public bodies minded to commission.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Professor Brian Falconbridge PPRBS
2nd November 2016
©The text is the copyright and intellectual property of Prof. Brian Falconbridge.

Images are the copyright of the PMSA & Marsh Awards Judges. If you wish to publish any of them please contact the PMSA.