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Cathedral makeover

Tags: Group Exhibition, Public Space

I am truly delighted, honoured even, to be showing my recent sculpture, Bearing Witness to Things Unseen at the centre of Chichester cathedral's nave. The forms part of an exhibition curated by Jacquiline Creswell of 25 sculptors from the Royal Society of Sculptors, in an exhibition titled Together We Rise.

Simon Hitchens   Bearing Witness to Things Unseen. 10

Entering Chichester Cathedral from the western door, you are confronted by an irregular shaped, polished black portal standing central to the nave on its flag-stone floor. Appearing as an absence of space and matter within the fabric of the cathedral, this phenomenon holds your reflection as you approach.

Simon Hitchens   Bearing Witness to Things Unseen. 12.JPG

Walking past the reflective portal reveals its dense black surface; parallel grooves and ridges running along its length as if having been extruded. Contrasting with the flat polished western end, the eastern end is a cave-like void, a craggy cast of a boulder which is now absent. This is the shadow of an ancient rock, cast by the rising sun on the equinox.

Simon Hitchens   Bearing Witness to Things Unseen. 7.JPG

This uncanny object has a significant human presence because of its associative height and width and the ability to see oneself reflected in the flat polished western surface. It references time: deep geological time, celestial time and human time. Consequently, it also speaks of transience and the interconnected nature of what we share with the world and, importantly, of things larger than ourselves.

Simon Hitchens   Bearing Witness to Things Unseen. 11

For more information about the exhibition, and interviews with the artists, click HERE.

Exhibition open: 27 June - 6 September
Mon - Sat 9am-5pm
Sun - 12pm-2pm
Chichester Cathedral
West Street
Chichester
PO19 1PX
www.chichestercathedral.org.uk
info@chichestercathedral.org.uk
01243 782595

 

Physis for Pfizer

Tags: Exhibition, Public Space, Public Event, Public Sculpture

9th March

Physis 1

This evening, at the Science and Industry Museum Manchester, my sculpture PHYSIS will be unleashed on the public. Commissioned by Pfizer to open up a conversation about the progress treatments they have made with lung cancer, this sculpture aims to shock, fascinate and provoke inquiry in equal measure.

A long time in gestation, this participatory sculpture references a parasitic lung cancer tumour with its invasive tentacles multiplying and suffocating the pure white 'plinth' that supports it. Over the course of the exhibition the audience removes pieces of the root-like tentacles and in effect makes the cancer go into remission, helping the host body begin to breath again.

Physis 2

In this world, but not of this world...?
Using a digitally enlarged MRI scan of a real human lung tumour as the centre of a cancerous growth, this parasitic being has, I believe, a very beautiful form. Yet its invasive tentacles are clearly suffocating the pure white host body of the boulder which supports it.

Not only does this sculpture speak of lung cancer and the ability of humans to diminish it; through their physical interaction with the sculpture by taring away the softer tentacles, and Pfizer's advances in oncology treatments, but it also references our global relationship to planet Earth.

Physis 3

The interconnectedness of human life and the natural world is something I have been exploring in my work for many years - the relationship between the human and the non-human, animate and inanimate. This suffocating human cancer sits atop a pure white boulder - I don't think it is too hard to see the analogy of Humankind's relationship to planet earth as cancerous.

 

Major British Landmark Sculpture

Tags: Public Commission, Outdoor Sculpture, Public Space, Press

29th August

I am thrilled to announce that I have won a major public sculpture commission to be sited in the raw beauty of Northumberland. This 55 metre contemporary sculpture celebrates Queen Elizabeth II's service to country and her life-long dedication to The Commonwealth.

Simon Hitchens - Elizabeth Landmark sculpture - car park view

The Elizabeth Landmark will become a new cultural destination on the Ray Estate and in the north of England, benefiting the local community and economy by being a catalyst for regeneration.

Simon Hitchens - Elizabeth Landmark sculpture - zoom

Made from Corten weathering steel, this elevated slice of hillside has been inspired by the rugged and undulating landscape in which it sits. The elegant and robustly engineered aerodynamic form references the rich history of local iron ore and stone mining. Lateral fins which change in pitch and frequency as they rise up the sculpture accentuate the sense of perspective and movement, creating contrasting shadows along its 85 metre length.

Simon Hitchens - Elizabeth Landmark sculpture - Rock Slot

Directly shaped by the topography of the hill, the delicately arched form would completely disappear if placed back into the hill beneath. The carved space left in the hillside below, which has given rise to the positive sculpture above, forms a canyon-like rock slot. To walk this from end to end will be to experience the geology of the local landscape: a walk through Deep Time itself.

Simon Hitchens - Elizabeth landmark sculpture - Concept Sketch

The specific topography of Cold Law hill in Northumberland has directly informed not just the sculpture and the rock slot, but also the circumnavigating system of paths, which allow ever changing perspectives of the sculpture whilst walking around it. Like a reverse giant gnomon of a sundial, the sculpture points directly to the sun at its zenith on Midsummer’s day.

Simon Hitchens studio portrait 2

"To have the opportunity to design a landmark sculpture to be placed in this raw and beautiful landscape is undoubtedly a privilege and a challenge that I wholeheartedly relish. The success of the sculpture will grow from a sensitivity to land and place: born in form, material and presence from the majestic geography that supports it."

 

WAC Awards 2016

Tags: Group Exhibition, Public Space
IMG_5535

10th October
I just love this image of Being Things: like an exotic food stuff, almost ready to eat. The exhibition has a really interesting hang this year as it is in the Bishops Palace, alongside ancient architecture, furniture and portraits.

Certainly worth a look if you are new Wells:
The Bishop's Palace, Wells, Somerset, BA5 2PD
8-22 October
Open: 10am - 6pm
www.wellsartcontemporary.co.uk

 

The Flesh of the World

Tags: Group Exhibition, Public Space

4th March 2016:
The world made flesh....
An installation view of my work in the exhibition Mending Revealed which opens tomorrow at:
Allsop Gallery, Bridport Arts Centre, 9 South Street, Bridport, Dorset, DT6 3NR
Exhibition open - 10 - 4 pm, Tues - Sat, 5 March - 16 April
T: 01308 424204 - www.bridport-arts.com

 

The Space Between a Space: wrapped, unwrapped, wrapped

Tags: Public Commission, Outdoor Sculpture, Public Space
 

24th November 2015:
Yesterday I managed take some images of the sculpture The Space Between, which I installed in May. Sited in Reading, just along the road from the mainline rail station and opposite Forbury Park, it is the welcoming landmark sculpture at the entrance to Forbury Place: a striking new office space delivered by M&G Real Estate. After installing the sculpture on a wet day in May, the surrounding groundwork, cabling and surface finishes to the public realm had to be completed which is why I waited until yesterday to take images of the finished work. For all this time the sculpture has remained wrapped, protected from the possibility of knocks and bumps. Now it is wrapped again, because work is starting on the second building which is due for completion in 2017.

I'm thrilled with the strong visual link between sculpture and building, and am eager to see it again without wrapping, fencing, and with people sitting around it. For the full background story of its making click on the Public Commission tag on this page and scroll through six news posts about the project, or take a look at the public commissions page in this website, or testimonials.

 
 
 
 

A Ghost Made

Tags: Studio Practice, Group Exhibition, Public Space

22nd January, 2015:
Today I installed the rock half of Ghost: 4.5 tonnes of carboniferous limestone boulder. A tense time during the craning in of the boulder, incase vital measurements of the foundation pins didn't marry up with the rock's base plate, but all was well.

Carrying on from the news post A Ghost in the Making (10th December), here are a few more images of the finishing stages of the sculpture: I think the images speak for themselves.

Ghost can be seen at the exhibition:
Second Site
31st January - 12th April 2015
Open daily 11 - 4pm
Hestercombe Gallery, Hestercombe House, Cheddon Fitzpaine, Taunton, TA2 8LG
T: 01823 413923
www.hestercombe.com

 
 
 
 
 
 

A Ghost in the Making

Tags: Group Exhibition, Studio Practice, Public Space

10th December 2014:
The last few weeks have seen a manic degree of activity in the studio - many assistants helping me make a vast cast of a 4.5 tonnes boulder. The process I'm familiar with: take a silicone mould from a rock, back it up with a hard GRP shell, take a second silicone mould from the first, backed up, and then make the final cast. However, this time the boulder being cast was rather large. Its a strangely meditative process though, painting sticky silicone onto stone: the concentration level needs to be kept high, but the technique is the same from one square foot to the next. The intensity comes from having to apply the wet silicone evenly on the stone's surface, before it starts to gel and becomes like putty, when you can't move it around any more. Because the stone had many vertical, even overhanging, sides we decided to have a short pot life for the silicone. This meant that each batch had to be applied in under ten minutes.

This is a sculpture I will be exhibiting next month in a group exhibition called Second Site, held at Hestercombe Gallery, Taunton.

 
 
 
 
 
 

A Glorious Unveiling

Tags: Public Commission, Public Event, Public Space, Outdoor Sculpture, Studio Practice

23rd September 2014
Yesterday, with the sun shining and the urban bustle of 375 Kensington High Street behind, I, the Executive chairman of St Edward Paul Vallone and the Mayor of RBK&C Councillor Maighread Condon Simmonds, collectively unveiled my latest public sculpture Glorious Beauty. Speeches were given in the Trinity House marketing sweat and then we all watched the veil fall, to reveal a piece of nature's raw beauty, a glacial erratic from North Wales.

It was a bold decision by St Edward to commission a sculpture which would be a direct continuation and development of my studio practice, but helped by the guidance of their art consultant, Ann Elliott, they were in good hands to make it.

Typically I source my rock from dimensional stone quarries around the world, where the virgin material is sawn or split from the quarry face in order that it isn't fractured in any way, making it ideal for the building industry or masons and sculptors alike. Unusually, I sourced this stone from a gravel quarry in North Wales. This was because having been tumbled around by glaciers during the last ice age, it had the soft weathered appearance I was after: not a sharp edged, man-made form fresh from a quarry, but an overtly organic, almost prehistoric standing stone type of form. The rock itself is actually a metamorphic mudstone called garnet amphibolite which was formed in Anglesea.

Interestingly, if the last ice age had been more vigerous, pushing the ice sheet further south, then the glacial moraine which was deposited to become a North Wales gravel quarry, may well have transported this very boulder to the heart of Kensington, where between the early C16th and mid C19th there were gravel pits supplying the builing of London's West End.

The man-made counterpoint to this beautiful glacial boulder is a digitally created, stainless steel, mirrored copy of the boulder. At first sight it is not particularly apparent, but through the process of scanning the boulder I was then able to flip the form, almost like turning it inside out, in order that the upper boulder, mirrored the lower. An intriguing series of processes and companies then followed in order that I ended up with the sculpture now sat on the pavement for all to see and touch, a sculpture which manifests both continuity and change:

1. Digital scanning of the original glacial boulder, then flipped in form.
2. New 'flipped' digital file given to CNC machine in Telford, to mill the final upper boulder form in high density polyurethane foam.
3. That foam boulder given to Castle Fine Art Foundry in Wales where a rubber mould was taken of the foam boulder.
4. A new wax boulder made from the rubber mould, exact in every detail to the stainless steel boulder that we see today.
5. The wax boulder cut into about fifteen pieces, each piece being individually invested in ceramic shells and given to a specialist stainless steel foundry in Birmingham.
6. The fifteen or so pieces taken back to Castle Foundry where the jigsaw of pieces were welded back together, in the correct formation. Then followed weeks if not months of fettling, grinding and sanding in order to get rid of the welding lines so that it appeared as a single, solid cast boulder.
7 Then back to Birmingham to an electro polishers, which make stainLESS steel become stainPROOF steel.
8. Then to a designated stainless steel hand polisher in Dudley.
9. And finally to my studio where I had to accuratly drill the stone in order to receive a huge solid s/s rod which fixes the two boulder securely together, and general test fitting, before being installed on site a couple of years after I was originally given the contract.

So there's the back story of what, to me at least, appears as a poetic sculpture, with a calm gravity of presence, that will enhance the public realm at the busy junction of Warwick Road and Kensington High Street.

Top image courtesy of photographer Ann Purkiss

Underwraps

Tags: Public Commission, Public Space

23rd June 2014:
Friday saw a usually intense day for the installation of Glorious Beauty at the junction of Warwick Road and Kensington High Street, London. Intense because everything needs to go according to plan and there are countless pieces of kit, tools, slings, resin, nuts and bolts etc. which all need to be on site ready at the appropriate time. If I forget any of the kit, it would mean halting the installation for hours whilst a replacement can be found, or worse case scenario - cancel the job. Needless to say it ran smoothly, a large part of this was down to the Hiab crane operator gently guiding the two units together, millimetre by millimetre, making sure that spigots were properly aligned to their receiving holes. So, it is finally installed, over two years after being initial contacted about the commission.

For the next two months, we'll just have to enjoy the Christo-like anticipation of what it looks like under the wrapping.

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