Sunday, April 01, 2012


 To be sited everywhere in the world.
Every country in the world should erect at least one in a
prominent site to declare amnesty and a new beginning.


Terracotta with wax patina. Clay is from Ireland.
13inches high [33cm]
Model for life-size Public Work in bronze.
Model in Private Collection, Ireland.

The Story
Amnesty International held an open submission competition for a public sculpture to represent their organization in Dublin Ireland, I forget the exact year now but it was in the early 90's. My work ''Political Prisoner'' was not selected or in the short list, instead it was the usual ''Flame and Chain'' public sculpture that was selected and erected in a very prominent place. I am not telling you this story because I felt my work should have been selected, in fact I would have been very surprised if it had been because at the time events in Ireland were 'hot' politically, {as always}. 

My ''Political Prisoner'' sculpture was very 'up-front' and making a major statement on human rights world wide and not just in Ireland but for some people this might have been to much of a reminded to face each day if it was in the public eye, but if we need to change our ways we need public sculptures like this to remind us how we treat out fellow human beings and the world we are living in. We are all connected by our DNA regardless of the colour of skin or beliefs or where you think your bloodline came from ... 
our ancestors made sure of that. 

I have said this before, that public sculpture is about making a 'statement' and it's also an 'identity' as to where we are in time, place and history or a sense of 'well-being' in society. Public sculpture in some material or other has existed as an aesthetic object, a landmark, a monument to a historical  event, cultural symbol, architectural embellishment on buildings, the architect Le Corbusier {1887-1965} 
would have something to say about that one. 

In most cultures in the world from the rain forest to name any big city in the world you are likely to find public sculpture
and it requires a logic of visual understanding that contributes towards a mental and physical understanding of being part of a community or nation. It is actually one of our basic human rights to be creative and one of the ways we do this is in the making of art and leaving evidence on the landscape that we were here and so there is an 'and / but' to all of this.  

Public art has often been used for political ends as a means of propaganda within a totalitarian regime as seen in Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution in China and still can be remembered by people living today who lived through their times in this time of our history. This is to name but two that stand as representative to propaganda art and there were others, in fact most countries can also be pointed at, but on the other hand it gave artists the chance to work on very large scales using different materials mostly in bronze and stone, granite, marble etc. but I will say it here that if I was born into those times as an artist I too would be involved in propaganda art because and speaking as an artist my creativity is my will to live as I am sure it is for most artists who devote their life to their creativity. 

Public art is a very effected means of communication .. think about the power of advertising and then think about the religions who used 'art' to show an 'Unseen God' in all His 'power and glory' ... the Popes in history put the best
artists to work on educating the general populace in the way the 'Unseen God' works ... and it worked, for the public had an image of what 'God' looked like and the punishments he would dish out, and from what I can tell there are few paintings or sculptures on His rewards ...  albeit an artists impression and fantasy. All of this went under the banner of religious art and still does but in my opinion it's another form of
propaganda art.

Public art has a slow or immediate spontaneous quality ... it 'moves' people emotionally to speech to anger and then even to action, sometimes violent but here is the downside ...
countless forgotten civic heroes on horseback, war monuments, including the propaganda art in parks and plazas across the world bear witness to the impermanence of any particular public art work, why, because people change and new generations move up into what  people relate to and see as public sculpture ... so, public art requires a constant renewal in order to serve the 'symbolic needs' of the public ... yes ...  and the artist is part of this renewal within society and a big part of this 'renewal' is based on our ethics as 
human beings. 

Granted public sculpture can be controversial but unlike art created by an individual where the artist enjoys a great deal of freedom from within his own ethics, mind and creativity, public art demands a high degree of accountability to the needs and interests of the community as to where it will be placed, what it depicts and in what 'style', the material and it's aftercare, it's durability and the new one, insurances cover ... but any real restriction to its scope and potential aims is that it can be created by the blinkered vision and opinionated prejudice of people with power and money who 'think' and 'see' for the rest of 'us' ... has much changed in history.

The modern practice of placing giant abstract sculptures in public places has often led to tensions between artist and communities, even so, public preferences should not be discounted by government agencies or such-like people, but these agencies are staffed by people who take their role very seriously if not personal, and as a democracy their views should be heard too ... my point is, the moral point of view in all societies should be considered and that's no easy job, and just to make this more confusing ... if all things can be considered as art in one form or other what is art

In having said that, I still think about ''Political Prisoner''
today in the sense that the artist’s function from one who marks important events in our history political or otherwise
to the role of the 'artist as activist' and that's the role I was in
in making the model for 'Political Prisoner'.
If it had been erected in a public place anywhere in the world, not just Dublin or Belfast or South Africa or name-a-country  where there is conflicts taking place now, you don't have to be up to date on world news to answer that one ... and so 'Political Prisoner' hard as it is in it's message would have moved people to think and therefore to take action, the action that comes from moral and ethics within out own beings 
and speak out for others who are oppressed ...
 it might even have saved lives ... 
and is it a political work ... yes, but a political work that makes the very obvious statement, the one that speaks out for
human rights,
and is it a propaganda art ... no,
but maybe I can create a new banner and put it under ... 
'ethical art'.

daf's manifesto on Ethical Art ...

Ethical Art:
''I believe that the most effective that the public art is in it's message and the one that can incorporate universal concerns from nature to human beings is the one that speaks beyond the boundaries of any community or nation will always have it's place in the moral consciousness of the world.''

On another story ...
I did get my chance to win a competition to make a political sculpture and have it placed on a very controversial and prominent site on the border between North and South of Ireland. The title of the work is called ...
''Peace for All''
but that's another story.

The greatness of the artist is not measured by the
'beautiful feelings' he arouses but by the degree it takes to approach the grand style. This style has this in common with great passion, that it disdains to please, that it forgets to persuade, that it commands, that it wants to master the chaos of the self. That it wants to compel it's chaos to become form, to become logic, simple, without ambiguity, mathematics, law: There lies the great ambition.
Human, All-too-Human.
Friedrich Nietzsche
Philosopher, Poet,
Composer, Classical Philologist

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Georgie said...

These sculptures really make you feel and then...think.
I think you have a chieved great art here. Congrats

daf said...

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