Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Modern public art in Cheltenham

Cheltenham Promenade is well known for its statue of Minotaur and Hare, which was created by Sophie Ryder in 1995 and acquired by public subscription in 1998. Although causing contraversy at the time the sculpture has become a much photographed feature of Cheltenham. Innitially, only a part of temporary exhibition of Sophie Ryder's art at Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, the overwhelming public response to the exhibition fuelled the campaign to retain one of Sophie Ryder's sculptures in town.

Sophie Ryder is an internationally recognized English sculptor who is known for her larger than life minotaurs, lady-hares, and dogmen. From the early 1980s, when the hare first made its appearance in her work, she has delighted in using the supple form of the animal to express energy, both coiled and released. Living since 1986 in a remote part of the Cotswolds, she has derived much inspiration from her immediate surroundings and from daily contact with animals, both domestic and wild. She defined the hare's sex as female by standing or sitting her next to that creature of myth who is half man and half bull, the minotaur.

Another example of Cheltenham modern public art is the Wishing Clock situated in the Regent Arcade. It was designed by Cotswold artist-craftsman Kit Williams, author of the book "Masquerade", and built by Cheltenham clockmakers, Sinclair Harding & Co. The 45 foot high clock was unveiled in January of 1987, costing £80,000. It is believed to be the worlds tallest mechanical clock, weighing in, just over 3 tonnes.

Minotaur and Hare and The Wishing Clock in the Regents Arcade are not the only modern sculptures in the town. To mention just some of them - Sandford Park offers the Friendship Circle, a set of shell-like sculptures cast iron by Neville Gabie, Elephant Mural, five mosaic panels by Turton and Robertson, can be seen outside Woolworth's, Drinking fountain and mosaic plinth by Emily Lawler is situated in the Winston Churchill Memorial Gardens and in Hester's Way Park a public art project, which consists of large granite boulders engraved with a language theme, ranging from government codes and baby talk to text messaging and extracts from the bible, lead by an internationally acclaimed artist Gordon Young has been installed.

There are a number of sculptures in Cheltenham which perhaps do not get the publicity they deserve. One such sculpture is Man with Ball, a bronze statue by Giles Penny, which was put up at Regency Mews, Winchcombe Street in 1999. Another example is a sculpture of a lying man in Sandford Park.

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