Central Saint Giles Art

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Art Advisors Anderson O’Day presented a long-list of artists to the CSG Arts Board which narrowed the list down to a short-list of four who were presented to the Stakeholders Committee in March 2008. The artists were Steven Gontarski, Phillip King, Rebecca Warren and Gary Webb, all of whom were briefed to propose an artwork for placement in the development. At this stage, the Arts Board hoped to commission sculptures for three locations: the Bucknall Street entrance to the piazza and the two entrances on St Giles High Street.

The four proposals were presented to Renzo Piano, and after lengthy deliberation it was decided to eliminate the Bucknall Street location from the scheme due to the narrower access at that point relative to the expected pedestrian flow; additionally, it became obvious that a sculpture at the northern entrance on St Giles High Street will be clearly seen from Bucknall Street. The two proposals the Arts Board will commission came from artists Rebecca Warren and Steven Gontarski.

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Gontarski produced a model of his proposal, a persimmon-coloured abstract sculpture made of painted and lacquered glass-fibre-reinforced plastic that rises from the ground to a height of five metres.

The untitled sculpture refers to an organic tradition that informed many international artists in the mid-twentieth century yet exhibits an aesthetic firmly rooted in contemporary practice. The form is recognisable but not identifiable, conjuring comparisons to many things in the real world: clouds, organs, oceans, smoke rings. The artist wanted to make something that would ‘create a heart in the midst of an urban development’.

The high-gloss lacquered surface renders the sculpture fluid, as though it was in the midst of change. Its scale allows for constant transformation as people walk past and around it, appearing from some angles solid and monolithic and from others floating and ethereal. Sunlight will create striking shadow patterns that will change throughout the day. Gontarski’s sculpture is a bold and welcoming invitation into and through the piazza.

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Rebecca Warren proposed developing a small-scale earlier sculpture ‘William’ (below) to a height of three metres. There are a number of ideas behind Warren’s [as yet untitled] bronze figure for Central Saint Giles. The artist considered that the nature of public sculpture usually refers to a well-known figure who can be identified and might give meaning to a place, most often rooted in the past. Warren wants to make a work that speaks of the always shifting present, a non-gender-specific figure whose form emphasises movement in a way that reflects the constant motion of passing through a busy urban space. Warren builds her sculptures first in clay, which gives the final bronze work a fluidity not traditionally associated with the material.

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She has said about the Central Saint Giles commission that ‘It is rare and special to have the possibility of creating a gestural public sculpture that seeks to question the very nature of public sculpture while being one itself’. Warren’s bronze is scheduled to be installed at the southern entrance to the piazza on St Giles High Street, in a setting sympathetic to its more contemplative nature.

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