During the last few weeks, through the nation’s media, we have witnessed the most amazing public engagement with an artwork that this country has ever experienced.
The artwork is Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by designer Tom Piper, in collaboration with ceramic artist Paul Cummins. The artwork sees 888,246 individual ceramic crafted poppies (each representing the lives of lost Allied troops in World War One) placed in the moat of The Tower of London to create a moving and thought-provoking installation.
The installation has seen an incredible response, with the public flocking from far and wide to London to see it. As an artist I look on with both envy and admiration at the creative creators, lucky beggars. To gain not only this amount of media coverage, but also the huge public engagement in your artwork is something most artists can only dream of. Speaking of the media, they have been massively influential in raising the profile and popularity of the work. The latter is something that threatened to dent the quality and the intention of the work.
Following Jonathan Jones’ balloon-popping, party-pooping review in The Guardian, we have seen interest in the work gain maximum momentum. But the popularity has at times threatened to overshadow the work, as that popularity suddenly started to try to dictate the intention. In the height of the work’s hysteria, in the run
up to Remembrance Sunday, we saw both the Mayor of London and his Eton buddy, the Prime Minister, rightly praising the work but wrongly calling for its extension past Armistice Day. Wrongly, because in the build up to both significant days more poppies were to be planted, with the intention to result in a crescendo of all 888,246 there for the final hours, before being removed on 12 November. The key and integral part of the installation is its transience. Neither sentiment nor popularity should get in the way of this.
And this is where there has been a slight disappointment for me. Disappointment in the politicians calling for the instillation to stay whilst failing to take time to consider the work, to fully understand its intention.
London has not been alone in its artistic tribute to the fallen of World War One, with Blackpool also creating a moving installation. The team down at the Illuminations department created a piece on the prom near the cenotaph for remembrance of those who died locally in the war. The piece may not have been on the grandeur scale of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red but it was still poignant, and a confronting reminder of those who sacrificed their lives. Also, credit where it is due, with this being an Illuminations tableau it could easily have had a crass, gaudy feel to it but it has every bit as much class and respect as the London tribute.
These last few weeks it has been great to see how the power of art can still create emotive feeling in such a tech obsessed world, on such a mass scale. But I hope in future that the viewing public will consider that although the piece may have a poignant meaning, it is art, and there is intention.
Featured image by Mez Merrill for Wikimedia Commons. Other images by Brendan Bunting.
Showing upwards of 100 artworks in a range of artistic mediums from painting to photography and from sculpture to sound, the Grundy’s annual Open Exhibition provides a diverse and dynamic display of artworks from artists based on the Fylde Coast.
Annual Schools’ Exhibition: Squad Goals
Start date: 20 Jan 2024
End date: 30 Mar 2024
Location: The Grundy
art | family
Every year the Grundy invites local Schoolchildren from across Blackpool and the Fylde coast to make new artworks for display in the gallery. This year, children from Hawes Side Academy and Woodlands School in Blackpool have worked with the Grundy’s Learning and Engagement Officer to create their own interpretation of a football club shirt. See the work alongside this year’s Open Exhibition. The Grundy is also showing the sculpture, The Game, (Part II) (2015) by Joe Fletcher Orr from the Grundy Art Gallery Collection.
Sharing Space: Architect JC Robinson through a diverse lens
Start date: 20 Jan 2024
End date: 30 Mar 2024
Location: The Grundy Art Gallery
art | community | exhibition
JC Robinson was Blackpool Borough’s architect in the 1920s-1940s. From schools to swimming baths, markets, memorial halls and more, JC Robinson is responsible for the design of some of the town’s most iconic buildings. Using painting, photography, sculpture, moving image, oral history and archival materials, this exhibition sees contemporary Blackpool-based practitioners and learning disabled adults returning to the site of these buildings to reveal and reinterpret their stories.