London, 10 October 2011: Search for Enlightenment, by leading British sculptor Simon Gudgeon has been installed at Riverside Walk Garden, Millbank, London, next to Tate Britain. The sculpture is part of the Westminster City of Sculpture Festival, 2010-2012.
Henry Moore’s ‘Locking Piece’ of 1963-4, sited nearby, is on loan to the Garden from Tate Britain and the Henry Moore Foundation. The surrounding area, which is home to Tate Britain, Chelsea College of Art & Design and the ‘Parade Ground’ outdoor sculpture gallery, has become a site of increasing importance for visual arts in London.
The history of the site tells a darker story however. Riverside Walk Garden was once part of a large industrial site used as a dock during the 1800s, and it was from here that many thousands of criminals boarded ships for Australia. An inscription on a pillar in the Riverside Walk Garden describes the history of the area, once dominated by Millbank Penitentiary from 1816-1890, where convicts were held for long periods prior to deportation. Millbank Penitentiary, well known by historians for its unusual hexagonal formation, took over a large site of Millbank, now occupied by Chelsea College and Tate Britain. Today, Riverside Walk Garden is a place of relaxation used daily by local residents, workers and tourists who go there to stop and rest.
Simon Gudgeon’s Search for Enlightenment, which is about our search for knowledge and the acceptance of our place in the universe, is a fitting new addition to the site. Two large bronze human heads stand next to each other, a male and a female, facing towards the Thames, their faces raised to the sky. The male is slightly before the female. The space within each cranium is hollow, through which the viewer can see the piece from an inside-out perspective, and move around it to view it from all angles, taking in the surrounding landscape and sky. The expressions on these faces are peaceful and accepting; this man and woman are in contemplation, absorbing great knowledge, at a point of realisation about their place in the universe.
Since Simon Gudgeon created Search for Enlightenment in 2010, the piece has become very meaningful to many people. A smaller version of the monumental 2.2m high work, which is cast in bronze, was presented to the Duke of Edinburgh earlier this year for his 90th Birthday by Halcyon Gallery at Buckingham Palace, at the 24th Anniversary Dinner of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award World Fellowship.
“Sometimes the power of an artwork is diminished when it is placed in a museum or gallery because it is out of context. Placing sculpture outdoors, where large pieces are intended to be, restores that power and that is why people relate to public art.” Simon Gudgeon
Simon Gudgeon, who lives in Dorset, has enjoyed great success over recent years. Most recently, his ‘Isis’ sculpture, the first public work of art to be placed in London’s Hyde Park for more than 50 years, was the centre of a successful three year fundraising campaign for a new state of the art environmental education centre for schools, in the middle of Hyde Park. The campaign, spearheaded by Halcyon Gallery (which represents Simon Gudgeon) and the Royal Parks Foundation raised £1million through auctions and fundraising events, while sales of 1000 inscribed plaques around the base of the ‘Isis’ sculpture raised a further £1 million for the Centre, which welcomes its first classes this month.
Sculptor Simon Gudgeon with a small statue of ‘Isis’ outside the Isis Education Centre
“Beauty delights the senses and the mind. I am passionate about what I do and the power of art to enrich the lives of those that connect with it. I strive to make art more accessible, enriching the lives of those who have not yet been introduced to it.” Simon Gudgeon
Though Gudgeon’s early sculptures were representational, the very nature of the materials he uses makes pure representation impossible in his work. The artist’s current work is abstract, inspired by natural forms, the human body, and human consciousness. Gudgeon sees his work as explorations in abstraction and form, expressions of beauty which appeal to the senses. His work has a further vital, emotional appeal, always independent of the object represented and beyond pure beauty.
“An important aspect of outdoor sculpture is that it is an ever-changing event. The different seasons, variable weather, the hours of the day, varying light highlighting different planes of the sculpture, all contribute to transform how the work will be seen. It is no longer static; it becomes part of the environment and changes with it.” Simon Gudgeon