As it is Thanksgiving in Canada today, it is a good time to remember the achievement of connecting Europe with North America through cable technology. The small Newfoundland town of Hearts’s Content was the location of the emergence of the cable from under the sea all the way across the Atlantic from Ireland.
The cable was laid in 1866 and in arriving in this small place on Bay de Verde, Newfoundland it turned the village into a unique community. Most places along the coast were fishing villages but the people who came to work and live here worked in communications. People came from across Canada and England to work in the hub on the route from Britain to the United States of America.
In 2017, artist Padraig Tarrant created twin sculptures, one for Valentia Island, Ireland where the cable entered the sea and the other for Heart’s Content in Newfoundland, Canada. I got to see the Canadian version weeks after it was unveiled but still need to make it to Valentia Island to see the companion piece.
I have long been a fan of David Wynne’s work as a sculptor. There are so many London landmarks improved by the siting of one of his sculptures. Other places, too, have benefited from his talent, including Newcastle, but it is London I know best and it was here that I first put the name of the artist to the work I most admired: Boy with a Dolphin.
This book, which takes its title from his most famous work, is actually a review of his career. Published before his death in 2014, the book includes photographs of him working as well as of the final pieces in situ. There are still places I need to go to see his sculpture and some are in the hands of private collectors or private companies so will possibly be beyond sight unless there is a retrospective at a major gallery.
The best aspect of the book is the insight into the creative process. There are quotes from interviews with Wynne himself as well as excerpts from newspapers and magazines. David Wynne was friends with people in high places and many of his commissions came from someone who knew someone. As an essentially self- taught artist, though, the fact that so many pieces are on public display is the best outcome for me.
This book with its extensive illustrations is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
Cordoba impressed me because it celebrated its multi- religious heritage. Around the corner from the statue of Jewish scholar Maimonides, was this statue to Muslim scholar Averroes.
Averroes was a Muslim lawyer rather than a Jewish physician but, otherwise, the two men were similar. Averroes was an authority on Aristotle and wrote a significant work called ‘The Incoherence of the Incoherence’. He, too, was exiled from Cordoba when the Berber dynasty took power and his books were burned. He died in Marrakesh in Morocco.
It is heartening that the city of Cordoba pays tribute to significant figures from different religious backgrounds.
I was struck, when in Cordoba, Spain, by the way three religions lived peacefully together several centuries ago; Jewish, Muslim and Christian believers managed to co-exist without compromising their own beliefs.
The statue to Maimonides in the old Jewish quarter of the city is the perfect reminder that we can learn from the past. He was born in Cordoba in 1125 and found fame as a philosopher and author of the Mishneh Torah. He was also interested in the sciences and in Greek philosophy and Islamic teachings. He lived in Spain at a time when the enlightened rule of the Moors might be considered a golden age but left when a Berber dynasty conquered the city in 1148. The status of Christians and Jews was threatened and Maimonides, being Jewish, went into exile with his family, moving around Andalucia before travelling to Morocco and Egypt.
My recent visit to London to hunt down another David Wynne sculpture reminded me that, last Summer, I did a similar thing in Newcastle Upon Tyne. I wanted to see his 1968 sculpture ‘Swans in Flight’ at the Civic Centre. One very quite Sunday morning, I walked to the area to see it and had the whole area to myself. I imagine, being council offices, that they are very busy in the working week but on this Sunday the area was deserted.
The swans represent Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland as recognition of the links between this north-eastern city and Scandanavia. Wynne’s inspiration came from a poem by Hans Hartvig Seedorff Pederson called ‘The Swans of the North’.
In London, so off to find the David Wynne sculpture from 1971 called ‘The Dancers’. I have walked along Sloane Street many times and I knew the piece could be seen in Cadogan Square Gardens but I was not sure how public or private it would be.
I was pleased to see it easily from the street.
The sculpture of David Wynne is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
In London, so I walked along the Albert Embankment in search of a statue that was installed in 2015. It is of the Indian social reformer and philosopher, Basaveshwara. My knowledge of Indian history being restricted to the period when British interests intersected (clashed?) with those of India, I knew nothing of this person. I am always on the look out for new sculpture in London so I was keen to see it. Later, I looked up information about him.
Basaveshwara pioneered the idea of democracy in 12th century India, so long before anything like it on these islands. He also campaigned against the caste system and slavery and was in favour of gender equality. It is fitting that he looks out over the Thames nt far from the Houses of Parliament.