Breath sculpture is new centrepiece of Norwich Memorial Gardens
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2011
The artist behind the new centrepiece sculpture in the revamped Memorial Gardens has said his goal was for his work to complement the war memorial.
Paul de Monchaux, whose works include a memorial to Wilfred Owen in Shropshire, the BBC Churchill memorial and a memorial to Second World War slave workers in Jersey, was selected from a shortlist by the Memorial Gardens steering group to create the sculpture.
The result is Breath, a bronze companion piece to the Sir Edwin Lutyens’ war memorial, which has been installed in the space in the memorial gardens where the memorial stood before it was turned to face City Hall.
The inscription beneath the sculpture states: “The living honour the dead, only a breath divides them.”
Mr de Monchaux said: “The Lutyens memorial is about death and this is about life. There is a link between the two in terms of metaphor.
“The point about Lutyens is that he was very absorbed and taken with proportions and I share that same preoccupation.
“The thing about war memorials is that they tend to commemorate people who died young, but we all have to go at some time.
“In a place like this, which is all about contemplation and thinking, it seems both life and death should be referred to.”
Canadian-born Mr de Monchaux said he had been fascinated by the architecture which surrounds the Memorial Gardens, including the 1930s-style City Hall, the medieval Guildhall, the 15th century St Peter Mancroft and the striking 20th century Forum.
He said: “In a city like Norwich you have got a very strong interest in architecture and in many ways architecture grew out of sculpture.
“Looking around here is almost a history lesson in architectural styles through the centuries.”
It is not the first time Mr de Monchaux has worked on a project alongside a Lutyens memorial.
His sculpture Enclosure, in Watts Park in Southampton, is also close to a cenotaph by Lutyens.
The sculpture was made by Dagenham-based Benson Sedgewick Engineering after Mr de Monchaux had come up with the designs and constructed a wooden maquette to show his vision for the piece.
It had to go to a foundry to be “patinated”, a process which has given it its green colouring, before it was transported up to Norwich and hoisted into place.
Mr de Monchaux said: “It has been a long process and I have been very impressed with the way all the various groups in Norwich came together to see it through.
“I am delighted to see my model made real.”