Permanent reminder of a controversial talent
IAN COLLINS Back in the heady days of 1968 the EDP's parent company commissioned a new Norwich HQ which was to be fronted by a very modern work of art. Many were affronted.
Back in the heady days of 1968 the EDP's parent company commissioned a new Norwich HQ which was to be fronted by a very modern work of art. Many were affronted.
What Bernard Meadows created for the Prospect House entrance on Rouen Road was an uncompromising assembly of stone blocks and balls of dripping and dimpled metal.
Love it or loathe it, the piece - baldly called Public Sculpture - has proved an imposing presence on the city skyline, and the current overhaul of the newspaper building has brought the chance to celebrate
a controversial Norwich-raised talent.
While some have found the bronze bits rather rude - and the words “belly buttons” are often mentioned - the sculptor was inspired by the Woolpack pub sign in Golden Ball Street.
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Alas, some of the most ardent attention paid to the landmark over the decades has been by vandals
(and also by over-enthusiastic cleaners). So the piece has lately been restored and protected by CCTV cameras.
Bernard Meadows, who died in 2005 in his 90th year, was one of the most important British sculptors of the 20th century. Public Sculpture is his largest and greatest work.
Meadows got his big break at 21 when taken to meet Henry Moore. The next day he received a postcard inviting him to help out in the great man's studio during art school holidays.
For four years “the boy” worked up to 20-hour shifts in the strict Moore regime. Conditions were Spartan, pay was non-existent - and the experience set him up for life.
After war service with the RAF, Meadows taught at London's Royal College of Art, being Professor of Sculpture 1960-1980. His elm figure for the 1951 Festival of Britain
went to the Tate. A year later he
went to the Venice Biennale.
He exhibited from New York to Tokyo and produced a stream of public and private art in Britain and beyond. His edgy pieces, often based on animals and seemingly carved from shrapnel, could imply Cold War menace.
But teaching commitments took him away from his own work. He returned to assist Moore from 1977, and continued to help his mentor's estate.
Still sketching the day before he died, his abiding concerns - and brilliant draughtsmanship - can be mapped in the frightened birds and fighting crabs and in the strange forms and faces depicted in prints and drawings now on permanent display in the revamped Prospect House foyer.
Nearby, an illustrated panel tells the story of Bernard Meadows and Public Sculpture.
Please visit. There are seats to help you relish the show, or recover from it.
A bronze memorial plaque, currently being cast in the Royal College, will be placed in front of
the sculpture later in the year as a gift from the Henry Moore Foundation.