Wednesday, 1 September 2010


The recent visit to TS’s hometown reminded me that in Britain, there are some really thoughtful statues to people who are remembered fondly by the general public. In Ipswich, there is a statue, not there to commemorate a ‘great’ battle or a ‘great’ statesman but an old lady who never actually existed. There was a very popular cartoonist who created a single cartoon, each day of the year for a national paper, who is remembered with fondness by many people. His cartoons often depicted a kind of typical family and he used them in various situations to gently poke fun at some topical situation in a particularly British way. His name was Giles and to commemorate his life and work, there is a statue of Grandma in the central part of Ipswich, his home town. Grandma was one of the more memorable characters of his ‘Giles’ family. She was a real terror, who always dressed in an ancient looking long black dress with a white frill collar indoors and a heavy black fur lined coat when out of doors. She drank stout and swore like a trooper, but she was loved by the followers of Giles’ family. Whoever it was that thought up the idea of a statue of her to represent Giles’ work has managed to make something really representative of his public image. Ironically more people would recognise a statue of Grandma than one of her creator so it is a fitting monument to his skill and wit. Giles was still present when it was unveiled but was not in full health and has since died. At least he got to see the recognition his work deserved.

The original Grandma

This was from the front cover of the yearly annual. On
the back cover a policeman is escorting her away.

The statue

Similarly another well loved character, but this time the real life comedian Eric Morecambe, has been recognised with a statue. As part of a double act with Ernie Wise, they entertained TV viewers for many years with Eric’s characteristic brand of lunacy. On the West coast of England is the small seaside town of Morecambe and on the sea front is a statue of Eric in typical pose. Again this expresses the public's love for the funny and much admired man. Alas Eric and Ernie are no more but their classic comedy programmes are shown regularly on British TV and are still loved and talked about by their admirers.

At the end of each show they would dance off
stage in this way, to the tune of Give me Sunshine.

Both of these statues are so much nicer than some of the works you often see around our country. In my hometown a number of really strange objects have appeared over the years that most often are not statues but allegedly ‘works of art’. A recent one that has cost a great deal of money, looks as if a large metal container has been accidentally dropped, become damaged and has since sprung a leak because water trickles out of it. There is also a great big rusty capital C lurking in one part of town for reasons known only to the town planners, whilst the disturbing acrobatic statue that once stood in a part of the town for several years has thankfully been removed. None of these things appeal to me like Grandma or Eric Morecambe.

A water feature for the town centre- What a shame it got bent and leaks

Some time ago a huge thing was erected near Newcastle named The Angel of the North, and to my mind it is half man, half aeroplane and not at all angelic. I see no beauty in it and the astronomical cost paid to have it made and erected could have paid the wages of ten nurses for ten years, which would have been closer to actual angels and a great deal more practical than this monstrosity.

Half man, half aeroplane, no angel

A skilfully executed sculpture, painting or sketch can capture me, but there seems to be a lot of stuff claimed as artwork that is often grotesque, mundane or so simplistic it is no more art than the painted woodwork in my house. More often than not, I feel the artists are simply conning the oh so gullible art world and laughing up their sleeves all the way to the bank.

In various museums I have seen paintings, statues or sculptures that date from hundreds and even thousands of years ago that are breathtakingly beautiful but nothing I recall seeing that is comparable to modern art. If these non art like objects ever existed in antiquity, they were chucked out with the rubbish long since, which rather suggests that present day ‘art’ will never prove the test of time, but may become a real puzzle to future archaeologists, who will never be able to make head nor tail of them. The statue of Eric Morecambe will still be recognisable as a work of art two thousand years from now but a pile of toast in the Tate gallery will no doubt end up in a trashcan long before then.


  1. I remember Giles and 'Grandma' and Morecambe and Wise. I agree with you entirely about the Angel of the North. It is indeed a monstrosity. I have a theory about modern art. Much of it is made by those who have no artistic sensibility at all, so what they don't know they make up and call it art. I have to add that I have seen some very attractive pieces of art and modern sculpture, but I could always tell you what particular skill they have used that made it appealing and why it appeals to me. But so much of it is art pretentiousness. Empty as a tin can.

  2. Wendy E...
    I like both the art works you hate but do think they are too expensive, 'art' in this country is too pretentious and seems to be able to demand any price. Have you seen the shell on Aldborough beach and the strange man chasing oversize flies on the loos in Ipswich I wonder!

  3. Yay! A comment from one of your 'lurkers' Snafu!

    I remember Giles, too, and we can still get his cartoons in book form over here. I LOVE the 'Grandma' statue, and Morcambe, but -- as for the angel, heaven help us if they look like that!!

    I am not an art aficionado, but I know what I like, and I like things that look like something -- not things that you have to guess what they are. And I guess my own personal artwork would fall under the latter category!

    Interesting post, Snafu.

  4. Thanks for commenting Wendy E. Art is obviously in the eye of the beholder. I have seen pictures of the shell, but not seen the fly chasing man. I don't get to Ipswich very often. I will look out for it.
    Kaybee, Don't be silly your work is OK.

  5. Love your 'bird in the hand' Snafu -- is it YOUR hand that the cute little bird is in??

  6. Ah well - it just goes to show, doesn't it? I love that collapsed tin can and I adore the Angel of the North. (In fact I'm impressed with a lot of Gormley's work and will travel distances to see new pieces. His Iron Man statue in central Birmingham topped both polls for the most loved and most hated artworks in the city!)

    The statue of Eric Morecambe is wonderful. But the representations of wildlife (mainly seabirds) that are all round him are just as impressive to me. I love the Aldeburgh shell too.

    Public art SHOULD trigger discussion and not just sit at the end of a street and look pretty. (In my opinion anyway).

  7. Ha ha. I'm just giggling at Kaybees musings that the real angels might be anything like the Gormley one. They'd hardly float on the clouds, would they? x