“The Waiting” is a dramatic new work by Anna Gillespie. The seven lifesize seated figures form the latest installation on the Jamaica Street plinth, an outdoor exhibition space curated by the foundry, close to our workshop in the centre of the Baltic Triangle, Liverpool’s fast growing creative hub.
Anna made the work especially for the plinth and used the opportunity to take her work in a new direction, building the sculptures directly using real objects; chairs, boots, life casts. Held together with plaster and scrim, the figures look stark, almost brutal. Brave. A looser, expressive approach which the artist seems to have thrown herself into.
We coated the plaster with resin to help protect the figures from the forthcoming elements. Still enjoying the freedom of the creative process, the artist is nervous but open to see what happens. Experimenting with surface. Shiny or matt? Should we add colour? The playing resulted in giving the figures an unexpected quality of glazed ceramic.
I’m nervous too of course. Partly for the practical things. Is it robust enough? Will the fixings work? That’s my job. But also for the artist and work itself; how it will be received? Will it work on the plinth?
Anna Gillespie is known for her figurative sculptures using found organic tree material, such as acorn cups. These works capture a sense of immersion in nature where the individual is absorbed by the experience of being a part of the natural world.
Of her new work Anna writes,
“Recent visits to Africa and America have shifted my focus from the natural to the man-made environment and our effect as a species on the planet. This new work, whilst it may appear to draw on current events, seeks to draw parallels with the historical experience of people and their movements across the surface of the Earth through the ages.
This recent work explores a more alienated and urban human experience and includes a new series of sculptures on the theme of waiting.
These do not specify whether the waiting is part of a contemporary, day-to-day settled life or of a disrupted life of extreme transition. The fact that the narrative is unspecified invites viewers to interpret the works from their own personal perspective. Whilst these works have a political dimension, the figures remain deeply personal”. www.annagillespie.co.uk
Anna’s new work is still evolving as we set out the group on the plinth. The artist approaches this final task with an open mind too. She has spent a lot of time living with these figures, her characters. Moving them around, endless arrangements. Familiarity. In the studio things can always be changed. Now they have arrived at their temporary home it is time to tie them down. Fix them in place. Offer up their narrative the Baltic public.
We move them around. Move them again. Shuffle them up. Spread them out. Walk around the plinth. Cross the street. Approach from different directions. Rearrange. We each have our views and opinions. Despite the distracting questions of interested on lookers, we focus on the job at hand. Discuss. Agree. A tweak and then hey presto. The whole thing begins to feel right and that’s it. The new work has arrived and already it is attracting attention on the street.
It takes time to feel at home. The newness is gradually replaced by familiarity and confidence. A new way of working. A new place to work. A new work itself.
This neighbourhood feels like home to me. We make a lot of noise here, hammering and grinding, but beyond the sanctuary of my more peaceful office you sense the never ending hum of construction. Things are regenerating fast in the Baltic so we’re getting used to change pretty quick around here.
Perhaps this is why the plinth has really gone down well here. Every six months, just when everyones got to know it, the familiar old work comes down and the new one goes up.
“Where’s Ali gone?” I hear.
Andrew Edwards bronze of “The Greatest” in his prime had gazed down on Jamaica Street for months now. Andy sculpted the clay figure in Unit 51, our old workshop right opposite the plinth, before all this started. Now the busy cafe in 51 is the business hub of Baltic Creative, full of energy and memories.
(The making of The Greatest in Unit 51)
Now it is time for change again.
The plinth has become my “street corner”. You don’t have to be there for long until someone stops for a chat. The usual questions, opinions, stories to share. I hear the latest news from the guys at the tyre depot, whose always open garage doors look directly onto the plinth. The unrequested, unofficial guardians of the sculptures. Ownership. Nobody has to say it, we feel it. We love our changing neighbourhood.
“What’s coming next?” calls a passerby as we lower the champ and manhandled him into the van to make way for the new installation.
“Wait and see” I reply.