Reading Columns are twin permanent public sculptures commissioned as part of a £245m scheme for the redevelopment of the Chatham Place area in Reading. Dimensions: 3.5m high x 1.3m diameter each
Field of knowledge: The work consists of twin bespoke columns of stainless steel and glass over digital colour transparencies. The piece revisits and reworks the idea of the Morris Column, a 19th C feature characteristic of major European metropolitan centres. A wraparound image on each of the columns represents an imaginary collection of archive posters, flyers and other ephemera specific to the locality. It is a digital collage on a transparency - the columns are illuminated internally at night - and no paper posters are used. The piece plays on the nature of ephemera, collapsing historical styles and emphasising the fluidity of the historical record, built up through layers and memories of events.
Methodology: In 2006 I was appointed in 2006 as lead artist on the project. The brief was twofold: to work with the design teams and make proposals for all phases of the extensive Chatham Place Development and to create a permanent public work. The Columns were developed in collaboration with architects Cartwright Pickard and Woodhouse plc.
I paid particular attention to ephemera highlighting the agricultural and marginal heritage of the area; to original imagery or graphics, posters around major events in the life of the town or printed material from unofficial sources. The piece uses as its medium the typography, colour and graphics of the existing material. It collapses chronology, styles and modes into one work. All images were sourced over an 18-month research period with the support and cooperation of archives in Reading, in particular the Museum of Reading, the Museum of English Rural Life, the Typography Department at Reading University, and the Local History Department of Reading Library.
Impact: The pieces went on permanent public display from 09.07.08 at 78 Oxford Road, Reading, Berkshire RG1 7LJ.
Publication: Project Biennale, an anthology of artists, writers, postgraduate curating students from Chelsea College of Art, University of Essex, Sheffield Hallam University, published 2009, contains an interview with Jeni Walwin (curator) and Marion Coutts (artist) about the project.
Funding: The work was commissioned in a partnership between Muse Developments and the commissioning agency Artists in the City, Reading Borough Council’s public art programme with early funding from PROJECT, a CABE initiative. Funding included R&D stage, work with Cartwright Pickard, commissioning fees, fabrication, copyright fees, launch. Total funding £85,000.
permanent public sculpture, new commission, publication, illuminated, digital transparency, ephemera, colour, morris columns, urban