The deadline approaches, encroaches even, for 10×10 artists, designers & architects to submit their finished ‘drawings’ for auction for architectural charity Article25. Participants were given a square on the grid of London centred around the Shard, and were asked to explore their square and make an artwork using any aspect seen in that area. Could be a building, could be many buildings; could be an abstract, could be a composite; could be whatever the youknowwhat you want it to be – as long as it will hopefully obtain the reserve price (or more) they’ve set when it goes up for auction in November, and that you have it ready for 5 September.
But another, closer deadline approaches. My child’s been away on holiday for 2 weeks, which has been great for her, and not so bad for me, as it’s given me time to do this project and commandeer the kitchen table to do so. But I missed her terribly. First big trip away from me for this length of time – a rite of passage for her, and a rite of passage for me. While I pined for her in her absence, I at least had this fiddly stuff to keep me busy. Had she been around, I might have chosen another medium for the subject – something that took less time and space to make, and didn’t make as much of a mess.
She’s due back tonight, and school restarts in a couple of days, so I really want to tidy the place up, get rid of all the milliput dust and make the kitchen a kitchen again, the kitchen table a kitchen table. So for all intents and purposes, this little guy is finished, bar a few touches I’ll make here and there to adjust this, sand that, paint a bit more contrast here, a bit of highlight there, a few suggestion of green mould and black mildew… I don’t know, maybe I’ll paint him rainbow colours and change the statement altogether.
In my grid square, there wasn’t much that I found particularly compelling. Crossroads, loads of views of the Shard peeping out behind incongruent buildings, a few quite interesting juxtapositions, but none much more interesting than another to devote an entire work to. I had a little corner of Trinity Church Square in my grid, and in it, a statue of King Alfred. This statue is purported to be one of London’s oldest outdoor sculptures, and it fascinated me. His green nose and muscly build under all that dark age drapery. The casual yet confident stance. The age of the thing, and the apparent simplicity drew me in.
I imagine there once may have been something in his hand. But maybe not. Paintings and other statues of Alfred the Great show him holding a sword aloft as if a Christian cross, or with a hefty axe at rest at his side – battle over, land secured. Or they show him holding a scroll, as he had championed education in his time. There are many examples of him holding both the spent weapon and the scroll, with the scroll taking prominence. I was determined to give him both attributes, but in the end, he’s just got the sword. I couldn’t fit the sword into the other hand because of the limitations of the way the doll could be positioned – yes, I used Action Man to stand in for Alfred the Great – and were I to put the scroll in that bottom hand, it would have looked like a phallus. Trust me, wrong, wrong, wrong. (For this charity auction piece, in any case.) I did consider leaving both hands empty, as per the original statue, but then, Action Man’s hands are so huge and gapingly clamp-like, made to hold weaponry. I even found that I had a battle axe in that boy toy box of delights, complete with the A/M logo! But it was an afterthought, after the sculpt, the epoxy putty hardened, and it didn’t fit into the hand without making the King look like a bit of a psycho. So I constructed a very simple sword and kept to the ‘sword as cross’ theme.
I had to change his face slightly (apart from the obvious addition of copious amounts of facial hair) to make him look less ‘mean’ and more ‘regal’, which meant modifying his furrowed brow-line and too, too pouting lips, and shaving off quite a lot of his ginormous jaw and chin, and 80’s flat top hairdo. In the sanding, I lost his infamous scar. That would not do. Once the crown was complete, I popped another scar on his cheek, and now he’s most definitely ‘Action Man as Alfred the Great.’
Here’s a link to a sweet & clever little film about the charity and what they do. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uam9At_gpg4