Marsh Awards

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Detail from: Memorial to 158 Squadron by Peter W. Naylor, 2009

We are pleased to announce this year's winners of the Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture. This year the standard of nominations was very high, the judges decided to award the prize to two outstanding works of public art; Comedy Carpet by Gordon Young, and 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami Memorial by Carmody Groarke.

For the first time we are privileged to present the Marsh Fountain of the Year Award to Ustigate Ltd for a water fountain in Queen Square, Wolverhampton.

Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture

Comedy Carpet, Blackpool, by Gordon Young
Comedy Carpet, Blackpool, by Gordon Young

Comedy Carpet, Blackpool, by Gordon Young
Read about the project visit The Comedy Carpet Blackpool
Read about the practice of Gordon Young

2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami Memorial, London, by Carmody Groarke
2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami Memorial, London, by Carmody Groarke

Indian Ocean Tsunami Memorial, London, by Carmody Groarke
Read more about the project visit Carmody Groarke

Marsh Fountain of the Year Award

Queen Square, Wolverhampton, by Ustigate Ltd
Queen Square, Wolverhampton, by Ustigate Ltd

Queen Square, Wolverhampton, by Ustigate Ltd
Both images of the fountain © Wolverhampton City Council
Visit Wolverhampton City Council to read about the award

This year's awards ceremony was held on 6th November at The Gallery, Cowcross Street, London. Our President HRH The Duke of Gloucester, presented each winner with their prize. Members of the PMSA, former members of the Fountain Society and distinguished guests enjoyed a pleasurable evening. Jolyon Drury, Chairman of the Marsh awards, welcomed the assembled guests.

Welcome address.

Your Royal Highness, my lords, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure as this year's chairman of the Marsh awards on behalf of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association to welcome you to this ceremony for the 2012 Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture and the Marsh Fountain of the Year.

I want to thank the Marsh Christian Trust for their continuing support for these awards and our selection panels each drawn from the now combined PMSA and Fountain Society, particularly our expert external assessors, Jill Sheridan for public sculpture, Guy Braithwaite for fountains and our overall external invigilator Professor Brian Falconbridge.

This has been a monumental year for the societies: Fountains joined the PMSA under the watchful eye of our then Chairman Peter Brown who sadly resigned through pressure of work and who unfortunately is unable to be here tonight.

This is the 8th Marsh award for excellence in public sculpture. The first award winner was Maggi Hambling in 2005. The award was the concept of Jo Darke PMSA's late founder, whose family are here today, and Brian Marsh OBE founder and chairman of the Marsh Christian Trust. The first Marsh Fountain of the Year award was presented in 1996 to the City of Birmingham. This will be their 6th award. The concept of both awards is excellence: excellence in concept, design, siting, execution and access in the public domain. The panels of assessors respond to a set of criteria, reducing a long list of submissions to a short list of finalists, all of which are visited. Public sculpture has classes for new work and conservation: no award is being made for conservation this year but there are two equal prize winners. The Fountains assessors this year responded to the headline criterion, "the best use of moving water in the regeneration of urban public space". One prize will be awarded this year.

As chairman of both awards I can report on the very high standard of entries. It is not often that the selection panels for both awards found it so challenging to arrive at the winners.

I would like to thank English Heritage for providing matched funding towards capacity building and PMSA's National Recording Project, I would like to thank Alan Baxter for providing this exhibition space and our office upstairs and of course you all for coming here tonight. We hope that you will stay after the presentation of the awards for conversation and refreshments.
© Jolyon Drury

Address by Prof. Brian Falconbridge PPRBS on public sculpture in the context of the Marsh Awards for Excellence in Public Sculpture and Fountain of the Year.

Your Royal Highness, Friends of Sculpture all,

We are here to celebrate achievement in placing into the public domain new sculpture of distinction and I am prompted to reflect on the nature of sculpture and associated challenges, responsibilities and opportunities.

To be precise, I think that sculpture is the penetration of three-dimensional space by creative plastic means as a necessary and integral vehicle to enable imaginative thought to consolidate into an original statement.

Sculpture placed in the public domain - "public sculpture" - raises a number of issues. Independent of the imperative to achieve satisfaction on the part of the sculptor, public sculpture has an obligation to provide benefit to the community. This is through the enhancement of a 'sense' of place, to provide reference point of aesthetic merit, but perhaps especially to mark and memorialise human presence, human struggle and suffering, human endeavour and achievement, and the passing of individuals or groups deserving of an assured place in the collective memory. The work will / should combine the physical, the intellectual and the emotional. It must be made to the highest standards of execution, mindful of scale, the elements and human engagement - physical and other. Estimations of quality are possible and necessary - if often debatable - and should not be confused with those of taste, although they may coincide.

The works we applaud this evening satisfy these demanding and exacting criteria.

The "Comedy Carpet" by Gordon Young in collaboration with Why Not Associates, commissioned by Blackpool Council and funded by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, with its references to over 1,000 comedians and writers and covering more than 2,000m2, provides an extremely accessible - accessible in every sense - suitably visually expansive and exuberant mosaic to evoke happy memories, shared humour and very British entertainment.

The Tsunami Memorial, by Kevin Carmody and Andrew Groarke, the 117 tonne block of French granite, is the largest single piece of granite to be transported in the UK or France since the building of Stonehenge. in its quiet and inert way it is monumental, stark and imposing and is a fitting and enduring memorial to the many thousands who perished in 2004. Through its innate material permanence, simplicity of form and unchanging-ness, it reminds us of that which is opposite - transience and the fragility of life in the face of Nature unleashed.

The two works cited are strikingly complementary and deserve to share recognition.

The Fountain at Queen's Square Wolverhampton, enlivens this particular and distinguished urban space and does so imaginatively and sensitively, integrating well into this fine square and I congratulate Ustigate and the city of Wolverhampton.

In all cases, deliberation was thorough, rigorous, and provoked much debate before reaching consensus. I hope that these works may serve as exemplars of best practice and that thereby standards may continue to be raised.

Sculpture as an art form has existed for tens of thousands of years. At a time of unprecedented flux, where the profound and reflective are undermined by obsession with the trivial, against a backcloth of genuine and justifiable anxieties, hand-in-glove with the dissemination of information and accelerating technological change through the advance of the digital - which now holds all in its slip stream - as an articulation of the human response to being in the world arguably sculpture has never been more important than it is at this time, here and now. While we might debate the meaning and use of the noun 'sculpture' and the adjective 'sculptural; sculpture has again become a fashionable art-form and in its wake I note the current tendency to use of the word 'sculpture' as a ‘chick’ catch-all label to sometimes attach to various other art-forms such as may also be labelled adequately music or poetry or performance. While I do not seek to limit the extension of disciplines, I make no apology for maintaining the integrity and constant relevance of the material object. There is no doubt that the activity of making sculpture, in all its diverse forms, will - and should - continue to have resonance as both it and society co-evolve. Sculpture, especially that which is placed in the public domain can - and should - play a major role in encapsulating the spirit of the age but the best is also able to transcend its age. While sculpture exists in three-dimensional space; it also especially exists in time - and should have sufficient merit to reveal and sustain itself over time. I think the works we celebrate this evening do exactly that.

I commend the PMSA, the Fountains Society and The Marsh Christian Trust for their patronage and support and I commend the sculptors and the commissioning and funding bodies for their outstanding contributions to the visual wealth and cultural heritage of the nation.

Thank you.

Prof. Brian Falconbridge PPRBS

6th November 2012
©The text is the copyright and intellectual property of Prof. Brian Falconbridge.

Gordon Young, The Duke of Gloucester, Councillor Graham Cain and a member of the design team
Gordon Young, The Duke of Gloucester, Councillor Graham Cain and a member of the design team

Kevin Carmody, The Duke of Gloucester, Andrew Groarke, and Lewis Kinneir
Kevin Carmody, The Duke of Gloucester, Andrew Groarke, and Lewis Kinneir

Ustigate Ltd, The Duke of Gloucester, staff and members of Wolverhampton City Council
Ustigate Ltd, The Duke of Gloucester, staff and members of Wolverhampton City Council