The Angels of the Apocalypse sculpture on the Seventh Day Adventist European HQ in St Albans faces on to the main street of the town and its angular shapes are familiar to everyone. So familiar to me that, despite having lived there for years, I’d never bothered to find out anything about it.
It’s by Alan Collins, ARCA (1928-2016), an English religious artist who lived much of his life in the USA and who taught at Seventh Day Adventist universities. His sculptures in Guildford Cathedral, better known but less visible than his St Albans angels, won the Sir Otto Beit medal in 1964, and he made the lettering on the Kennedy memorial at Runnymede, a remarkable commission because he did not specialise in letter cutting.
The Angels of the Apocalypse were made in 1965 in fibreglass for the Adventists’ building, a rare piece of
modernist architecture in a conservation-conscious town more interested in its Roman, medieval and Victorian past than in the 20th century.
|Max Frances, Hidden
I was in Cheltenham at the weekend, exhibiting at Handmade in Britain in Cheltenham Town Hall, a well-chosen craft fair with very good quality work in all media. While I was there I went to The Wilson, Cheltenham’s museum and art gallery, which has a famous collection of Cotswolds Arts and Crafts, which I have wanted to see for a long time.
We caught The Wilson’s temporary exhibition “Alternative Visions: Undiscovered Art in the South West” just before it closed on Sunday. Several of the artists deal with physical or mental pain and their work is raw and sometimes difficult to look at. I was struck by the directness of their statements and the absence of artbollocks.
Sometimes they are witty too. I very much liked Max Frances’s statement attached to his sculpture “Hidden”, in which he said, “I am an artist made of wire, string and the bones of someone else I used to be. For me, creativity is as necessary as respiration. I fight my demons with pencils, and paint them into corners. Inspiration comes from nature and the magic and mystery to be found behind the banal mask of the everyday. All nature is precious, but I am especially fond of vultures. As a scavenger myself, I enjoy using found, recycled and unexpected (cheap) materials. I find beauty that is overlooked, ignored or disdained.”
The García Sanabria Park in Santa Cruz is a restful evergreen space made in honour of a city mayor, though the Rambla de Santa Cruz on which it stands, with its central avenue of shady trees, is restful enough. All paths in the park lead to a fountain monument, erected in 1938, conceived by architect José Enrique Marrero Regalado and designed and executed by sculptor Francisco Borges Salas.
On one side is a relief portrait of Sanabria, on the other, in the fountain pool, is a far-from-idealised female figure, Fecundity (above), who gives her name to the sculpture. On the third side is a figure representing Work, on the fourth, a nude male (below) that struck me because he holds a six-pointed star, a symbol not to be expected in a fascist country with no Jews (Franco began his rebellion in Tenerife), though in fact the star represents The Future.
“Fecundity” has had a chequered history. Long regarded as the most significant piece of public art in the Canary Islands, in 1950 it was condemned as immoral and removed from the park until 1970. It is thought that the censorship was a cover for jealousy of Salas by influential colleagues.