The weather was extremely cooperative the evening of the Friends of Battersea Park’s Sixth annual sculpture award ceremony: sculpture, speakers and guests alike were bathed in limpid, late summer sunlight.The winning entry, ‘Nor’Stand,’ by 36-year-old Royal College of Art graduate Wilhelmina Baldwin, was chosen from three finalists. It is a 12-foot-high construction composed of knitting wool dipped in plastic polymer, draped over a steel frame.
A whimsical piece, it presided over the festivities like a good-natured, mythical bird. Indeed, Baldwin, a Battersea resident who walks in the park almost every day, says the park herons were the inspiration for the piece. “A lot of my work is intuitive, balancing gravity against anti-gravity; and herons do that making their nests!” she said.Philip Wright, chairman of the Friends of Battersea Park, said, “As far as we know we are the only ‘Friends’ in the country which gives a sculpture award. We hope the selection of this fine piece by Wilhelmina Baldwin will be as beneficial to her as it has been for the past five recipients.”
The renowned local sculptor Ian Walters presented the £1,000 prize. He praised the winning entry, saying, “I think it has a true monumentality and relates extremely well to its verdant surroundings”. Walters, in his address to the Friends, launched into a robust defence of figurative art, saying sculpture should resonate with human experience and the human heart; he drew cries of “Hear, Hear!” when he attacked what he called the “puerile nonsense” now parading itself as contemporary, “installation” art. His words that sunlit evening proved unwittingly prophetic. The next day, September 11th, the world darkened terribly: and, confronted with tragedy and atrocity, it isn’t “conceptual” or “installation” art that most of us now feel we need, but art which speaks to human emotion, be it sorrow, exaltation, or even playfulness.