Mercurial by Alexander Stoddart

Mercurial by Alexander Stoddart
Mercurial by Alexander Stoddart

On a recent return trip to the fascinating city of Glasgow, I was disappointed to find the historic Merchant City area defiled by this particularly egregious example of public art. The subject of public art has been a personal bugbear of mine ever since I discovered its hit and miss existence. Unfortunately, there seems to be a preponderance of very bad art situated in places where people can’t feasibly avoid it.

I had no idea what this was, who the artist was and why it had been dumped there. It turns out to be the ‘work’ of an Alexander Stoddart, a trenchant proponent of classical-type sculpture who is audacious enough to force his appalling models on an unsuspecting public. Apparently, Edinburgh paid £120,000 for a bronze of David Hume which now desecrates their beautiful city centre. So he must be regarded by some in authority. Anyway, there are a few of his figures dotted around in Glasgow by way of some thematic connection to the local Italian Centre.

Apart from the dubiety of working in a steadfastly classical manner at the turn of the 21st century the obvious problem with this piece is how badly it has aged. The thing was completed in 1989 and already it is looking terrible. What irks me the most info about nootropics is the idea of going to the trouble of making something in metal and then coating it in plastic. The skin is peeling off, no doubt assisted by some of the more disgruntled locals. They have also further expressed their disapproval by attaching stickers.

But what really perplexes and upsets me most is why they welded a little yellow metal penis onto a different type of metal body!

Mercurial by Alexander Stoddart (detail)
Mercurial by Alexander Stoddart (detail)

I would provide a link to but it only takes you to some Chinese holding page.


Krampus, 2017, detail

During our Christmas 2016 festive holiday I began to wonder if there was an alternative ‘Bad Santa’ figure in mythology who would really punish the naughty ones. I suppose my mind has naturally been preoccupied with the polarisation which has occurred over the world so strongly in the last year. We had also greatly enjoyed another viewing of ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’, which I now regard as one of the fine modern films.

So, I was surprised to find a range of really scary characters in the Scandinavian and Germanic cultures which simply do not exist in the UK, at least not anymore. They usually involve a goat image and often have a demonic look. The Swedish, my wife assures me, used to celebrate with a goat which was mean enough to demand presents back from the household, in contrast to the giving figure of Santa. They had to give that up, I suppose, and now a straw goat will benignly sit nearby while Tomten distributes his presents.
I had a look for images of this creature of discomfort and came across a peculiar image from 16th century Germany which showed exactly the kind of monstrous chimera which stills invades the popular imagination of mainland Europe. There is one which stood out and I am fascinated that it is rather an elusive creature by an artist I can’t even describe with certainty. I know it is part of a triptych depicting the Heilige Antonius Abbas and was painted in 1505-10. It is situated in the Johanniterkirche in Schwäbisch Hall, a small town in Baden-Württemberg. This little masterpiece fascinated me so much I began to model in 3D the creature who so typified Krampus.

Heilige Antonius Abbas, 1505-10

This was the only image I could find for reference. The project both amused and horrified my son who is old enough to perceive it fully. It quickly became my intention to show it off at an interview to demonstrate my developing skills with the sculpture program, ZBrush. My son could not understand why I would want to choose this example! I love the bizarre rooster-like details of the face. It is also fascinating to observe the incorrect but powerfully emotive anatomy of his torso and limbs. It is always a challenge to model a character in 3D from a single viewpoint but I found it a highly enjoyable task.

I don’t know about running through the streets dressed in the most diabolical outfits you can create but it would be great if Brits would not be afraid to reintroduce a Bad Santa sometimes to help administer the naughty list for Saint Nicholas himself.

Krampus, 2017, full figure

Rag and Bone

Rag and Bone

I am highly ambivalent (to say the very least) about the majority of free-standing public sculpture but this humble beauty just catches the attention and makes you ponder. It is unusually powerful stuff in a city where the majority of public art thoroughly deserves its site.

Rag and Bone (Hemlös Räv) is a sculpture in Stockholm by English artist Laura Ford. After consultation with the people of Stockholm it was decided to place this exquisite little bronze right next to the government buildings. Can you imagine such a thing in Downing Street or Capitol Hill? It is a constant reminder to the Swedish people in power that their work is incomplete. Begging was historically a rare sight in Sweden but sadly it becoming more common today.

Swedish Public Sculpture


This is a classic piece of public sculpture we came across walking through the cold winter streets of Gothenburg, one of many casts around the world and one of ten in Sweden. It is called Non-Violence by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd and has become a famous symbol of the peace movement. Apparently Carl was deeply affected by the murders of John Lennon and the drummer Bob Crane. I can testify that as a tender young person I was deeply disturbed by the premature death of Lennon and took the day of school because I was too depressed to go in. Since then I have sometimes wondered if he was just too much of an irritant to the global establishment. An even more depressing thought...

Två Myror
Två Myror (Two ants), 2014, bronze, 9 m width 2.5 m, height of 12m.

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard, see how she's doing and be wise" Proverbs 6: 6

Again, I can't say I am ordinarily fond of giant sculptures of animals but these ants by Torgny Larsson are exceptional in concept and execution.

This from the artist:

"I wanted to not only remove the company logo to a three-dimensionally portrayed little story but also pull up the ants' world to the human scale and bring the design to the scientific careful studies of the red forest ant, Formica rufa.
In the preface to the book "ants life," published in 1910, the author wrote Gottfrid Adlerz about "Many fanciful stories can be written about the ants but none are as stunning as the real study of the ants 'life'."

Två Myror (detail)

Kelvingrove Park Sculpture

Kelvingrove sculpture, along the river

I love this local sculpture only when it is in a state of refurbishment. It's very interesting to see the poor tree-guy trapped inside a secure tent and trying to poke a hole in the roof with his branch arms. Much less interesting when he isn't. Maybe they should leave it like this permanently. No chance of that I suppose... The council would never recognise accidental great art when they see it.

Exploded Planes

Exploded Plane (747), 2015

You may find quite a few images of 'exploded planes' on here. I think it has been an obsessive fascination of mine for a long time. But that is hardly surprising when you consider that two of the most significant news events in my lifetime have involved dramatic crashes. I refer to Lockerbie in 1988 and 9/11 in 2001. What links them and keeps them ever present in my mind is the enormous injustice attached to these tragedies. Whatever picture you may have formed of the causes and background to them there is absolutely no denying that there has been great obfuscation on the part of the authorities. Which can only lead to the conclusion that there are things to hide.

Lockerbie was on my doorstep as a young art student in Dundee and with a family home in Glasgow. I recall a journalist friend, Sandy Bell, coming back and telling us over Christmas of his horrendous experience at the site.

9/11 found me at home in London. I had been a frequent visitor to New York as part of 1990s art scene. I think this is the inspiration for my tendency to deform and shatter architectural 3D models. Downloaded free building models are imported and broken up into abstracted fragments which provide and endless source of fascination in the way the individual parts fall, catch the light and create gorgeous shadows. There has been much made of certain artists' (Hirst and Stockhausen) reaction to the event but I think they merely state what we all must feel; the spectacle is unprecedented and darkly aesthetic. It is artists who dare to say what we all secretly feel and there is no point in punishing them for it.

I am interested in another type of 'exploded plane', namely the broken symmetry of the 2D surface. It is just a little pun, not really intended.

The Falköping Bench

The Falköping Bench, 2011

This park bench in the small Swedish town Falköping is like a work of public art just because the seat is missing. It would perfectly belong in any British Sculpture exhibition in the early 70s. There is an optical-illusory quality to the frame when viewed from particular angles. It is now art because I say it is (just kidding)!

The Quintessence of Dust

Quintessence of Dust, 2014


Glasgow street art can be very intriguing and slightly odd. This artist recurs in various locations always featuring the pixellated head and enigmatic phrases.

"What piece of work is a man. How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving
 how express and admirable, in action how like an Angel,
 in apprehension how like a god, the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals – and yet to me, what is
 this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me –
 nor Woman neither, though by your smiling you seem
 to say so.” (Hamlet, Act II Scene ii)

There is a melancholic aspect to the design and the quote, taken out of context, has a wonderfully confusing aspect.

Chinese Panda Stencil

Chinese Panda, 2013

A very bold stencil of a panda which I thought was applied by a highly skilled Chinese artist appeared one day in a Glasgow back street. It turns out to be the work of the celebrated local artist Klingatron. I love the scale and technique, large areas of even colour with incredible detail are layered with the top coat in white which is risky since it would need to block out lots of dark grey below. It's an ambitious job which leaves me wondering how the stencils were created and held in place.

Discover Glasgow


I love this poster from the Gunnersbury area in London. It really messes with my head but I guess it helps if you are old enough to know who  the pictures represent. I suppose it is also necessary to know the ridiculous new artists named in the text. The whole thing then becomes a value comparison for the generations. Which is worse, text or image? 

Lennon and Streisand obviously don't fit because of their huge artistic integrity!