Shy Fountain

Simon Faithfull, 'Shy Fountain' 2012. Image courtesy of the artist and Crest Nicholson.


Shy Fountain is a new public artwork by artist Simon Faithfull, commissioned as part of Crest Nicholson’s development site in Bristol’s redeveloped Harborside.


Comprising a very simple design the Shy fountain has been created to roughly suggest the silhouette of a small person. A single jet of water shall emerge directly from the street paving, and fall back against the stone flagging creating an audible splashing sound. The nozzle of the jet from which the fountain emerges is hidden in the surface for the stone so that when the fountain is not on it will leave no visible trace other than a patch of recently wet paving.

The work is controlled by a series of movement sensors which create a space that is sensitive and reactive to motion. When no one is there (and therefore no movement is detected) the fountain reaches a maximum height of 1.3 meters. When any of the sensors detect movement, the fountain shuts off abruptly. After a short time the fountain slowly re-emerges, getting progressively higher till it reaches its full height once more.  Unless, of course, more movement is detected, at which point it abruptly disappears again, leaving only the wet stone as a trace of its recent presence.  If however, the viewer sits still next to fountain they can observe the fountain slowly get bolder and witness a secret spectacle

The intention of the Shy Fountain is to create a magical apparition.  A mysterious phenomenon rather than a flamboyant grand gesture. An artwork that lives through intrigue and word of mouth – that ultimately creates a kind of modern, magical myth.

Simon Faithfull

Simon Faithfull was born in Oxfordshire, in 1966 and is an English artist based in Berlin and London. Since 1997 his work has been widely exhibited in both international solo and group exhibitions, including The British Film Institute Gallery, London; Haus am Waldsee, Berlin; CRAC Alsace, France, Stills, Edinburgh; and the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007 as part of ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion.

He was the first visual artist to receive an Arts Council England Fellowship to travel to Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey. Simon Faithfull’s practice often involves elements of failure and anti-heroism. His works revolve around research and experiments, and during the course of the past few years he has become known for his Lecture Performances that will often accompany his exhibitions. He is cited as trying to measure the world in order to check whether it exists and whether, when absent, he also still exists. Simon Faithfull is represented by Parker’s Box, New York, and Galerie Polaris, Paris. He is also an ArtSway Associate.

  • Commissioner

    Crest Nicholson

  • Produced by

    Tim Knowles

  • Partners

    Crest Nicholson

  • Supported by

    Crest Nicholson