Artist Simon Periton was appointed by Linden Homes to produce a work with impact, elegance, identity and function, as the introduction and arrival point to their new housing development on the site of the former Great Western Steamship Company works, located in Bristol’s historic docklands.
Linden’s development is situated next to the award winning SS Great Britain Museum and visitor centre, which houses Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SSGB, one of the world’s most important historic ships, and one of the biggest museum objects in the UK. Given the commissioners proximity to the SSGB, Linden were interested in developing an artwork that would reference the industrial heritage of the area, as well as Bristol’s commitment to culture.
Periton was inspired by the moving story of the SS Great Britain, which was launched in Bristol in 1843, and travelled some thirty-two times around the world before being abandoned in the Falkland Islands in 1937, after more than 40 years use as a floating warehouse. In 1970 an ambitious salvage effort brought her home to Bristol, where today she is conserved in the dry dock where she was originally built. Periton’s work is a lyrical and poetic response to the context, with a design that tells the universal narrative of man’s attempt to control nature, produced in the artists’ graphic signature style.
Forming the gate-way to the scheme, the work is constructed using an irregular grid based on fishing net, on which organic forms, sealife, and corals (referencing the bay in which the SSGB was abandoned) twist and unfurl. Seaweeds are caught in the net which suggest nature is partially held and controlled, whilst the tentacles of an octopus stretch out and morph into chains that have guided the ship home, eventually holding it still at its birthplace.
The artwork is made from 6mm steel panels which have been water cut, and set into a main gate structure, along with 2 further panels set into the 2 pedestrian entrances. The work is finished with a dark, blue grey paint to compliment the new development.
“For a few moments each day there is also a mini drama that is played out. When the main gate opens the octopus is temporarily swallowed up, retreating back into its hiding place amongst the coral."Simon Periton, December 2010
Simon Periton is a well-established international artist whose work has been commissioned for Channel 4 and the Home Office; Periton is represented by Sadie Coles HQ. He often borrows imagery from diverse sources, and his work is graphic, linear often in black and white and follows in the tradition of artist/illustrators such as Aubrey Beardsley and Arthur Rackman. His signature style developed in the last decade appropriates the paper doily, known for the genteel, modest association of Edwardian tea parties particularly of those who aspire to join high society. His work is playful and ironic and has taken the doily paper cut technique to extremes, producing images that are dramatic, often edgy with strong 21c narratives. Recently Periton has been moving from 2D to using architectural interventions, which he employed for the V&A’s 150th anniversary. Periton recently completed a new public art commission for Firstsite Gallery, Colchester.
Tessa Fitzjohn is committed to developing strategic initiatives which deliver high quality artists commissions, public art and consultancy to enable environmental awareness, physical regeneration, and provide the context for creative industries development and broad based community well being for both public and private clients.