For St Agnes is a new permanent work by Graham Fagen for the park of the same name in St Pauls, Bristol and was produced by Foreground. Consisting of four bronze plaques set into the paving at the thresholds of the four entrances to the park, the work explores the appropriation of text and image by individuals, groups and nations and how such symbols can transcend cultural boundaries to become new signifiers for both the history and future of communities.
“Situated in the heart of St. Pauls in Bristol, St. Agnes Park provides a short cut to the city centre and a place of rest and greenery amongst the terraced houses of the surrounding streets. With an avenue of mature trees, stone paving and traditional iron railings the landscape of the park recalls the era of its inception, yet its Victorian formality is now juxtaposed by a busy contemporary playground. The recent redevelopment of the park saw the addition of colourful new play equipment – the busy area of playground has become the lively centre of the park reflecting the surrounding community – an area characterized by a patchwork of indigenous and immigrant families, combining Caribbean, Somalian and European heritages.
Working across a variety of media Graham Fagen has developed a practice that explores ideas of identity and belonging. Continuingly engaging with different communities and subject matters, Fagen is adept at reflecting and amalgamating different influences, histories and cultural markers. For St. Agnes Park he has created a series of pieces that reflect the history and culture of the area. Fagen developed four bronze plaques painted in bright enamel that present a series of images and text that resonate with both a personal and collective sense of history and identity. Each plaque is imbedded into the park’s paving marking the four entrance points into the space and serving as frames or signs towards a journey through the communal area. Each plaque depicts a different image: a red rose accompanied by the text ‘Where the Heart Is”, a palm tree accompanied by the phrase “For I And I” and two text panels reading “Rest England, Peace Mandela” and “Mandela’s Peace, England’s Rest”.
Fagen’s commission for St. Agnes Park creates a series of works that are carefully woven into the fabric of the local community, drawing upon shared images and symbols to denote ideas of home. Placed within the paving of the park the bronze plaques are literally embedded into the landscape of the area. Subtle and unimposing markers, they are ridden across, walked over, as often unnoticed as commented on. Fagen’s use of plaques combines different visual symbols – the palm, the rose, the bronze, and the coloured enamel – in a reflection of the differing cultural traditions that make up the demographic of St. Agnes. The community will bring their own associations and understandings to each visual symbol so that, eventually, the meanings of the signs will be owned as much by the community as the artist, playing their part in signifying both the history and future of the area.”
Edited extracts from Roses and Palm Trees, an essay by Laura Mansfield
Based in Frome, Somerset, Foreground brings new art to new audiences across the South West of England. We deliver an ambitious program that spans commissioning new temporary and permanent artworks in the diverse social and physical structures of communities, consultancy and development projects that explore the connectivity between the critical, social and economic aspects of contemporary art.