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


Shy Fountain (A Fountain That Only Exists When No-One is There)



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. 

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

Simon Faithfull 

Simon Faithfull is a contemporary artist whose work has been exhibited extensively around the world. His practice has been described as an attempt to understand and explore the planet as a sculptural object – to test its limits and report back from its extremities. Within his work Faithfull often builds teams of scientists, technicians and transmission experts to help him bring back a personal vision from the ends of the world. 

Recent projects include a film featuring the artist walking through a burning jet plane (commissioned by Tatton Park Biennial), a video-work recording the artist walking through a landscape at the bottom of the sea (created with the help of a scuba-diving expert and underwater cameras). Other projects include a video-work recording the journey of a domestic chair as it is carried to the edge of space beneath a weather balloon (commissioned by Arts Catalyst), a drawing project sending back live digital-drawings from a two month journey to Antarctica (commissioned by Arts Council and the British Antarctic Survey) and an animated film developed from drawings made on a walk out of London along the A13 trunk-road (a Channel 4 TV commission with Arts Council England). 

Recent exhibitions include solo shows at ArtConnexion, (Lille, France), the British Film Institute (London), Harris Museum (Preston), Galerie Polaris (Paris), Parker’s Box (New York) and Stills (Edinburgh). Recent group shows include exhibitions at Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (Australia), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin) and Bienal del Fin del Mundo (Argentina). In 2010 Faithfull’s largest permanent public artwork to date was unveiled at the centre of Liverpool, England. 

Faithfull was born in Braziers Park – a utopian commune in Ipsden, Oxfordshire. He studied at Central St Martins and then Reading University. His practice takes a variety of forms – ranging from video, to digital drawing, installation work and writing. Faithfull is also a lecturer at Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, London, an External Examiner at Manchester Metropolitan University. 

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