Greenwich Sundials (1)

Thames Path, Greenwich Peninsula

First in a new series today, folks. I’ve been thinking recently that Greenwich, being the ‘the home of time,’ ‘where time begins,’ ‘where days begin and end’ etc. etc., has an enormous amount of sundials, old and new.

In fact they seem to fall into two categories – very old and very new – and there has been a positive rash of them in recent years – it seems that if we’re going to have a new piece of public art it just has to be a sundial. They are strangely homogeneous, too.

I’ve chosen this one, just by the Eco Park at the Peninsula, to start the series with because it’s typical of the recent ‘corporate’ variety of Art. It’s not utterly horrible – just not very inspiring.

A solid, vandal-proof black brick piece (complete with a slightly worrying white stain these days) with solid metal gnomons and solid metal face plates, it’s a polar sundial (as many of them seem to be these days.) It comes complete with inscriptions where all the good deed-doers who had anything to do with the placing of the item congratulate themselves – the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers, Master Sir Idris Pearce, CBE, Stockbuilding Products Ltd, The Corps of Royal Engineers, English Partnerships – oh, and Nick Raynsford, who unveiled it. It says little else. I’m sure it never occurred to these good people that it might seem to some to look suspiciously like a fancy advert…

Would I rather it were not there? Of course not. I like art being in the community. But does it have to be so created-by-committee? Oh, yes, I know that Piers Nicholson is credited as having ‘designed’ it, but I can’t believe that he thought this was cutting-edge. He must have been leaned on – and with that many chiefs I can’t imagine that one lone Indian had much say in the final outcome of the piece. I’d love to see the first draft…

I see fewer and fewer examples of artists being given commissions in this country and being allowed to just get on with it. That’s what happens when art is funded by business and corporations. Everyone wants their pound of flesh and free expression is a faded 1970s memory.

Blimey. Where did all that come from? I hadn’t intended to talk about art funding today. Better go and have a nice cup of tea and a sit down…

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