Monday, 8 July 2013

Wish you were here, regards Verity

Ah ha! Finally, its been there for nearly a year this October and last week I have at last been to see Damien Hirst's...erm...'Verity', on the seafront in Ilfracombe, Devon.
In honour of this news here are a few facts:
It is 66 foot tall
 "The statue of Verity pregnant holding a sword aloft and standing on a base of legal books is meant to be a 'modern allegory of truth and justice"
"The title 'Verity' is from the Italian word of Truth, while she holds the traditional symbols denoting justice – a sword and scales."
"The figure's stance is taken from Edgar Degas' late 19th Century Little Dancer"
Interesting...and I guess that middle one explains the Verity naming thing. Still what makes it perhaps more wonderful is its humble setting of Ilfracombe. Whilst I'd describe it as a traditional British seaside place, it wouldn't have exactly been the first place I would have ever predicted a contemporary millionaire artist like Hirst to exhibit in. But why not? There in lies its charm. The artist has apparently a studio near by in Combe Martin and also set up a gallery and café (pictured below) which also sells and displays his work. Love it or hate it, Verity has certainly put Ilfracombe in the public eye and 'on the map' even more so in the way of tourism that Verity attracts. Hirst's work is not shy of controversy, sliced cows/sheep, sharks in formaldehyde, dead butterflies and the lavishly diamond encrusted skull to give a few examples that caused a stir at the time they were first shown. Although, like most controversial artists/works, their infamy soon becomes cliché and eventually even accepted and less shocking than when first revealed. We almost become desensitised to being shocked, the more supposedly 'shocking' things we experience. As a result Hirst has probably now become more Warhol-esque in his fame and can now make pretty much anything and people will buy into it. I'm not sure if Hirst's intention was ever to shock with his early works, but more about creating a reaction, either a sense of wonderment and awe or horror and repulsion. Undoubtedly he'd have been aware that the work may provoke strong reactions either way, maybe it is as meaningless/simple as just sticking a shark in a tank for sheer spectacle alone but then sometimes through spectacle we can learn more about our world and things around us than from the work that is more cryptic in its profundity.
I don't personally see the connection (if there is one) between a pregnant woman/cross-section anatomical figure and Ilfracombe as a place. If I was thinking of places for a modern allegory of truth and justice or science and existence then I'm not sure either if Ilfracombe would spring to mind, but again, maybe that is what makes it more appealing. Where war memorials can sometimes get lost and forgotten for fitting-in too much with their context maybe Verity stands out (in more ways than one) for being a kind of odd sight in a relatively small seaside town. And besides, themes of truth, justice, search for meaning, science, biology etc. are fairly universal beliefs and part of being human so in that way Verity has something to communicate to everyone (albeit in a statement/obvious kind of way).
 Verity on Ilfracombe Pier -The anatomical side is the best!
 Damien Hirst, (1993) 'Where will it end?' Beach wood, glass and fish.

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