‘…Yinka Shonibare’s Wind Sculpture standing in Howick Place in Victoria, a magical work that follows the theme of his commission for the plinth in Trafalgar Square – Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle. The curving form seems like a torn fragment of a sail.’
Janet Street-Porter, THE INDEPENDENT
HS Projects commissioned a striking sculpture by internationally renowned artist Yinka Shonibare, CBE (RA). ‘Wind Sculpture’, 2014, Shonibare’s first permanent public art commission, takes the form of a colourful ship’s sail, measuring 6.1 metres in height by 3.4 metres in width, exploring the notion of harnessing movement. The captivating piece has special resonance at Howick Place, named after Viscount Howick, later 2nd Earl Grey, one of the main architects of the Reform Act 1832, Catholic emancipation and the abolition of slavery in the British Empire and a variety of tea. ‘Wind Sculpture’ continues Shonibare’s focus on themes of colonialism, trade, and race and employs the artist’s signature use of batik Dutch wax fabric designs – materials which have become synonymous with African identity.
We devised the overall Public Art Strategy which entailed researching the history of the area, identifying sites for public art, developing the artists brief, selection process, timetable and additional art programme. Yinka Shonibare CBE was awarded the commission for his insightful response to the site and the history of the area.
The idea for ‘Wind Sculpture’ was conceived after producing a series of works related to historical ships, in particular his Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square commission, ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’. When developing those pieces, Shonibare had to focus on how to form the sails so that they appeared to be caught mid voyage, and in doing so the sails began to describe the very conditions of that voyage itself. The sails came to represent the movement and passion within the piece, the emotions the artist wanted to translate to the viewer.
Moving away from the form of a ship itself, ‘Wind Sculpture’ formally explores the notion of harnessing movement through the idea of capturing the volume of wind, and freezing it in a moment of time. Using a series of materials normally applied to large structures that exude a sense of solidity and permanence, the tension of this abstract work is heightened by the contrast between the media used, and the movement recreated through the delicate realisation of the work. Returning to Shonibare’s use of Dutch wax fabrics, the work manifests as a giant three-dimensional blown up piece of fabric that appears to be caught blowing in the wind. The work is rendered in full colour, exactly duplicating a piece of the African fabric synonymous with his work, only in giant form.
The use of batik Dutch wax fabrics is an important element within Shonibare’s overall body of work, and has continued in his practice as a kind of visual language through which he translates his ideas. Commonly referred to as “African” fabrics, these textiles have a somewhat hybrid history that defies such defined cultural categorisation, one which is often hidden and which refuses stereotypes – a concept he explores in his practice.
Using metal armatures and pigmentation techniques, ‘Wind Sculpture’ is highly durable, resisting disintegration from inclimate weather and outdoor conditions. The work was realised using moulds sculpted to perfectly capture the sense of movement in the fabrics, and the surface was treated and pigmented to perfectly represent the batik patterns of traditional and beautifully colourful Dutch wax fabrics.
HS Projects commissioned ‘Wind Sculpture’ on behalf of Doughty Hanson and Terrace Hill.
‘Wind Sculpture’ is located opposite 5 Howick Place, Victoria, London.