Friday, 20 September 2013

The Nadler, Carlisle Street W1

Artists are rarely blessed with the gift of words, which is why they communicate through images, but Hew Locke is an exception. He describes the giantess he placed in 2013 over the entrance to the Nadler simply and clearly:
“Selene is named for the Greek goddess of the moon and of magic. I was commissioned to create a sculpture representing Sleep. I wanted to make a classical statue with a contemporary twist, and was keen to create a statue of a black woman, rare in London. The statue is informed by Art Nouveau, Victorian fairy paintings (especially those of Atkinson Grimshaw), and by the sight of a group of tall, glamorous drag queens parading down the road in Soho at three o'clock one afternoon. She is a powerful goddess reworked for today’s London - a dream-weaver and magical protector.
"Selene floats at the centre of a galaxy of stars, offering garlands representing magical potions associated with sleep and love. Referencing Theatreland, I have included belladonna (a plant proposed as being that creating Juliet's deep-sleep in Romeo and Juliet) and pansies (used as a love potion in A Midsummers Night's Dream). Two different night-blooming flowers known as 'Queen of the Night' - one a type of cactus, the other a type of jasmine - are joined by winged masks of the Greek personification of sleep, Hypnos. She also holds night-blooming dragon fruit flowers, this particular variety is named the 'David Bowie', and references Ziggy Stardust's associations with Soho".
There is an excellent video showing the casting here.
The building is by Robert Adam, and features his characteristic modern take on classical architectural elements. His practice also designed the Richard Green Gallery in New Bond Street, with a frieze by Alexander Stoddart whose explanation of his work is, shall we say, a little more discursive and flowery than Locke's.


Me! said...

Phenomenally tacky!

Chris Partridge said...

That was my immediate reaction but on looking at it properly I came to like and admire it. The quality of the casting is first rate and the detail may be frilly but it skillfully builds up the atmosphere of fey the artist wanted to convey.

Anonymous said...

I am continually irritated by the jargon-packed descriptions pinned up beside artworks, which purport to explain their "meanings" when these are not at all apparent in the work itself. It is thus a pleasure to see description that is coherent, fits the work in question and is written in proper English!

As for the work itself, it is certainly different from what we normally expect to see on prestigious buildings and it inevitably produces a shock of the new. I can understand why someone would not like it but, on the whole I think I do like it!

Unknown said...

As the person who commissioned Hew, I am delighted with the result. The brief was more than 'sleep'. It was 'sleep, night, dreams and Soho', and Hew's work articulates this perfectly. I understand the first comment, though don't like the word tacky, which isn't justified. As you say, the level of detail, thought and craftsmanship make this a work of beauty, in my view. We are fortunate to have it on our hotel -

Unknown said...

Direct link to hotel website to see more here -

Chris Partridge said...

Thanks Robert. I see there is a lot of art inside as well - next time I pass I will drop in and have a look.