Cork Street Open Art Exhibition
This piece is a highly realistic sculpture of a basketball inside a conker shell. I say ‘basketball’ with some confidence, having consulted my son-in-law as to whether it was a football or a rugby ball. What’s more he guessed the letters added up to ‘Spalding’, an American firm whose claim to excellence is a little more outspoken than that of British Derwent's pencils, but the message is similar: ‘from the beginning it was all about being first, being the best… being what others could only aspire to become. Established by Boston Red Stockings pitcher A.G. Spalding in 1876...etc'.
This sculpture has been expertly realised, it’s eye-catching, it’s fun. And it’s a paradox. A ball is designed for tough treatment - for throwing and bouncing, aiming and catching – but this one is so fragile that one ill-judged movement could cause it to crash and crumble to pieces. A ball is smooth, pleasant to handle and cradle, but this one comes wrapped in prickles. Thirdly a sculpture is still, immobile but this piece suggests movement – the case or shell is halfway through the job of protecting the seed and letting it go out into the big wide world to procreate and multiply. The sculpture doesn’t appear to have any inherent commentary or message, which you may want art to have. Instead it’s a beautiful, witty piece of design.
I think one of the reasons why I chose Divide and Conker is because I own a life size ceramic of a conker in its case, created by Lorraine Taylor and Nicky Smart of Penkridge Ceramics. This is a Wallsall firm which creates ‘ceramic still lives’. Their fruit and nuts were chosen to form part of a display at the National Gallery recently, in conjunction with the painting Adam and Eve by the Flemish artist Jan Gossaert.