CIPHER WAVE (Alexandra’s Angel)
Commissioned by David Wilson Homes, the brief for Cipher Wave was that it should mark the history of the site.
The new housing development of Alexandra Park, Wroughton, Swindon in Wiltshire, is built where the RAF Princess Alexandra Hospital once stood.
This hospital served the local civilian community, as well as the military. ‘It had a much used maternity ward!’ I was told affectionately by some of those born there. Also the relatives of some who died there particularly remembered the quality and care of the nursing staff.
So I realised this piece was to be in some way a memorial to all those who cared.
My feeling straight away was that visually the sculpture needed to be circular in order to counter the surrounding squares, and also to refer to the Neolithic stone circles within the chalk landscape beyond.
The choice of materials, grey Kilkenny limestone and stainless steel, relates to aircraft, particularly the familiar Hercules of Air Transport Command, until recently based at RAF Lyneham, nearby. Kilkenny is a metamorphosed, (compressed and heated), limestone from the Republic of Ireland and is full of fabulous glinting fossils.
The steel wings needed to be pierced to lessen the wind resistance, and the formality of the cyclical Mayan calendar, the Tzolkin, provided a design solution as well as adding the concept of Time.
Throughout the design and making of this piece I worked closely with the company’s architect and structural engineers, which was always an interesting, educational and productive process.
Good design, in my view, is the priority for public sculpture. Artistically formal solutions to visual puzzles or problems, and simplicity, I feel are the key aspects to keep in mind. If successful, then the ‘meanings’ can be myriad, open and held within the eye of the beholder.