They stand like above ground archaeology, manifest and obvious, unexplained, unloved and largely forgotten, surprising to the passer-by, yet mysterious and brooding in the landscape.
Swindon has dozens of public sculptures dotted around the town, mainly commissioned by Thamesdown Borough Council in the late 1980s and early 1990s and paid for by developer contributions under the Percent for Art public art scheme, with some more recent works. They are an important and unique feature of the town’s cultural make-up and should be recognised.
The map at the bottom concentrates on the sculptures and artworks to be found in West Swindon.
1. These two works were situated above the library entrance atrium at Link Centre. On one wall was Animal Fantasia by Claudine Dunger, 1987 and Palimpsest of Species by Graham High, 1990. Opposite was Swindon Ocotal Link (SOL) mural by Kim Creighton and Carlyle Reedy, unveiled in May 1990 by the mayors of Swindon and Ocotal in Nicaragua to mark the twinning of the towns. (See the SOL 25th anniversary mural below).
These three pieces were taken down in March 2014 and are now looking for a new home.
2. Diana Dors – Film Star (John Clinch, 1991). A flamboyant portrait of the late Swindon actress outside the cinema at Shaw Ridge Leisure Park. Like Diana Dors herself, the statue is larger than life.
3. How The Mighty Fall (Tim Sandys-Renton, 1989). Situated on Shaw Ridge close to Shaw Ridge Primary School, overlooking Ramleaze, this powerful sculpture in cast aluminium and cast iron is a gripping comment on the modern industrial age.
4. Bringing schools together (Gordon Dickinson, 2007). A recent work created to mark the amalgamation of Salt Way and Shaw Ridge Primary Schools. Originally painted red, it is now green to match the colour of the new buildings.
5. White Horse Pacified (Julie Livesy, 1987). This imposing concrete and metal structure situated opposite the junction between Worlidge Drive and Cartwright Drive is a interpretation of the famous chalk white horses near Swindon.
6. Hey Diddle Diddle (Vega Bermejo, 1982). Carved from Portland Stone, this charming lyrical sculpture sits prominently at the beginning of Spencer Close, The Prinnels.
7. Nexus (Hideo Furuta, 1986). The late Japanese sculptor spent six months on site at Freshbrook Village Centre hand carving huge blocks of blue pennant stone – the same as used at Stonehenge – into three interlocking segments which are mounted on old railway sleepers. A massive but ignored presence at the village centre. Picture shows Hideo toasting his work at the unveiling in 1986.
8. The Watchers (Carleton Attwood, 1982). Toothill Village Centre. The first sculpture in West Swindon, cast in ferro-concrete at Swindon’s town hall studios, is one of Carleton’s last works and was largely completed by sculptor Pat Elmore. The work represents guardians of the new community.
8. Whilst at The Watchers, look into the barrel roof of Toothill Community Centre to see the stained glass window designed by Keith Gale and installed when the building opened in 1985. It depicts the urban village that grew in the Wiltshire countryside, with references to Swindon’s railway heritage and the high tech electronic future of the town.
9. Looking to the Future (Jon Buck, 1985). Three haunting glass fibre figures in bathing suites resting by the lakes at the West Swindon Centre, close to the entrance to Asda and Ashington House Surgery. Jon Buck was the first artist in residence in West Swindon and created the figures which are deteriorating from the weather and vandalism at a workshop in Toothill.
Below, in 2013, Nicaraguan artist Patricio Marin Muñoz painted a mural at Lydiard Park Academy in West Swindon to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the twinning between Swindon his home town Ocotal in Nicaragua, and to mark the link between the Academy and Leonardo Matute School in Ocotal.
The painting can only be seen by appointment by call 01793 874224.