I recently visited a sculpture that I’ve never see before. That’s not to say that I’ve never been to the location before – I have been to Snape Maltings many times (only last month : see my blog post on the Henry Moore sculpture here) – and that’s not to say that it’s a new addition to their art collection. This public artwork has been standing in position for years and it’s not as if it’s easy to miss: Perceval is a life-sized bronze sculpture of a Shire horse pulling a cart carrying two giant concrete marrows (which looked like massive peanuts to me before I found out what they were). The piece is almost to the scale of a real Shire horse at 2.3 metres tall by 4 metres long including the cart. So how did I miss it before?
I guess I’ve just never walked that way around the reed beds before. I must have always stopped short of going into that field. Maybe the grass or reeds had grown so high that they had masked the sculpture in the past? Whatever it was, it meant that I was experiencing this artwork for the first time and I loved it. At first I couldn’t believe what I was looking at across the field - a full-size version of the classic ornament that I’d seen on many mantelpieces over the years – and I sped up as I approached it. I literally skipped towards this massive monument. And that’s because I actually owned one of these china ornaments as a horse-crazy youngster. Quite an unusual choice for a 10 year-old’s bedroom I know but I was SO into horses that I loved it just as much as all the My Little Ponies on my shelves and my Horse Sense magazine collection. Back then I never could have imagined that I would one day stand beside a full-size version!
The sculpture is by British artist Sarah Lucas, now a Suffolk local living in Aldeburgh. The piece I visited is one of 5 massive versions of the china horse made in 2006, which reflects Lucas’s fondness for British culture. Lucas regularly examines everyday objects in her artwork and I found this particular sculpture both amusing and heart-warming. Perceval is the artist’s first and only piece of public art and she claims that the idea came about when Damien Hirst saw the small version of the knick-knack at Lucas’s home and said, “You really ought to make that big”.
It was quite surreal walking around the scaled-up ornament. Had I shrunk..? Or had my childhood china horse really grown?! I even patted the horse as if it was real – that’s how lifelike the size of it is. I thought I’d got away with doing this in secret but it turned out that hubby had captured the moment on camera.
Perceval has been received with great affection and it’s nice to see a familiar item in a suitably rural landscape. If you get a chance to have a look at this sculpture, please do – it’s behind Snape Maltings Concert Hall in Suffolk. The concert hall itself is a fab venue to experience orchestral music (I’ve even seen comedian Tim Minchin perform there during the proms – read my review here) and The Pearl Fishers ENO production by the English National Opera is another performance not to be missed!
Another second Perceval owned by Damien Hirst was displayed near the southeast entrance to Central Park in New York and another is installed in Aspire Park, Doha, Qatar. There are 2 more Percevals out there, but I’ve not been able track them down – and now I know just how lucky I am to have seen this rare piece of art, and I can’t believe it was at a place that I’ve visited often before!