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Thomas Merrett

2021 National Sculpture Prize | Finalist

Shhhhhh, listen

Shadowy figures in the dead of night

While walking through London, late one night – I was suddenly confronted by two shadowy figures shuffling along the pavement ahead of me. As I approached these intimidating silhouettes changed into more distinct human forms and I realised these spectres were in-fact workers from the waterboard, inspecting for leaks.

It so happens that this detection is always carried out in the dead of night when reduced traffic and less flushing aids their listening. The listening sticks – tools they use to detect leaks –  were long metal poles with a wooden spool that when cupped to the ear amplifies the sound of flowing water.  I was amazed by this apparent primitive method of detection in the 21st century and the literal example of humans using their natural senses to connect with the classical elements of our planet in the cause of prevention.

A connectedness

A strong metaphor for the change

This image of a listening figure struck me as a strong metaphor for the change occurring in society, of accepting climate change and moving toward restoring the health of our planet.  A change that is not only guided by our heads and scientific knowledge, but also by our senses and the greater consciousness that animates all life.

As we become increasingly aware of the damage we are inflicting on the planet, it is more important than ever to act to prevent destruction caused by climate change.  Changing our habits is now essential, however difficult to embrace. This series is symbolic of the act of listening. It represents a connectedness between humans and the planet through the senses.

After initially making a small maquette I scaled up the work to make it slightly bigger than ‘life-size’ so when placed at ground level it would be both approachable and familiar to the viewer, yet have a grandness to ensure it sits well in the outdoor environment of Broomhill Estate. I modelled the sculpture directly in plaster before casting in Jesmonite. Although based on the initial maquette it was important to me that the production of the large sculpture was a creative process in it’s own right. And this was reflected in the modelling of the forms and surface details as the piece developed.

A moment on the brink of acting

The act of listening

This sculpture is symbolic of the act of listening.  It represents a connectedness between humans and the planet through the senses.  In my response to the theme ‘Outthinking the Future’. I wanted to make a figure to illustrate that technological advancement is not the only way to affect change but also through personal change, however uncomfortable or inconvenient.

With this sculpture I wanted to represent a human form that is both aware of the problems it has caused and conscious of what it has to do to affect change.  The sculpture captures a moment on the brink of acting, or not as the case may be – The position humanity currently finds itself in.