Brighton Magazine

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Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Thursday 19 August 2021

Major New Public Artwork Comes To Brighton's Norfolk Square

Norfolk Square Gardens, the community garden square just off Western Road, Brighton, is to be the home of a major new piece of public art
Credit Steve Geliot

The sculpture, Waves of Compassion by Steve Geliot, will be unveiled later this month.

The sculpture is formed from the three original Old Steine "dolphins" designed by Amon Henry Wilds as part of the 1846 Victoria Fountain, now re-imagined for the 21st century. 

This type of stylised dolphin has been associated with Brighton for centuries and two still appear on the city"s coat of arms. 

In the 1990s the original "dolphins" were found to be structurally unsafe, unable to hold up the massive concrete bowl of the fountain. 

New castings were made for the Old Steine and originals stored at Stanmer – until now. 

In this impressive and inspiring new work, the dolphins support a wave of water with their massive tails, on which float one of four symbolic vessels, which will be changed over from time to time. 

Steve Geliot In Conversation 

These vessels include a container ship losing its load, an ancient coracle with a mysterious cargo, a fishing trawler and a life raft, each wreck prompting different ideas about our interaction with the sea, which lies just moments from the sculpture.

Sculptor Steve Geliot, who has created a number of art works in the city, including 24 Columns adjacent to the West Pier, was inspired by the story hidden behind the historic "dolphins":

"I was intrigued to discover that the 'dolphins' were actually based on the 'great fish' in the Jonah and the Whale story, illustrated in an old Dutch painting by Pieter Lastman.  

"A key theme in Jonah's story is compassion: the stepping back from judgement and showing of mercy. 

"It seemed to me that compassion as a theme, and the image of the wave, had great resonance and relevance to all of us in the face of what we have all been experiencing in this last year or so, and I wanted to explore four seasons of compassion, to reflect how the work of the wonderful Norfolk Square gardeners is something which goes on all year round through each of the seasons. 

"In Jonah and the Whale it turns out that the symbol for compassion is a plant: the gourd vine, which provides Jonah with shelter from the burning sun."

A recent crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to create a beautiful setting for the sculpture surpassed its original target of £2,000, thanks to the generosity of local residents and businesses. 

The donations are being used to line the piazza area either side of the sculpture with large sturdy containers, filled with green plants, visually connecting the piazza with the gardens below. 

At the top of the Square, a new flowerbed will frame views of the sculpture from within the gardens. 

The JustGiving site continues to be open for donations to enhance the area around the sculpture and buy new benches for the gardens.

Speaking for the Norfolk Square Group, Keith Hipwood said: 

"It's incredibly exciting for our community to see this major work of art, with deep roots in the history and culture of Brighton and created by such a respected sculptor as Steve Geliot, coming to Norfolk Square Gardens. 

"Waves of Compassion will be a jewel in Brighton's crown and we are proud to host this significant landmark for the city."

The sculpture, Waves of Compassion by Steve Geliot, will be unveiled at 2pm on Friday 27 August 2021. 

by: Mike Cobley


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