Sunday, 31 March 2013

Sculpture at St Pancras

With Lent now at an end, time to catch up with what else has been exercising my mind over these past six and half weeks. On my way back from the UK a week ago, I passed through St Pancras station, en route to "London" Luton airport. Time to take a closer look at the controversial Meeting Place sculpture by Paul Day (below). Around the plinth, something I'd not noticed before, is a series of high-relief friezes that were added on some time after the initial unveiling.

They are full of human drama; perhaps they lack joy. Yet I find them fascinating, in particular the wildly distorted perspective and the vision of deep buttressed cuttings, soaring viaducts and lengthy platforms - Victorian brickwork, steam trains, underground tunnels. But the people - downcast, passive objects buffeted by the indignities of war, alcohol, disregard and commuting.

My 10-24mm Nikkor zoom (at 10mm) is ideal in getting in close and digging out the detail.

A historical scene: note the rushing steam trains on the viaducts

Steps, walls, passages, ordinary folk going about their business

The surging crowds, past and present, restlessly move through the friezes

Perspectives distort, viaducts open up vistas and shore up skylines 

An air of unease... who's that over your shoulder? An empty, historic platform

Strap-hanging readers on the Tube; life's small indignities

Workers rebuild the Tube after the 7/7 terrorist attacks

Gassed WW1 soldiers return from the trenches as fresh troops are waved off. A contemporary Eurostar train stands on the left-hand platform of William Henry's Barlow's cast-iron and glass train shed
A tender farewell? The mobile phone looks more interesting...

Another view showing the three-dimensional nature of the frieze

In the glasses, reflections of a crowded Tube platform - two takes on one scene

A close-up through the left-hand lens...

...A close-up through the right-hand lens

More crowds, more viaducts, buttresses and dark skies

Down in the Tube station at midnight; tired, drunk, bawdy, resigned.
From another angle. All the drama of London life - but no happiness to share.
I am sure that this sculpture, after the passage of decades, will become another icon of London. Today, the vision is still too fresh, too uncomfortably edgy. Meaning will be ascribed to individual panels of the frieze - and to the main figures towering 30ft (9m) over the concourse. Initially it was said to be banal (compared the the splendid portrayal of  Sir John Betjeman gazing appreciatively at the station's magnificent roof) - yet in time, the sculpture will become well-loved symbols of travel - parting and reuniting.

If you are passing through St Pancras on your way to London or on your way out via Eurostar or Luton airport, to take time - at least half an hour - to wander around this magnificent station - my favourite.

This time last year:
Cycling to work - the new season begins

This time four years ago:  
Five weeks into Lent


Bob said...

Nice pictures Michael! Great detail

jel said...

Great art. Beautiful photos. Thank you for them, and the descriptions.