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Still Life

Date made: 2000

Description: A sculpture by Paul Ford, depicting an upright human wrapped in a Manx flag and stood in a metal cage.

This anonymous life size figure has been wrapped in a Manx flag and gives the impression of a body in a shroud within a steel ‘cage’. The sculpture is ambiguous. Does it represent a Manx cultural identity that is dead or fossilised? Or does it represent an identity that is standing proud and protected, impervious to change?

Still Life may be considered a monumental piece of work in many respects. The scale of the figure is life-size and is intended to be viewed by the visitor ‘face to face’ and at close quarters, which increases its dramatic effect. In contrast most sculptures are reproduced at less than life-size or if they are life-size or larger, they are mounted on buildings or monuments and are therefore intended to be viewed at a distance.

An important part of how Still Life is displayed is that the sculpture is placed directly onto the ground and is not exhibited on a plinth. This display technique is commonly used with modern sculpture as a plinth may be felt to ‘distance’ the work and interfere with the viewer’s engagement with the piece.

The sculpture, although obviously of a human figure, has no defining features that indicate either its gender or age. Instead the artist has created an anonymous ‘Everyman’ figure that could be anyone or everyone. The figure has been wrapped in a Manx flag that gives the impression of a bound mummy or of a body in a shroud. This figure has then itself been wrapped or encased within a steel ‘cage’ similar to a sarcophagus (coffin). The figure and its title are ambiguous and be can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Does it represent a Manx national and/ or cultural identity that is dead or fossilised? Or does it represent an identity that is standing proud and protected – an impervious figure resistant to change? When viewed alongside the portrait of the Manx Patriot, William Christian (Illiam Dhone), the work Still Life raises many questions about the nature of national identity and how one sees it and responds to it.

From the scale of the sculpture itself to the scale of the topic(s) it explores, Still Life is a monumental work of art. How do you as the viewer interpret it?

The artist’s thoughts on the work:

"‘Still Life’ is a significant piece in terms of the development of my work.
It combines distinct and contrasting sculptural techniques: the carved and wrapped figure was made as part of a work of 1990, while the bolted steel strapping results from more recent experiments.

The process of binding the body with cloth has an ancient tradition normally associated with nurture and preservation, whereas the additional enclosure of the figure by bands of steel and bolts has less positive connotations of confinement and torture.

It is by this combination of disparate elements that the piece aspires to have the effect of poem, touching upon the imperfect nature of national identity."


Measurements: overall: 190 cm x 75 cm x 60 cm

Materials: linen, polystyrene, steel

Object name: Sculpture

Collection: Art Collection

ID number: 2001-0214


Optional, not displayed

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