Last week heralded the arrival of our new local celebrity 'Verity'. She is a 20 metre (66ft) bronze statue of a naked, pregnant woman wielding a sword. The statue was designed by Damien Hirst and has been erected on the harbour at Ilfracombe. With so much press coverage and controversy, including the description by Catherine Bennet from the Observer that 'it has brought public art to a new low', I could not resist a trip to Ilfracombe to see for myself.
I have a real soft spot for Ilfracombe as a place. It does not always get great press locally as there are some less beautiful aspects to it. However, I think it is full of hidden charm, quirkiness, amazing views, some great people and plenty of history, so well worth a visit.
The harbour has what can only be described as spectacular views of the Torr behind it and Wales out across the Bristol channel. As a once glorious Victorian seaside town, that has fallen upon hard times, I think it is really trying to break into a new era. Ilfracombe is trying to find an evolving identity for the future and so the idea of a statue that might speak of this and draw people to this fascinating place, for me can only be a good thing. So here she is.....
This, some may say, is her 'good side'. Her stance is taken from Edgar Degas' late 19th century bronze 'Little Dancer of Fourteen Years'. I love his work and really liked this side of her. Like many of Degas' bronzes, there is something young and full of life about her. However, from the other side.....
There are aspects of 'Verity' that are not altogether pleasant, particularly the peeled skin on her leg and the side view of her stripped away skull revealing her eye ball and socket!!
It has been said that art is not supposed to be comfortable and there is something uncomfortable about her. However, the children found the inner workings of her body and in particular her baby growing inside her completely fascinating! She inspired lots of questions such as 'why are babies are upside down?' and then lots of giggling at her funny knobbly boobs...and this was just from Richard!
Damien Hirst, who has lent 'Verity' to Ilfracombe and lives locally, has described her on his website as a "a modern-day allegory for truth and justice". It really helped me with my discomfort to know the story behind her. Her name 'Verity' is from the Italian word for truth, she holds the traditional symbols denoting justice - a sword and scales but...........
The scales are hidden and off balance behind her back, while the sword is held confidently in her outstretched arm. On his website, Damien Hirst says that "Without the perfect equilibrium enacted by the scales, the sword becomes a dangerous instrument of power, rather than justice." I like this reminder.
Here she is last week under construction. If you would like to read more about 'Verity' and how she was made, take a look at Damien Hirst's website.
If you want to see more of Damien Hirst's art in Ilfracombe he has a restaurant on the harbour 'No 13, the Quay' which is very interesting, has amazing views and lovely food. However, on our visit it was a picnic in the sunshine for us!
After pondering over 'Verity' we could not resist a climb up to 'The North Chapel' to eat our packed lunch and explore.
This little light house /chapel dating back to the 14th century is perched on the hill. I have seen it many times but not ventured up there to explore. It turned out to be the perfect place for a picnic with my lovely friend Sarah and her children.
What a view (I am not talking about us of course).
Inside was the cutest, tiny hickledy pickledy house,where the light house keeper lived in 1850 with his 13 children! It is full of amazing photos of Ilfracombe in days gone by.
Millie-grace had lots of fun exploring.
It was also at one point a Chapel and a place of rest for pilgrims landing by boat at Ilfracombe (I can't quite remember where they were going, sorry!)
All in all it was a great day, I enjoyed meeting 'Verity'. I liked her because she made me think, she inspired us to ask questions and to giggle. Perhaps best of all she is bringing visitors to Ilfracombe who hopefully will look beyond the press of both 'Verity' and Ilfracombe itself and discover what both have to offer.