Art For Everyone : Public Art Installations

Read about the whole point of "Looking Around London" at this link here.

Get started with my pictures and thoughts on the London Tree Trunk Tour here.

The Tree Trunk Tour is going to be on Hamilton Road, and I'm blogging its creation here.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Charles Smith Hyman

In front of 246 Hyman St., in the middle of the block between Richmond and Wellington, is the Tree Trunk Tour carving 'Charles Smith Hyman'.
When I initially viewed the carving, the pictures I brought back made me believe that this entry would be a) short and b)reflect a disappointing sculpture. I am happy to say that, due to a meeting with Mike Harris of Tourism London, neither of those things is true anymore.
The reason for the disappointment on my first trip was the damage that had been done to this trunk. I wasn't sure if it was falling apart, but Tourism London believed it to be deliberate vandalism. There are 12 panels on the obelisk like structure. When I first saw it, three of the carved plaques were missing. You can see the middle right one in the picture above.

Here, on the side which faces west, there were two more missing pieces. I was, at the time quite put off by what I might report had happened to this work of art.

Happily, my conversation with Tourism London allowed me to discovered that repairs had been done by Neil Cox, the original artist. I had just missed the repair by a couple of weeks!

Today, the carving has been restored, and resealed with a darker stain, its formerly damaged sides look like this:

I think it is important that the stewardship of these pieces is a continuing effort on the part of those who own them. Outdoor art is much more easily damaged and lost than the museum pieces that most of us think about.

The replaced panels on the west facing side of this trunk are the most obvious in their symbolism.

At the bottom is a picture of the front of Idlewyld. This was C.S. Hyman's residence in London, built for him is 1878. The large mansion exists today, as Idelwyld Inn, a luxury 23 room hotel on Grand Av. The house has, at different times in its 133 year history, been converted to apartments, and a seniors home as well.

And in the middle is a picture of C.S. Hyman himself. He was a businessman, politician, and tennis player, among his many claims to fame. He was London born in 1854, and died in 1926. The link has more highlights of Hyman's life and role in London's history.

When first documenting this carving, I had quite a puzzle on my hands. I had 7 symbols that I didn't have any background information on. I did not know what part of Hyman St. or C.S. Hyman's life it might tie into. they varied in style, but I was presented with shapes like this:
 Once again, I have Mike Harris of Tourism London to thank for giving me the hint I needed. If you are standing on the street facing north, look at the house to the right and behind. At the top of the roof, you will see this:

 Now I get where the designs have been drawn from. Victorian era homes usually had architectural details that were specific to certain builders and craftsmen. The supports for the eaves, and details on roof lines and door frames were up to the carpenter who finished these elements off, meaning every house had a unique twist to it. The carving celebrates design bits from several nearby houses.

Just behind and slightly to the right we have this:

If you face south, the house directly opposite has this peaked roof detail:

 Across the street and one house to the west, in the middle of the front steps:

 And roof supports on the nearest house on the north side of the street.

 These representations appear on the trunk:

Once the concept becomes clear, the artwork makes more sense. In context, the carving is inseparable from the place where it stands, reflecting the neighbourhood around it in an almost literal way.

Which leaves me with only one unanswered question. What does this represent?

It is the one panel that I cannot see in the houses around, nor recognize enough to tie to London or C.S. Hyman.

The Tree Trunk tour map tells us that Neil Cox was the artist, but I did not see a signature on this trunk. It is quite different from most of the others, as all the detailed elements were completed in a workshop and brought to the site afterwards. There is the official tour logo plug inserted at the base of the structure. I would have to say that the overall condition is quite good, which would be expected with repairs being completed on the whole thing in the last few weeks. This carving certainly provides an interesting opportunity to think about the differences in theme and technique that can come into the same realm as the Robbin Wenzoski creations we have looked at so far.

Return to the Tree Trunk Tour Overview Page
Check out all the entries using the London Art Map

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