Artist and sculptor Spadge Hopkins shares his inspiration for the stunning Cormorants he has created and which can be seen along the river here in Woodbridge.
Back in February 2020 I held a successful little exhibition with another artist in The Longshed, Woodbridge. It’s home to a full-size Angle-Saxon Ship that is being recreated in the shadow of the ancient burial site at Sutton Hoo.
Inspired by a previous local residency I had produced a series of apposite sculptures in copper: King Raedwald, Angle Saxon ships, horses and I had expanded my scope to make birds like swifts and kingfishers (you can see these on my website).
Much of my work is about what isn’t there. Void; one of the binaries of sculpture. In turn it is also often about shadow; I love how the shadow of a piece can often bring so much more to the overall experience of it. I also enjoy conveying movement and speed when it is appropriate; horses galloping, birds swooping or hovering.
The exhibition was a success and produced a little money which enabled me to explore an idea that had popped up during my week on the Woodbridge waterfront. It’s a lovely place to walk, enjoying the River Deben and its nature. Cormorants are often to be seen drying their wings on the posts in the estuary and I decided to make a large Cormorant to display on a post. I made some maquettes. This time I returned to laser-cut steel, a technique I’d developed previously. Rather than shadow I was concentrating on silhouette and how lacquered or painted steel changes with the light and the background.
With lockdown, my thoughts of finding sponsorship for a trail of Cormorants along the Deben Estuary were dashed, but I decided to do it anyway and cut some full-size versions. A boat owner I knew allowed access to their mooring post and the first one went up. This was lacquered but it was soon apparent that he would be benefitting from a natural rusted look! The neighbouring boat asked for one and then one of my favourites went up at The Deben Yacht Club.
There is now a total of ten in four different designs, most of them are painted silver, some with black highlights. I still find it interesting that the birds look so different depending on the light and the colour of the sky.
The response from Woodbridge residents has been incredibly positive. I’ve been told it’s been a tonic in these trying times to see the sculptures whilst walking beside the Deben. I am working to erect at least another four at the various cafes near the river, collaborating with the owners to hopefully produce a trail which when completed will earn participants a free cake!
Going on from here I am producing a new art piece for the Deben Yacht Club and various local commissions for garden sculptures alongside my smaller indoor work.
Spadge is opening his studio as part of the Suffolk Open Studios on the weekend of 26th – 27th June. Further details about his work can be found at www.spadgehopkins.co.uk
Photography courtesy of Spadge Hopkins