Likened to everything from discarded props from a sci-fi film to Madonna’s cone bra, nuclear warheads and even a ‘golden codpiece’, the appearance of Farnham’s latest public art along Riverside Walk has certainly left many people puzzled about their meaning and use.
According to the plaque next to the art installation, A Hand’s Turn by artists Natalie Bradwell and Livia Spinolo is “a sensory, tactile and interactive sculptural installation” that invites the viewer to “sense the space, experience the movement, encounter the craft”. “Touch me, spin me, enjoy me,” the plaque continues, “but do not climb on me”.
The sonorous, spinning and textured cones were inspired by photographs showing barley stored at the nearby Farnham Maltings in conical piles and the repetition of the shape on buildings across Farnham. The kinetic sculptures, measuring up to 8ft tall, demand to be touched, symbolising the enduring role of hands in craft for thousands of years.
The project, which has involved Farnham Town Council, the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham Maltings and the Farnham Public Art Trust, was conceived in 2020. A competitive public commission was undertaken, and the work was awarded to the winning artists in 2022.
And during last year’s October Craft Month, a Make your Mark public workshop invited people to “leave a permanent impression” and hammer dents into the golden sheets later used by the artists to make the cones.
Farnham town clerk Iain Lynch said this element of public involvement won over the panel which awarded the commission to the two artists, adding: “The marks symbolise the different crafts which make up Farnham’s heritage and which contributed to it being awarded World Craft Town status.”
The total budget for the commission and installation, including all artists’ fees, was £19,500. This was funded by Section 106 Environmental Enhancement money provided by the building of new student accommodation at the University for the Creative Arts’ Farnham campus.
The location of the public art, next to the River Wey between the Churchill Retirement Living apartments, the Maltings and Gostrey Meadow, was chosen because of the links between the university and the Maltings.
And the flexibility of the installation allows for the work to be displayed in other parts of the town too.
But like all good contemporary art, the golden cones have divided opinion, with some criticising it as a waste of taxpayers’ money, “tacky” and “ridiculous”, while others find them amusing and creative.
One person commented “surely taxpayers’ money could be better spent”. Another observed the money could be better spent filling potholes, while another even suggested the cones could be used to cover up the town’s potholes!
“What a total joke, they look tatty and completely out of place,” said one commentator.
On the other hand, some residents found the installation interesting, with one commenting, “Cool!” and another saying: “They are interactive – you can make them rotate.”
A further art installation is expected to be unveiled soon in the new Brightwells Yard scheme.
To follow a trail of Farnham’s public art, download the Discover Farnham app or pick up the Public Art Trail leaflet from the town council offices in South Street.