With a touch of sadness, but no surprise, I noticed on Friday that Rodney, the Walsall Wood fisherman, is still without his fish, somewhat oddly christened ‘Bob’. He’s also been the victim of rather more destructive vandals, who’ve tagged him with spray paint. You may well recall that soon after his unveiling by Walsall Council in the customary binge of publicity, Rodney was mysteriously separated from the copper fish that so tantalisingly dangled from the end of his pole. Fortunately, despite some speculation to the contrary, Bob was found by a community-spirited passerby who alerted the authorities.
It’s been over a month since the brouhaha broke, and I can’t help noticing that contrary to statements made by council representative Glen Buglass in the comments section of my original post, the sculpture hasn’t yet been reunited with it’s piscine pendant.
Looking at the way the post is rusting, and the general condition of the metalwork, I’m less and less impressed by this particular artwork. It’s not really a Gormley, and I find the rust more symbolic of deterioration than of regeneration. The crude nature of the pillar Rodney dwells upon, and those coarse bolts just seem to add to the impression of something erected as a temporary structure.
My feelings of melancholy toward this sculpture are not alien to me; it wouldn’t be the first time that Walsall Council had splashed out a whole chunk of taxpayer’s cash on impractical art, only to abandon it to decay, forlorn and forgotten. Lest we forget the much-derided skeletal horse in the civic square, vandalised soon after erection and subsequently left to be forgotten in a council store. I recall the familiar trumpeting of PR spin when the new central square was unveiled on the Bridge in central Walsall; featuring the welcome return of Dotty Pattison’s statue, incongruously pushed to the corner of the plaza by a peculiarly stark central fountain. Soon after construction, the centrepiece, looking not unlike the grave of President Tito, was switched off never to be operated again. A sculpture dedicated to local industrial heritage sits on the far side of Catshill Junction in Brownhills, invisible throughout most of the summer, hidden by scrub until time for the annual mow. When not obscured, the detail of the piece is too small to be seen from the surrounding towpaths and goes largely unnoticed.
Walsall is littered with forgotten, decaying or desecrated works of public art. Whilst some pieces are genuinely loved – like the Hippo, Morris Miner or Carless statue – others, unwanted, just sit decaying, symbolic of a council that loves to trumpet another unveiling but shies away from actually looking after what it already has.