A sculpture wrapped up in the Harlow Water Gardens, in preparation for Rich Tea Project’s #HarlowWrap guided tours

A Harlow arts exhibition, organised by the Gibberd Gallery in the Harlow Civic Centre, came to a close this weekend after artworks were displayed and created throughout the town last week.

The Out On Tour project, which started on Monday, 14 March, was launched in an effort to introduce residents of Harlow, and tourists, to the town’s arts and cultures in “unique, diverse and thought-provoking ways.”

Artist Sian Fan, whose Zephyrs appeared in the Water Garden outside the Gibberd Gallery on Monday, 14 March, said the exhibition was designed to make people more aware and to get more involved in the Essex/Harlow arts scene, in particular the Gibberd Gallery’s permanent art collection.

Sian Fan’s Zephyrs. CREDIT: Sian Fan

She said: “Harlow is a really rich and exciting cultural resource, and in that way I think it’s important, not just for the people of Harlow, but for everyone to engage with the works.

“As an emerging artist I was really excited to draw upon the works in the [Gibberd] Gallery’s watercolour collection and translate what I saw into something contemporary and multi-disciplinary.”

The Zephyrs which she created were inspired by the watercolour works of Anne Kilvington and David Blackburn, and some of her wider references included Yves Klein, Martha Graham and Louise Bourgeois.

Rich Tea Projects, a partnership between artists Amanda Westbury and Elaine Tribley, spent most of the week trending Twitter via the hashtag #HarlowWrap, as they wrapped most of the town’s sculptures in brown paper in preparation for their guided performance tours at the weekend.

Sculpture wrapped in brown paper, wearing the #HarlowWrap hashtag
Sculpture wrapped in brown paper, wearing the #HarlowWrap hashtag

Westbury, the Education Development Manager on behalf of the Harlow Art Trust, explained that their free, guided tours offered people the chance to find out more about some of the wonderful sculptures, and aimed to take the art collections out of their usual context and involve them within that.

She said: “Harlow Wrap is addressing the issue that Harlow’s sculptures are no longer being seen, they are now part of the everyday landscape of life and no longer noticed.

“Harlow’s uniqueness as a new town runs through all of the cultural offerings, with Sir Frederick Gibberd’s initial plans for the town centred on offering beautiful spaces, with sculptures being a key part of this.”

Westbury said each sculpture, of which there are around 84 scattered throughout Harlow, offers something beautiful to admire, a skill to appreciate and a story to be found.

She added: “One of the stops on the tour will be to see the artist [Sally Gorham] currently working on a sculpture in the Harvey Centre and find out about this work from the artist.”

Sally Gorham, who created a modern family group sculpture in the centre of the Harvey Centre, said her contemporary piece was made from scrap materials, chicken wire and plaster.

Gorham’s sculpture, called The Modern Family Group, harks back to the original Harlow Family Group sculpture created by Henry Moore, which can be found sitting downstairs in the Civic Centre.

She said: “My project aimed to make visible to the public the practice of making art and, in doing so, to stimulate questions about the pieces in the town’s sculpture collection.

“In my work, ‘Modern Family Group,’ I have included an older person to represent the original pioneers who came to live in Harlow in the 1950’s and 60’s, many of whom are still here today.

“There were lots of families interested in the maps of the sculpture trails, so hopefully this project will mean that more local people will get out and about to enjoy the collection.”

While the town’s artworks often blend into the background of everyday life, Sian Fan believes that the phone apps on Harlow’s sculpture trails are a great tool, but exhibitions like Out On Tour are really valuable to shed new light on these works.

She said: “By creating something new in a space you not only gain a new, contemporary perspective, but you can also highlight and reflect on existing pieces.

“For me, artworks are really important as they can help people tap into an emotion, or story or moment in time.

“They can provide extraordinary experiences, in ordinary spaces.”