31 May 2023

A second chance to view
sculptures on the campus
of the Open University

The Open University outdoor art collection is set around the grounds of the university (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

I was back on the campus of the Open University in Milton Keynes for the second time last week. I thought I was about to receive my fifth Covid-19 vaccination in the Michael Young Building, but there was a misunderstanding and I must go back on a later date.

But once again I had time to wander around the campus, this time in late spring or early summer sunshine, with another opportunity to appreciate some of the modern architecture and sculptures on the campus, including the Wolfson Buildings, and to visit Saint Michael’s Church – this time I managed to get inside the church, which was closed when I first visited last November.

The Open University outdoor art collection consists of 16 permanent pieces set around the grounds. The one that probably stands out for most visitors is ‘Contemplation’ by Tom Harvey is on the Cedar Lawn. The sculptor created this piece in 2010 from a dying 250-year-old cedar tree, enabling it to live on to be enjoyed by students and staff at the Open University. The tree died due to an infestation by the Small Cedar Aphid.

The university decided to make good use of what remained of the tree, and in 2010 Tom Harvey designed and carved his sculpture, depicting learning in its simplest form by observing the world around us.

‘Star’ by Anthony Hayes, outside Wolfson Building (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

‘Star’ (2007) by Anthony Hayes is in a shaded corner outside the Wolfson Building). It is in a simple shape of a six-pointed star, an awkward form which never seems to stand up but always seems to have been cast aside or fallen at random, incongruous and surprising in the natural environment.

Anthony Hayes is attracted to exploring the mass of large, abstract forms that seem to exert a powerful presence, particularly as they approach human scale. He is interested in showing different ways of showing form and his work has been deliberately rusted to enhance texture and shape.

This star appears to have fallen from the sky. It was bought by the Artwork Group in 2008.

‘e = mc2’ by Scott Forrest outside the Christodoulou Meeting Room (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

‘e = mc2’ by Scott Forrest is outside the Christodoulou Meeting Room. Scott Forrest is fascinated with contrasts, between finished surface texture and raw quarried stone.

This sculpture represents Einstein’s theory, first articulated in 1905, carved into Jurassic limestone from 150,000 to 200,000,000 BC. It encapsulates an intellectual energy releasing from the unrefined mass.

On the back it reads: ‘The mass of an object warps the geometry of space time surrounding it.’

Roland Lawar is among local sculptors display their work on the campus for a short time period (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Local sculptors often ask to display their work on the campus for a short time period. The current display includes work by Roland Lawar, who says his sculptures are conceived as ‘seen’ by himself, as shapes, textures and colours, and the arrangements of these elements in a three-dimensional form.

He says they are inspired by his personal journeys, observations of daily life, and the colours and textures of nature. He is also inspired by his African origins and ideas that have blended into the way he creates his works.

Roland Lawar tries to make his sculptures highly viewer-interactive. His concepts are usually stirred by the shape of some found object and the dialogue that follows his contact with the object, or from some memento that he has held on to since childhood.

‘Contemplation’ by Tom Harvey on the Cedar Lawn of the Open University (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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