28 September 2023
offers a hint of Venice
in the Theatre District
in Milton Keynes
There is a little taste of Venice in Milton Keynes. While we were out at dinner in the Theatre District in Central Milton Keynes one recent evening, we stopped to admire ‘Dangerous Liaisons,’ a bronze sculpture by the Scottish sculptor Philip Jackson unveiled in 1995.
Milton Keynes has a large collection of public sculpture, much of it commissioned or bought when the new city was being built in the 1970s and 1980s. When I walk through the city centre, I can you can see work by some of the most influential sculptors of the past 40 or 50 years, including Dame Elisabeth Frink, Michael Sandle, Bill Woodrow, Dhruva Mistry and Peter Freeman, and Milton Keynes to actively commissioning artists and sculptors.
‘Dangerous Liaisons’ in the Theatre District is one of a distinctive series of sculptures by Philip Jackson that are based on the Venetian carnival and masque, inspired by Venice and the Maschera Nobile. It was completed in 1997 and renovated in 2017.
Jackson’s many public commissions include the Bomber Command Memorial in London’s Green Park, and his twice life-size (6 metre) bronze statue of Bobby Moore, erected outside the main entrance at Wembley Stadium in 2007.
Philip Henry Christopher Jackson was born in 1944 and studied at the Farnham School of Art, now the University for the Creative Arts). After leaving school, he was a press photographer for a year and then joined a design company as a sculptor. He now works at the Edward Lawrence Studio in Midhurst, West Sussex and lives nearby. Half of his time is spent on commissions and the other half on his gallery sculpture.
He is known for his major outdoor pieces, such as the Young Mozart in Chelsea and the Jersey Liberation sculpture. Recently, he was the acting Royal Sculptor to Queen Elizabeth II. His sources of inspiration have included Jacob Epstein, Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Oscar Nemon and Kenneth Armitage. But he says the most powerful influences in his life are his wife Jean and son Jamie who work with him.
Jackson based his ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ in the Theatre District in Milton Keynes on the mask and was inspired by the Maschera Nobile in 17th and 18th century Venice. The mask and costume hid the identity and gender of the wearer, allowing him or her to go about the city unrecognised. This would allow for intrigues and love affairs to take place without fear of discovery.
Jackson is known for his modern style and emphasis on form, and says his sculptures ‘are essentially an impressionistic rendering of the figure.’ His finishes are gentle and delicately worked, ‘culminating in the hands and the mask, both of which are precisely observed and modelled.’ His works inspired by Venice and the Maschera Nobile and are sought after by collectors around the world.
Philip Jackson’s other significant public statues and monuments include: a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, Parliament Square (2015);a bust of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, Lincoln’s Inn (2017); sculptures of Sir Matt Busby (1996) Sir Alex Ferguson (2012), George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton for Manchester United; Peter Osgood for Chelsea FC; the Archangel Gabriel for South Harting Church; Saint John the Evangelist at Portsmouth Roman Catholic Cathedral; the Founders of Saint Margaret’s Convent, Handsworth; Christ in Judgment and Saint Richard at Chichester Cathedral; Constantine the Great at York Minster; the Gurkha Memorial, London; and the Wallenberg Monument, Buenos Aires.