AN ARTIST has hit back after a new sculpture divided opinion among Chichester residents.
Nurture, which was officially unveiled in Church Square, Chichester, on Friday, was commissioned by Seaward Properties, and designed by local artist Neil Lawson Baker.
The artwork received mixed views from residents – one dubbed it as ‘looking like Darth Vader’.
“Why knock sculpture which is one of the most productive ways of getting people to look around a city and therefore help the economy by spending in our shops,” said Mr Lawson Baker, who masterminded the city’s Street Art Festival in spring last year.
“Why knock a local artist who supplies employment and has work commissioned by governments and leading companies from across the globe?
“Of course not everyone will like a particular work of art, but Chichester needs positive thinking and a huge influx of visual artworks to attract more visitors. As a city of the arts, it would really thrive.”
Mr Lawson Baker said he had received ‘overwhelming public support’.
“Visitors even came from London’s leading institutions to see the unveiling,” he said. “Many want the work moved to the middle of the square.”
Jo Boulton, from Funtington, said she would like to see more of Mr Lawson Baker’s art around the city.
“I would like to register my huge admiration for a powerful and impressive piece of art, which projects absolutely the sense of love and protection, which I believe was the intention,” she said.
Mike Hoebee struck back at residents who complained the sculpture looked ‘flimsy’.
“The statue looks nothing like Darth Vader, anyone with the vaguest knowledge of Star Wars can see that, and as it is cast in bronze, how can someone suggest that it has a ‘relatively-flimsy construction’,” said Mr Hoebee.
He said his only complaint was the ‘striking piece’ should be given prominence – rather than being ‘hidden away at the side’.
The sculpture depicts a parent and a child, and was commissioned by the chairman of Seaward Properties, Barry Sampson.
It was commissioned to reflect Mr Sampson’s personal involvement in the care business – looking after children in care and those with autism and Asperger’s.
“We regret there are people who don’t like the sculpture,” he said.
Nicky Ledbury, from Chichester, said: “It’s a parent and child and I really like it. What do the people of Chichester have against art – first the uproar over the street art, which I personally think is lovely and should stay, now this?”
The unveiling was attended by dozens of residents, including the mayor of Chichester, John Hughes.
Shirley Farmer, from Emsworth, said the sculpture would make people stop and ‘reflect’ on its meaning.
“This is surely the purpose of public art – to engage, to be accessible, generate debate and incite views – both positive and negative,” she said.
Kevin Bradfield said ‘adverse reaction’ was only to be expected, given the ‘ultra conservatism’ of Chichester residents.