Found from the Ship of Fools

THE new Art Work of the Week featured by the New Art Centre at Roche Court near Salisbury, is this clever and thought-provoking work by Bill Woodrow.

What you see is not what you think it is. Endeavour (Cannon Dredged from the First Wreck of the Ship of Fools) is the tenth sculpture in Woodrow’s series devoted to the theme of the Ship of Fools. It is cast in bronze and dates from 1994.

In the early 1980s, Woodrow emerged as a pivotal figure in a new generation of British sculptors who centred on the use of found objects and/or simple manufacturing procedures.

The Ship of Fools is an allegory, which originates in Book VI of Plato’s Republic, about a ship with a dysfunctional crew. It satirises the problems of governance prevailing in a political system that is not based on expert knowledge and comments on the foolishness of mankind to not learn from the past.

From a distance Endeavour looks like a familiar piece of military ordnance, a memorial to war that might be seen in a public institution. Close up the viewer realises it is made from a combination of unusual objects – a tree trunk, an accordion player squashed by a prison door and globes for cannon balls.

The work goes back to the idea of the form coming first, while ideas are developed through the form.  Woodrow says: “When you talk of ideas, it sounds like something concrete, something needing to be expressed. But the sculpture is a way of extracting those ideas.”