Surrey Sculpture Society organised a visit to Philip Jackson’s sculpture studio in Sussex. We arrived and had a chance to look at his gallery of works, most of his own collection but we also were able to view the maquette of the Queen Mother’s memorial Sculpture in the Mall. Philip’s Studio is a large space with very high ceilings and has been converted from a typical Sussex Farm barn with flint facing walls.
Philip explained how the studio was normally set up when he is working on large public commissions with a large moveable turn table where he creates the sculpture. He always starts by modelling ideas in clay or wax. Then there is a lot of research carried out on the subject(s) so that the subject is accurate, the dress and accessories is authentic. He creates a stainless steel armature and then models the sculpture in clay, which is no mean feat as often his sculptures are nine foot high. The whole process can take several months and Philip uses images of the sculpture in progress which he then modifies using an application like photoshop on his computer so that he is satisfied that the proportions and pose are as he wants them. Once completed the sculpture goes next door to the moulding room where a mould is produced and this often is cast in plaster for finer working, before finally being send to a foundry for casting in bronze.
Philip gave us an illustrated talk on some of his many public commissions where he explained some of the issues he had in producing the sculpture. We were amazed by the range of subjects he has created and he also explained how the installation of each was carried out and the unveiling preparations that had to be made, especially when they Queen was involved. One of his recent commissions was the memorial to Bomber Command. This was a mammoth task and there was a very tight schedule for it to be finished. He explained all of the figures involved their roles in the bomber and that he had been flown in a Lancaster so he had an idea of the cramped and cold conditions the airforce crew had to face.
In the second part of the visit we were able to walk round his garden that borders the South Downs. The central feature being a chalk pond and stream that provided a picturesque backdrop to his collection of sculptures with his well known Venetian influenced features. Homemade cakes and tea rounded off a very special occasion that was enthralling and inspiring.