Giant inflatable sculptures to give a colourful boost to the Bluecoat’s historic courtyard
The Bluecoat’s famous courtyard will soon be getting some fun new residents when it becomes home to OK! Cherub!, a group of new artworks by artist Bruce Asbestos. The newly commissioned work includes three giant inflatable sculptures: a yellow worm, a collection of frogspawn and a giant arm.
Each sculpture represents, and takes its name from, a different aspect of positive mental health: a giant yellow worm represents Rest, a group of green frogspawn represents Community and a giant cartoon arm represents Connection.
The sculptures add an element of larger-than-life cartoon fun to the city centre venue and invite people to think about ways in which they look after themselves and others around them. The work has been developed in response to the Bluecoat’s historic building and courtyard, particularly the architectural features such as the cherubs that adorn the facade.
Inspiration for Community, the frogspawn, came from the artist’s lockdown walks with his young son to the local park where there was frogspawn in the pond, and finding it symbolic of collectivity and togetherness. Rest, a worm sculpture in leisurely repose, is inspired by Japanese Kokeshi Dolls, stylised wooden dolls with no arms or legs used as children’s toys and sold to tourists. Connection, the giant arm, is an unknown cartoon character who symbolises reaching out to connect.
Bruce Asbestos has also been working with children from two primary schools in North Liverpool, Broad Square and Leamington Community, as part of the Bluecoat’s Out of the Blue after school art clubs. As part of the process the children have been bringing to life their own symbols of community, self-care, love, happiness and friendship in air drying clay. Each school will host a Jesmonite sculpture by the artist which combines the children’s favourite designs.
Bruce Asbestos said:
‘I love that all the large windows in the courtyard at the Bluecoat are decorated with cherubs, there are at least 40, which can often be overlooked. I liked that my sculptures are somehow new friends for the cherubs. As well as associations with love, cherubs are also representations of peace, prosperity, and leisure. I liked to think that this work is essentially about different forms of Love; and that there is this sculptural conversation between my pop works and the history of Renaissance art, and the Baroque. I was also interested in making big fun sculptures that will wobble in the wind; I like that people will enjoy having selfies with a giant relaxing yellow worm’.
Marie-Anne McQuay, the Bluecoat’s Head of Programme, said:
‘After two years of living and working through a pandemic we wanted to continue commissioning public works for our courtyard that are really fun and that would cheer people up. Bruce Asbestos effortlessly mixes everyday objects and pop culture with high art to produce his impactful and charming sculptures. His sensitive and thoughtful collaboration with Liverpool school children has also given them the experience of developing a real life public art work.’
The Bluecoat will also launch ‘Eye of Newt’, an interactive mobile video game by Bruce Asbestos, which has versions of the sculptures in an ever-changing digital landscape.
Bruce Asbestos’s work draws from a rich history of painting, sculpture, popular culture, folklore and fairy tales. His work frequently mixes everyday objects with high art, fashion, and responds to global pop culture. His interdisciplinary practice combines performance, painting, clothing, social media, video games, curating and a multitude of collaborations.