Now into the 8th year of our partnership with the British Ceramics Biennial, we are excited to present FOUNT as our partner exhibition for this the 5th installment of the BCB. Presenting brand new and contrasting works by Elena Gileva
and Mark Malarko
, FOUNT is a site-specific response to the processes and challenges involved in the approach to, and commissioning and delivery of Public Realm development.
From their ancient origins as functional structures built to provide a source of clean drinking and bathing water, sanitary improvements meant that the ubiquitous public fountain developed into representations of a city’s status – grand landmarks and creative symbols of authoritative or industrial power, wealth and prosperity.
For Stoke-on-Trent, historically a manufacturer and global exporter of ceramic fountains, there is a particular resonance. Connotative notions of life-source and wellspring are important for a city emerging from a difficult post-industrial stage of development, and seeking a new identity as a city of culture.
Right in the centre of Stoke’s City Centre is a public space called Fountain Square. Historically, a meeting place and trading area, the Square has hosted several different fountains over the last 2 centuries, but in recent years, for various reasons, Fountain Square has been without its eponymous feature.
The fountain as a public realm feature is once again gaining popularity in city centres all over the country. For FOUNT, we have asked Elena Gileva and Mark Malarko - artists with contrasting ceramic backgrounds, but complementary working approaches - to consider the function, purpose and relevance of a contemporary public fountain, and for each to offer a proposal for a replacement fountain for Fountain Square. In doing so we are looking to explore a series of concerns - the utility of public sculpture, and the role of artists in Public Policy. What purpose should our public spaces serve to a city’s residents? Can sculpture and installation help create successful public space? Where is the balance between functionality and craft? How should a city’s stakeholders, planners and decision makers approach the commissioning of Public Realm development and what might emerge when artists are offered such commissioning possibilities?