Roy Voss’ new commission The Way Things Are is a sculpture that stretches the length of the Pavilion’s ground floor gallery space, between the floor-to-ceiling windows and the thin columns that run along it.
Constructed from machined and push-jointed wood, the sculpture’s form is drawn from the artist’s memories and from Victorian lithographs. It is a delicate and precise skeletal form that conjures an idea of a pier.
The Way Things Are extends Voss’ interest in romantic longing that exists between desire and real experience. With the wild sea as a backdrop, Voss finds something simultaneously prosaic and profound about the British seaside pier. Offering a familiar but inscrutable promise of enjoyment, there is a simple impulse to reach the end, with the melancholic yet reassuring certainty of returning.
If the coastline is a boundary, or a marker for the edge of ordinary experience, then the pier invites exploration across the sea with the reassurance of being tethered to dry land. Voss describes his sculpture as “a metaphor for secure adventure”, and its physical fragility reminds him of the proximity of potential collapse.
Plans for the De La Warr Pavilion originally included a pier: a two-level structure that led to a swimming pool out to the sea. Too expensive to pursue, the Pavilion’s unrealised pier is located between two real ones nearby: Eugenius Birch’s Victorian pier at Eastbourne, and dRMM’s contemporary pier at Hastings.
The Way Things Are is a co-commission between Berwick Visual Arts and Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool, where it will tour next year.