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Arts University Plymouth unveils Kurt Jackson sculpture

‘The Plym Stone’ features locally sourced limestone, Ivybridge granite and glass reclaimed from Plymouth Gin bottles and was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Plymouth

Arts University Plymouth has unveiled a new sculpture by internationally renowned contemporary artist and sculptor Kurt Jackson situated on the grounds of the university. It was unveiled in a ceremony on the green outside the Arts University Plymouth campus, led by a talk by the artist.

The sculpture, named ‘The Plym Stone’, was unveiled by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Sue Dann, joined by Kurt and Caroline Jackson, the Lord Mayor’s Consort, Alderman Chris Mavin, Macebearer Steve Mallinson and representatives of the university, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive Professor Paul Fieldsend-Danks, Pro Vice Chancellor Dr Stephen Felmingham and Head of School Arts + Media Stephanie Owens.

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Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Sue Dann (left) and Kurt Jackson (right) unveil the Plym Stone plaque

Inspired by the geology of the immediate Plymouth area, the sculpture features locally sourced limestone, granite and reclaimed glass. The Plym Stone is all about place, location, geological time, heritage and the natural world, taking inspiration from the Old English name for Plympton, ‘plymen’, meaning ‘growing with plum-trees’ or ‘Plum-tree farm’. Covering the two main geological components of Plymouth’s immediate area, the Plym Stone also takes inspiration from the River Plym and its role in the history and narrative of the Plym Valley as well as the naming of Plympton and the city of Plymouth.

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From left to right: The Lord Mayor's Consort Alderman Chris Mavin, Vice Chancellor of Arts University Plymouth Professor Paul Fieldsend-Danks, Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Sue Dann, Kurt Jackson and his wife Caroline Jackson

The huge stone base is made from Devonian limestone, sourced from the Moorcroft quarry in Billacombe, cut and polished to size in a quarry in Cornwall. Based on the concept of putting natural forms on a pedestal, a granite river boulder from Ivybridge sits proud on the limestone adorned with plum-like fruits cast in bronze and glass reclaimed from Plymouth Gin bottles. Jackson used the world-class facilities at Arts University Plymouth, collaborating with FabLab Plymouth and FabLab manager and experienced designer Ben Mundy, to create elements featured on the sculpture. Jackson used a 3D scanner to scan damsons, a small plum like fruit, which were then scaled up and 3D printed in bioplastic to be used for casting the fruit with other materials for the final sculpture.

It’s incredible how Kurt has managed to put the essence of what it is to be in Plymouth, the rivers, the rocks and the moors, into a work of art. Even down to our beloved Plymouth Gin.
Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Sue Dann

The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Sue Dann said, “The Plym Stone is absolutely amazing. It’s going to make people stop and think. It’s incredible how Kurt has managed to put the essence of what it is to be in Plymouth, the rivers, the rocks and the moors, into a work of art. Even down to our beloved Plymouth Gin.”

“If you look at Messenger outside Theatre Royal Plymouth and at the Antony Gormley piece on West Hoe waterfront, it always creates a really lively topic of conversation. Hopefully, this piece will do exactly the same.”

Kurt Jackson said, “It’s been a privilege to work with Arts University Plymouth - a successful process that has culminated in the Plym Stone now sitting proudly in the midst of the new Arts Quarter of Plymouth. It has been a satisfying experience accessing the excellent facilities, bearing witness to the buzz and vibrant creativity of the students in their workplace and collaborating with the enthusiastic staff.”

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Pro Vice Chancellor Dr Stephen Felmingham said, “Working with Kurt and the Jackson Foundation on this project has been enormously rewarding for both staff and students at Arts University Plymouth. With its focus on the distinctive botany and geology of Plymouth, the sculpture stands as testament to our shared values of sustainability, place-making and care for our city and its history both for our students and visitors to the Cultural Quarter. We are proud to have this important work on our campus, with the message it sends to our students about working locally and globally.”

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Kurt Jackson is a contemporary artist, based in St Just in Penwith, Cornwall. His artistic practice embraces an extensive range of materials and techniques, including mixed media, large canvases, print-making, the written word and sculpture. Jackson has a Honorary Doctorate from Exeter University and is a Fellow of St Peter’s College and Oxford University.

Jackson’s focus on the complexity, diversity and fragility of the natural world has led to artist-in-residences on the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, the Eden Project and Glastonbury Festival. He is also an Ambassador of Survival International and frequently works with Greenpeace, Surfers Against Sewage, Friends of the Earth and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. In 2015, Jackson and his wife Caroline set up the Jackson Foundation Gallery in Penwith, which hosts an annual programme of quality contemporary exhibitions working in partnership with a variety of environmental and non-profit organisations.

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Jackson’s relationship with the university began in 2019, when he worked with the expert staff from BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices to create the official award sculptures for Surfers Against Sewage’s Plastic Free Awards.

Members of the public can view the sculpture on the main university campus, situated on The Green outside of the Arts University Plymouth’s Students’ Union.