New book explores world of acclaimed Sussex sculptor Philip Jackson

Journalist and author Tim Bouquet explores the world of internationally-acclaimed sculptor Philip Jackson in a major new book.

Tim Bouquet
Tim Bouquet

Arguably Britain’s greatest living figurative sculptor, Midhust-based Philip has enjoyed huge popularity and respect for his work over many years. His major public commissions commemorate great events and global figures including the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park and the sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square. However – very much a separate strand to his work – his gallery sculpture takes its inspiration from Venice and the Maschera Nobile.

Tim, who lives in Fishbourne, brings the two halves of Philip’s career together in the new book Philip Jackson A Life In Sculpture: “The book has been published by the Jacksons, Philip and his wife Jean. They brought a book out about 12 years ago, and being a busy sculptor, obviously quite a lot has happened since then. They decided they wanted to do a new book and a slightly different book, and they asked if I would consider it.

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“I then discussed with them how it should be, and I said it should be a part biography, using the work, which is what we embarked on. I sat down with Philip and he showed me a whole load of slides of his work and then talked through with me how it came about. That gave me an initial couple of hours. I went away and wrote an outline of how I thought the book could work.

“The challenge is that his work divides into completely different halves. The gallery work is very much inspired by Venice, and then you have got the public work with the Bomber Command Memorial and the equine statue of the Queen. And so we decided to divide the work into his early life, followed by his gallery work, followed by his public work. It fell naturally into those three sections.

“I then had a series of interviews with Philip and he took me into his studio and explained how you make a sculpture in bronze. It’s a process that hasn’t really changed since Michelangelo. It’s a very slow and precise process. Technology is not really involved. There are no gizmos. It’s a man with a lot of clay and a lot of tools.

“I was also very interested to go into the sculpture foundry. I wanted to see the foundry, to sense the heat, to smell the smell of it, to understand how these ideas are turned into metal. I also wanted to talk to people who collect his work and why.”

As for Philip, he wanted someone who wasn’t specifically an arts journalist. Tim writes major investigative features and profiles on a variety of subjects: “And the books I have written have been about things that have interested me but that I knew very little about. That’s the interest for me. I am not afraid to ask the same question twice if I don’t understand. And the fact that I am not from the worlds that I write about means that I don’t arrive with an agenda.”

Tim found Philip an “intriguing mixture”: “He is inspirational and he is meticulous, and you don’t often get the two things together. The research that Philip did for the Bomber Command Memorial was incredible. There is not a button or a belt or a zip that is wrong, and yet his Venice-inspired works can be really quite wistful and mysterious. There is not much physical form in terms of the faces. I can’t really think of another major sculptor who divides his work in this way.”

Fortunately for Tim, Philip is also an artist who enjoys talking about his work.

“He often does talks and demonstrations about how he works. Like all artists he is happy to come out of the studio and talk to people about what he does, why he does it and how he does it. He is a very engaging speaker… and then he goes back into his studio”.

The book is available from bookshops and from Amazon.