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Sculpture in the City unveils inaugural Aldgate Square commission: 'Earthing' by Jocelyn McGregor
2. 'Earthing' by Jocelyn McGregor, Aldgate Square Commission. © the artist. Photo © Nick Turpin. Courtesy of Sculpture in the City.

LONDON.- Sculpture in the City presents Earthing, a new site-specific public artwork by Jocelyn McGregor, as the inaugural Aldgate Square Commission. This biannual commission was launched in 2020 to support emerging artists in the UK and create new public artworks for Aldgate Square. The work also features as part of Sculpture in the City's 11th edition which opens to the public on 21st June and is supported by the City of London Corporation in partnership with local businesses.

Jocelyn McGregor, based in Nottingham, has used her own body as a starting point in her artistic practice, which seeks the point of transition between internal and external, real and imagined, natural and synthetic worlds.

Earthing imagines a more permeable boundary between man-made and organic materials within urban spaces. Resembling a crumbling curved section of wall or a dry-stone shelter on a mountain-top, the tactile work features hybrid creatures, from giant snail shells with human limbs to cross-legged snakes. McGregor’s starting point is her own body, seen as a gateway between the human and natural world. Her work acts like a fantastical magnifying glass, focusing on the interconnections between our manufactured and natural environments, advocating for a more holistic view of the world. Blending a combination of materials together, including acrylic, Jesmonite, stone and bronze, McGregor plays with tactility – each material having a different porosity, temperature, and feel.

To McGregor, Earthing symbolises her own experiences during lockdown, and how her cast limbs crawling out of the snail shell become a symbol of her emergence from her COVID bubble into the outside world. Recognising the positive power of touch, and keen for the open structure artwork to be accessible, Earthing has not been placed on a plinth so that visitors feel encouraged to touch the artwork, and use it to sit, pause, and engage with, while enjoying a moment of connection with nature and art in Aldgate Square. It is hoped that the use of stone will provide a natural habitat for insects, too.

“This is such a fantastic opportunity to showcase my work to a wider audience. There’s nothing else like Sculpture in the City and I’m thrilled to be included in this year’s programme alongside so many amazing artists. So often art is on a plinth or behind a barrier so to have my work readily accessible to people is something I’m really excited about, a key next step in my working practice I reckon. I hope the public will engage with it and find ways to make it part of their daily lives - as the natural world has - I’ve already noticed moths and bees exploring its surfaces and various nooks and crannies,” says artist Jocelyn McGregor.

Stella Ioannou, Artistic Director of Sculpture in the City, says: “I am delighted to see Earthing unveiled today. It has been such a joy to support Jocelyn McGregor navigating her creative journey – from an incredibly imaginative proposal to wonderfully accomplished and compelling sculpture, and I couldn’t think of a better artwork to mark the inaugural Aldgate Square Commission. This new commission offers the opportunity to emerging artists, within the first five years of their sculpture practice, to engage with the complexity of working in the public realm. Jocelyn’s work was chosen for its strong contextual resonance with the site and the local community – it is heart-warming to see it already becoming a focal point in the square, with locals and visitors alike engaging with it in their daily lives.”

Whitney Hintz, Arts Advisory Group Member, says: “The Aldgate Square commission is an exciting addition to the Sculpture in the City programme. It’s a fantastic opportunity for artists, allowing them the chance to realise public artwork for the first time. Jocelyn McGregor’s commission proposal was ambitious and beguiling. I love that she is creating an interactive work that is accessible to both the public and the natural world. I can’t wait to see it in person.”

Zoe Barwick, BID Manager, Aldgate Connect, says: “Aldgate Connect BID was so pleased to support this fantastic sculpture for our area. Aldgate Square is an award-winning space used by so many; it’s a pleasure to host Jocelyn’s piece at the heart of our community. Earthing is a uniquely interesting piece, co-created by local community workshops; the artwork echoes many voices in the locality, bringing art in the public realm to the people that walk past it every day.”

The Aldgate Square Commission is a new biannual commission that aims to support emerging artists in the UK. Launched in 2020, an initial group of 12 artists were nominated by members of the Sculpture in the City Arts Advisory Group, which includes: Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican Art Centre; Iwona Blazwick OBE, Former Director, Whitechapel Gallery; Wendy Fisher, Collector and Philanthropist; Whitney Hintz, Hiscox Curator; and Andrea Schlieker, Tate Britain; artist Thomas J Price; and Sepake Angiama, Artistic Director, Iniva. After submitting a proposal for a temporary site-specific public artwork for Aldgate Square, which considered the cultural and historical significance of the local area, five artists were shortlisted and given the opportunity to develop their proposals through community workshops during June 2021. The shortlisted artists were Byron Kalomamas, Christina Peake, and Harun Morrison, as well as Jocelyn McGregor and Emii Alrai.

Emii Alrai’s work has been chosen for the second Aldgate Square Commission that will be unveiled in May 2023.

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