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RAF Coastal Command Tribute, a commissioned sculpture

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Richard Talbot


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Publication metadata

Artist(s): Talbot R; Talbot N

Publication type: Artefact

Publication status: Published

Year: 2004

Location: Westminster Abbey, London

Source Publication Date: 2004-01-01

Type of Work: marble carving

Short Title: Tribute to RAF Coastal Command, Westminster Abbey

Notes: Because of known involvement with sculpture, drawing and illusionistic relief carving, Neil Talbot and I were invited by Westminster Abbey and RAF Coastal Command to design and carve a tribute to be placed permanently in the South Cloister of the Abbey, to honor past as well as future operations of Coastal Command, including the Commonwealth and allied aircrew that helped win the Battle of the Atlantic in 1943. The collaboration, the design and its execution involved exploration of issues around the relationship between carving, drawing, depiction and meaning, as well as the negotiation of more controversial issues – placing contemporary work in such a building, but in particular, the nature and purpose of war memorials. The design evolved following meetings with several wartime pilots, where the significance of the horizon to an airman, not only as a guide, but also as a symbol of loss and death became apparent. The focus of the design consequently became a precise curved horizon line, combined with subtle spatial effects - partly deriving from the nature of the chosen marble, but mainly from an evocative depiction of the sea that involved developing innovative methods of representational relief carving. Consequently the commission represents an innovative solution in the field of war memorials - in its design, its meaning and in its execution. The working drawings and a commentary on the design process are held by the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, which collects drawings and other archival material relating to sculpture for use by artists and scholars. The project is the focus of research by Roger Wollen examining public memorials and The Imperial War Museum holds details of the work. It was dedicated in the presence of the Queen at a service attended by an invited international audience and received international media coverage.