Behind my childhood home in Hollyfield, there is a sculpture, in fact if we had a back gate it would open onto a rather prominent stone column. It’s been there as long as I can remember, protruding though the pavement, into the little paved residential square, off-centre enough to suggest whomever placed it was not interested in making it a focal point.
As children we used to climb it, the grooves in its sides made it perfect for rudimentary rock climbing. I sacrificed many a layer of skin on each knee clambering to the top if it. The shark’s tooth it was known as, despite in neither appearance nor texture resembling one.
Before the house is sold in the coming weeks, before I will no longer cross paths with its great stone presence on a weekly basis, I decided I should find out more about the shark’s tooth. In fact its actual name is the less impressive sounding, Stone carving number 1 (there is also a second part, Stone carving number 2 around the corner). It is not it turns out, a remnant from the Stone Age, nor is it, as I had always assumed my own personal Stonehenge. It is in fact a piece of work by a rather renowned Israeli artist, Menashe Kadishman.
Born in 1932 in Tel Aviv, Kadishman was a one-time shepherd who went on to study at the Avni Institute of art and design in Tel Aviv. In 1959 he came to London, continuing his studies at St Martin’s school of art. His time in London was spent primarily focusing on sculpture; with a particular interest in minimalism, he had his first one-man show in 1965 at the Grosvenor Gallery.
Kadishman went on to have substantial success; The Jewish Museum in Berlin is the permanent home of his sculpture ‘Falling Leaves’. Focusing less, in his later years on sculpture and more painting. His recent work uses bright bold canvases featuring images of sheep inspired by his time as a shepherd. His work is now visible around the world, from his home town of Tel Aviv, to New York, Tokyo, and of course, Hollyfield.
Whilst there is a whole wealth of information out there about Kadishman, in fact in 2005 Israeli website Ynet voted him the 176th greatest Israeli of all time, my research has found little information about the carvings themselves.
What I do know is that in 1965, the same year of his Grosvenor Gallery exhibition, Kadishman found himself at the Harlow Arts Festival. It was there, according the original Harlow sculpture trail map, the one before we became an official ‘sculpture town’, that the stone carvings both 1 and 2 were acquired by Harlow arts Trust. It also mentions that originally they were ‘part of a very large sculpture.’ No other details are provided.
There is no mention of when or why it was decided they should be placed in Hollyfield. Equally frustrating there is no mention of where the rest of the sculpture, if they were in fact part of a larger piece, found their home. My shark’s tooth it seems isn’t yet ready to give up all of its mystery.
As I run through the list of places you can see Kadishman work on permanent display around the world, I notice a glaring omission. Under The United Kingdom I am informed his work is on permanent display in The Tate, I make a mental note next time I am there to search it out. In the meantime, before I leave Hollyfield, I do my bit for the area, making use of the Wikipedia edit function; I add it to the list.