The Saturday walk on 10 August 2013 was mostly about rhinos. It was sunny and warm so it seemed a good idea to search for the rhinos at the top end of town, the ones too far from the office for a lunch time walk. This had the advantage of taking me through all the city parks along with a few other interesting places that could stand a more thorough visit later.
Yesterday was Commando’s birthday so, after way too many calories and not much moving about, I decided I’d best get off my bum and take a stroll to town to check out some rhinos. I didn’t get far before I had my phone out for an interesting visitor on the lavender. At first I thought it was a cinnabar moth, I’ve seen them in the garden before, but it was actually a five spot burnet moth. Either way it was incredibly pretty and very still which gave me plenty of time to take photos. All the while the bees buzzed around me, seemingly as unperturbed by me as the moth was by them. A garden spider was spinning a web on the choisya. I stood and watched him work for a while and took a few photos I didn’t think would come out too well. As it happens one did and you can even see the web glittering in the sun.
There were sloes on the blackthorn on Gigi’s cutway. She says she made some wonderful sloe gin with them last year. Being a hater of gin, sloe, fast or any other kind, I can’t see the attraction. Mother would have loved it though. There was always a bottle of gin in our house, although I don’t remember her ever adding sloes to it.
On the bridge a huge bee like creature caught my attention, sitting on the verdigris covered hand rail. It was huge, about an inch long, whether it was a bee, a wasp or a hornet I didn’t know but it looked quite dangerous. Even so I stopped and took a photo, thinking I’d try to identify it later. This turned out to take quite a lot of Googling, but it’s actually a fly! Who’d have thought it? This particular fly is called the hornet mimic hover fly, volucella zonaria, and apparently quite rare. The larvae live in the nests of vespula wasps, strangely the wasps don’t mind.
The first rhino I ever saw also happened to be the next on my list. Seymour, stands on Above Bar Street at the entrance to the enchanted park and when I first saw him I though he was a horse in a high vis jacket and wondered what on earth was going on. Poor Syemour has changed a little since that lunch time. Sadly, vandals have stolen his hard hat and ear defenders and his boots have been damaged. For the life of me I don’t understand what kind of satisfaction anyone would get from doing such a thing and it makes me quite sad.
Syemour is sponsored by Balfour Beatty, a construction company involved in building projects as diverse as the channel tunnel, the Kielder dam in Northumberland and the Hong Kong Airport terminal building at Chep Lap Kok. The company was founded in 1909 by George Balfour, a Scots mechanical engineer, and Andrew Beatty, an English chartered accountant. David McDiarmid, artist in residence at Balfour Beatty Living Places, designed Seymour’s rather fetching outfit. It’s based on the protective clothing staff wear out on highway maintenance and carries the ‘zero harm’ logo worn on their jackets. He’s certainly eye catching, even without his hard hat.
Saying goodbye to Seymour, I walked through the Marlands, past all the baby rhinos, towards the Skandia Life building and my next target. The building dominates the skyline on the corner of Portland Terrace, a huge white monolith with darkened glass windows that, in the right conditions, reflect the sky.
It’s no real surprise to learn Skandia have sponsored the rhino in front of their building and Enrhinomental is quite a handsome chap. He was created by Southampton artist, Will Rosie. A member of the British Association for Modern Mosaics, he owns All About Art Ltd, a company creating bespoke mosaics and community based art projects. They also run graffiti workshops to get young people interested in art. The mosaic design mimics the contours of a real rhino and the colour green was chosen to give the impression of a rhino made from emerald. He may not be the most colourful of the rhinos I’ve seen but I like him.
Rhino number twenty one didn’t take much finding, I’d actually met him right at the very end of my Itchen Navigation walk in the middle of July when I went in search of Winchester rhino. After my train journey home there he was at the top of the cutway leading from the station to Havelock Road. At the time I said he was number fourteen. Maybe that was delirium from spending a whole day walking in the baking sun. RinOSeros isn’t the only sculpture there, he stands beneath the huge steel figures created by Danny Lane in 1995. When I worked at Dream Factory I used to walk under these almost every day and I always thought they were dancing with ribbons. The piece is entitled The Child of the Family so I was probably wrong. Still, art is in the eye of the beholder and I still see them as dancing.
This rhino is sponsored by the Ordnance Survey, the people responsible for creating all the wonderful maps that help us find our way along the trails and footpaths crisscrossing our countryside. He is decked out in brightly coloured contours of the kind found on maps and the white symbols decorating his body are actually cartographers shorthand for things like castles, campsites and cycle paths. A smattering of footprints represent the nutty people like me who walk the paths they map out for us.
The OS chose Artsim to decorate their rhino. Artsim was created in 2010 by French artist J Masson and Canadian artist Ian Kirkpatrick as a UK based online experiment to meld graphic design and contemporary art. This may all sound a touch like artspeak but they’ve held some interesting and innovative exhibitions all over the country.
Leaving RinOSeros behind, I crossed the road to Southampton Civic Centre. In 1928, when they first talked about building it, a competition was held for architects to submit their designs. The winner was Ernest Berry Webber whose idea was to build four separate, interconnecting blocks creating one single building. Unbelievably, the clock tower, with its trademark copper roof, was not part of the original design.
The first stone was laid on 1 July 1939 by Prince Albert, Duke of York. This was the beginning of the South side of the building, these days occupied by council offices. It was completed in just two years. I’m quite fond of the building myself and this side is probably the most familiar, at least to me. Today I wasn’t paying too much attention to the building though, I was looking for the rhino I knew was around there somewhere. In the end I had to cross the car park and climb the steps on the other side before I spotted rhino number twenty two, Reveal.
Sponsors, accountancy firm Mazars, chose artist Laura Schillemore to paint their rhino. Her speciality is multi textured murals, particularly for children’s rooms but also theatre and conference sets. At the rear Reveal is a normal, grey rhino, his ears are grey too, but his rhino skin has been artistically unzipped, by way of a giant brass zipper, to ‘reveal’ a psychedelic whirl of patterns and colours. Maybe there’s a rainbow inside every rhino just trying to get out.
The bells of the clock tower chimed the first verse of the hymn O God Our Help in Ages Past as I turned the corner towards the Guildhall. The next rhino was in Guildhall Square, the little plaza between this semi pedestrianised road and Above Bar Street. It has strange, angular trees and curved stone benches that are a magnet to skateboarders, although I’m not sure that was the original plan.
Rhino number twenty three is Rafiki, sponsored by the Mayflower Theatre. The Dream Factory offices were opposite the Mayflower and I quite often bumped into celebrities during my lunch hour. Seeing someone famous in an everyday setting generally confuses me. A familiar face makes me think it’s someone I know but can’t quite place. There have been embarrassing incidents, like the time I said hi, quite nonchalantly to Craig McLachlan of Neighbours fame. At least he said hi back, maybe he thought he knew me too. There was also the conversation in the sandwich shop with Matthew Kelly of Stars in Their Eyes fame. At the time I thought he was just one of the regulars I’d seen around. I could go on but I’m embarrassing myself. Oh wait, I did see Orlando Bloom in a hotel foyer once too…
Anyhow, back to the rhino. Rafiki was painted by Sam Pierpoint, a local illustrator. As he’s sponsored by the Mayflower Theatre his is a kind of colourful patchwork depiction of some of the iconic shows they have put on over their twenty five year history. The idea is to spot as many shows as you can. Maybe I should have taken more photos to give you a better chance at that.
Rhino number twenty four took my breath away. I was thinking of stopping for coffee but I’d passed the cafe with all the colourful chairs when I saw Rafiki. Still seeking coffee I made towards the other side of the square and another cafe but this rhino came between me and my caffeine fix. At first glance I thought it was covered in silver foil, which, let’s face it, hardly constitutes a work of art. Even I am capable of wrapping something in baking foil. As I got closer though I could see this was not a half arsed foil covered rhino but a mirror mosaic. Shiny is not the word!
So I forgot the coffee and walked over to take a closer look. Before 1937, when the Guildhall was opened, municipal functions were held in ocean liners moored in the docks. To me that sounds like more fun but who am I to question, besides which the building is actually quite attractive. CJ and Bard often go there for music events and there’s also a space for lectures. When it was constructed a pipe organ with four thousand pipes was built into it. This was the largest organ built by John Compton and it has two consoles, one for classical music, the other a theatre organ. If I actually knew what any of that meant I might be impressed.
When I got close enough to see properly, the thing I loved most about this rhino was the way the surrounding buildings were reflected like a crazy paving jumble of colours and shapes turning them into a kaleidoscope city. The columns, copper roof tops and heavy wooden doors of the Guildhall were there in tiny, bite sized pieces, I just had to move my head to see them all. Then I realised I was becoming part of the piece myself. My own face, even my phone, held up to take the photo, along with the Tudor House stickers I peeled them off our clothes the other week, were reflected amongst the architecture.
The mirror mosaic rhino is called Glint and he/she is sponsored by Southampton City Council. The artist, Sven Odendaal, studied at Bournemouth University before going on to study fine art. He has excelled himself with Glint. The visual impact of reflecting surroundings is what makes this piece so special. When you look closely you will notice Glint’s horn is covered with crystals, symbolising the perceived value of rhino horn to us, the main rhino predator.
This was the point where the rhino hunt went a little awry. Until now I’d been able to follow a logical trail through the city going, more or less, from one rhino to the next. Now they seemed to be dotted about rather randomly and I would need to go back and forth, retracing my steps and doubling back, if I wanted to see them all in order. It really did feel like time for a coffee and a think.
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