The second public sculpture commission for ‘Sculpture at Bermondsey Square’ is the first outdoor sculpture by Edwin Burdis. The sculpture, titled ‘Brad Pitt’s Bruised Bits’ is constructed from marine and flex ply, car body filler – painted with acrylic and spray paint.
Style is often predicated on substance, as though the one without the other would hardly be worthwhile considering. But there is an argument to be made for the importance of style all on its own: when it manages to be visually arresting and sensorially provocative without needing recourse to any conceptual justification. Edwin Burdis’s Brad Pitt’s Bruised Bits (2015), the second commission for SCULPTURE AT Bermondsey Square, was decorated with hot pink and pillar box red tadpoles, keyed in deepest black. Its cartoonish shape, like a bawdy chess piece, was all organic curves and wry tilted angles, topped by a teatlike head tilted over a sloping belly.
It offered plenty of space for innuendo: were those tadpoles or spermatozoa; was that head actually denoting a penis? The sculpture looked screamingly different from anything else in its built environment, and its sitting on a relaxed public square during the spring and summer months exacerbated its suggestion of bodily curves, its sizzling colours hinting at the ill-advised exposure of fair skin to sudden sunshine. The sculpture’s bravado, conveyed in a bold and comical style, drew people’s attention while the ambiguity of its meaning or any potential symbolism held that attention. Burdis drew on his experience making speaker cabinets for sound systems, using techniques of bending plywood and applying car body filler to build the structure for Brad Pitt’s Bruised Bits, which was based on one of his drawings.
The work was Burdis’s first sculpture in the public realm, and after unpromising trials in which it was simply placed on the ground, it was eventually fixed onto a bollard for security, making an expedient marriage with the available street furniture on Bermondsey Square. The curve of its spine proved irresistible for local skateboarders, and one particularly strong impact resulted in damage to its plywood surface, which was repaired with clear plastic and tape.
This mishap, which Burdis embraced for its transformative potential, allowed the sculpture to evolve into its next state with an easy mutability, a world away from the permanence of traditional public sculpture, which has typically been made in materials of supreme durability such as stone or bronze. The adaptability of Burdis’s sculpture, from a finished piece to an accidented one, connected it to the realm of chance and also to timebased art, in which continually shifting works of art can proudly bear the scars of their encounters with the real world. There may even be a case for considering Brad Pitt’s Bruised Bits six-month sojourn on the Square as a performance, or perhaps as a stand-in for Burdis himself, who has a long history as a musical performer. The rhythmic pattern of tadpoles adorning the sculpture, the rhyming musicality of its title, and its graciously bowing shape combined to lend the work a performative presence, perhaps even erring into the dangerous territory of entertainment, a risky but thrilling place for an art work to visit.
Text: Ellen Mara De Wachter
Generously funded by Arts Council England, The National Lottery, Ideas Tap, and Bermondsey Square Community Fund. With additional support from Team London Bridge, Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre, Shortwave Cinema, We Are Goat and Southwark Council.