May 9 2011: Willi Soukop’s Loughborough Modernism
I happened to be at Loughborough University on Saturday for Radar’s Folk Variations, which presented new work by Sally O’Reilly, Tris Vonna Mitchell, Serena Korda, Olivia Plender and Patrick Staff alongside food, music and pretty much a fully packed afternoon. During one of the rare pauses, I wandered outside and encountered (‘found’ might be slightly too strong a word?) this rather intriguing fifties Modernist time-capsule in the grounds: cast in concrete (or perhaps carved from sandstone to look like concrete?) while simultaneously resembling a bone, bird, aircraft and boat. The plaque tells me it’s titled The Spirit of Adventure, and was made by Willi Soukop (1907 – 1995). It’s one of those works of art that somehow excels despite (or more likely, because) its form, location and materials are all entirely bound by the historical moment of its own making. This gives it the presence of an artifact from a lost civilisation, part of a modest civic vision of the future whose potential has passed (perhaps only temporarily?) into a history that appears more remote than it actually is.*
*More on Soukop here, with further images and an account of his early years in Dartington. Other sources note that he was among the teachers of Elisabeth Frink. The relief of a housemartin on the wall of Loughborough’s Martin Hall – in an entirely different style – turns out to be another work by Soukop.