Insensitive is the most polite term to use for such blatant attempts to inject yet more misery into this suffering world. Sculptor Paul Day's defense of his proposed sculpture is the kind of nihilistic sophistry an artist is reduced to when they recuse themselves from morality. Of all places to exhibit visual images of people committing suicide by jumping in front of a train, the most aggrieving place to display them would be in an actual railway station!
Rail passengers at London’s St Pancras International station are to be greeted by a work of art depicting a commuter falling into the path of a train driven by a Grim Reaper figure.
The macabre image will appear on a bronze relief frieze at the base of The Meeting Place, the 30ft statue of an embracing couple.
Paul Day, the sculptor, said he was trying to be “truthful” about the human condition and described his images as “a celebration of life”. London & Continental Railways, the station’s owner, said it wanted the work to be “a talking point”.
The frieze has been condemned by families of rail suicide victims and transport unions. Last year almost 200 people took their own lives on Britain’s railways. Paul Smith, whose daughter Rosie, 18, threw herself in front of a Tube train last August, said: “It’s insensitive.”
Of all people, an artist should be perceptive enough to be able to see into the human heart and observe that the degree of "offence" caused by such reminders will be anything but "small".
Day, however, claimed the frieze was a deliberate contrast to the “ideal” of the towering lovers embracing above. “It is about daily life – about the hopes and fears, the loves, the joys, the loss and tragedy that are bubbling along together in human life,” he said.
The bronze relief will feature a variety of scenes depicting life on the railways, including images of soldiers going to war and emergency workers dealing with the 7/7 bombings.
“If certain images cause a small amount of offence, I’m sure that will be heavily compensated for by a sense of joy . . . that the other images will give,” said Day. “It’s balance, it’s contrast. The overall effect, I think, will be very positive.”
Last night Kate Redway of the Samaritans said: “It’s really important that any images don’t portray suicide methods. Research has shown that it can lead to an increase in copycat deaths, particularly among young, vulnerable people.”
Rail union bosses called for the frieze to be scrapped. “Every train driver in this country will be sickened by this image,” said Keith Norman, general secretary of Aslef. “A body lying under their wheels is the dark cloud that troubles drivers’ every working day. To see these respectable, professional men and women portrayed as agents of death is insulting, facile and malicious.”
What is art, if it is not a celebration of life? The very art of living life itself should be one of celebration, but the "party" should be seen as the middle stage: we have been given the precious gift of life, therefore we show our appreciation for that gift, so that by how we use that gift we grant meaning to the life we've been given. When you take out the first and third parts of this formula, you're left with art that celebrates nothing more than the vanity of the artist himself... and his self-obsessed sponsors:
LCR said: “... [The frieze] will be a talking point and that is testament to the character of St Pancras International and to this bold commission.”