If you’ve travelled on the Hover recently or taken a stroll past Guild Hall, you may have noticed some rather interesting looking figures. Life-size cut outs have been popping up around the Island over the past couple of weeks and many more will arrive in the run up to Isle of Wight Day. These figures make up the I-Spy Island Heroes project; all are created by local artists and depict notable people who have lived on or visited the Isle of Wight – ranging from historical literary and political figures, to contemporary musicians and inventors.
To find out a little more about the Island Heroes, I spoke to local artist and project co-ordinator Penny Walford, who gave a clue to what we might expect to see.
‘Some of them are done in a very artistic way, so they’re not necessarily instantly recognisable. The kind of celebrities we’ve gone for are people you wouldn’t expect to have visited the island…historical ones and so many really surprising ones’.
With over 30 local artists taking part in the project, and many more creatives having settled here, the Isle of Wight seems to be a source of inspiration for many.
Penny lives and works on a houseboat in Bembridge Harbour, and is known for her large acrylic paintings of the Solent Forts. The Island Heroes project, and Isle of Wight Day as a whole, is intended to be a celebration of all that is wonderful about the Island and Penny’s work situates her perfectly to summarise why it is so well loved by creatives. ‘It’s a beautiful island. It’s one of those places that does attract people from all over, because it’s very very English, very accessible and yet just that little bit tucked away, so it feels special, it feels like a real find, so once people have found it, they love it’.
Jeremy Gully is one of the artists taking part in the project. Born on the Isle of Wight, Jeremy’s work has taken him from sculpting, to design builds and portraiture – with forays into fishing, crayfish farming and property along the way. Jeremy has been involved in the Island Heroes project since the inception of what he calls the ‘art-driven aspect of Isle of Wight Day’. With its rich history of visiting and dwelling artists, authors and musicians, the Island seems to have continued the tradition of creativity into the present day, which Jeremy touches on. ‘If you look at the energy that’s going into Quay Arts at the moment, like the Open Studios, if you look at the number of artists that are active on the Isle of Wight, and there are some pretty damn serious ones, its an environment which seems to suit’. It seems natural, therefore, that as Isle of Wight Day expands, it celebrates the artistic community on the Island.
Talking about the scope of the project, Jeremy said:
‘People may be quite surprised by some of the internationally very important people who have also seen the Isle of Wight as a rather special place to be. If you don’t spot someone who’s seven foot high, you’re not looking hard enough. You’ll see some quite high in the sky, some will be low down on the ground. Some are popular characters, some are characters from history. Some will be available for putting your arms round for a selfie. You may recognize some, others you may be totally mystified by’.
To find out more about the I-Spy Island Heroes project and the artists involved, or to download a form and start playing, click here.