Commissioned by JCDecaux, sculptor Rona Smith has created Abeona, a major new 50ft cast bronze artwork in the heart of Paddington, inspired by the architecture of travel. The permanent sculpture will be unveiled in a private ceremony on Monday 27th June 2022.
Rona Smith says, ‘Since public transport networks play such an integral role in our daily lives, I found inspiration for Abeona in the proximity to Paddington station. This commission was an opportunity to bring to life the complex infrastructure of rail travel and the pathways or ‘tracks’ that connect us in our work, communities, and relationships.
As a Londoner, I frequently travel through incredible transport hubs intersecting thousands of lives and journeys. My intention is to reference not only the scale and history of these structures but also to draw attention to the physical human connection which they facilitate.’
The form of the sculpture is lifted directly from the artist’s line drawing of Paddington railway tracks receding to a vanishing point and it is the sketched, wavering pen on paper that gives the sculpture its organic quality. Rona explains, ‘The fluid nature of the line gives a personal and human feel to the industrial imagery and the sculpture peels away from the wall like a page from a sketch book.’
Abeona is named after the Roman goddess of outbound travel who protects travellers, particularly children, and ensures a safe passage. Rona says, ‘The sculpture plays with perspective, appearing to extend beyond the frame of the building and into the sky, giving a sense of taking off. The title Abeona evokes the beginning of epic journeys and reminds us of the thrill of a child’s first steps.’
Abeona’s kinetic lighting is inspired by the movement of trains shunting slowly into a station and casts shifting shadows across the sculpture. This gently fluctuating shadow play also suggests the careful movement of a pen across paper, reflecting the notion of the artwork as a three-dimensional drawing.
The railway imagery alludes to JCDecaux’s utilisation of travel hubs including bus stops, stations, and airports while offering an unmissable greeting to JCDecaux’s UK central London office. The fluid form of the sculpture complements the sharp simplicity of the architecture, its freeform quadrilaterals echoing the grid of windows in the adjacent wall. The sculpture sweeps away from the building and suspends in space, its foundations invisible. The work showcases impressive engineering allowing a lightness which is unexpected given the necessary robustness of such a structure.
Take a look below for more photos of the project.