“Basilica” by Paul De Monchaux
In Much Park street, in front of the Coventry Crown Court, is a long pedestrian ramp to the front doors. On the left at the beginning of the ramp is a statue that has a hint of a Judges wig in its design. It is called ‘Basilica’ by Paul De Monchaux.
The stone comes from three different quarries and from four different beds. It is arranged in the sculpture in approximately the same order it lay in the ground. The top four tiers are Purbeck Limestone from the Thornback and Wetsom beds; the second tier is from the Purbeck Spangle bed and the first course is Portland basebed. There is thin drainage course of grey Indian Granite between the sculpture and brick base. Each layer is slightly moved inwards and shaped backwards giving a shaped like a arch or a large ‘Judges Wig’.
The artist, described his work – “the sculpture uses the displacement of two stacks of identical (in plan) triangular slabs to produce a six sided arch with curved, flush and stepped surfaces.” He goes on to say – “the arch faces due north and is designed to register seasonal and daily light changes”. The title of the work, which has been likened to a judge’s wig, is taken from the Greek ‘basilica’ meaning King’s House, a word which also refers to Roman law courts where the judge and jurors sat in the apse of a ‘basilica’ under an archway.
Built at a cost of £20,000 as part of the £6 million for the combined Crown Court Centre, the architects were the John Madin Design Group. It was unveiled by the Coventry Lord Mayor, Councillor W. A. Hardy, on the 18th February 1991.
Paul De Monchaux was born in 1934 in Montreal, Canada. He studied at Art Student’s League, New York from 1952-54, then at Slade School of Fine Art in London from 1955-58.
He Lectured in Sculpture at Goldsmith’s College, London, from 1960-65. He also lectured at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology in Zaria, Nigeria. He taught and was Head of Sculpture and Head of Fine Art at Camberwell School of Art, London, before retiring in 1986 to become a full time sculptor.
He has won many awards including the Civic Trust Award with Townshend Associates for Oozells Square, Birmingham, and the Northern Electric Environment Award.
‘Leaving a trace’ or creating a ‘landmark’ – this is how Paul De Monchaux describes his aspiration for sculptural mnemonics (memory aids). The sculptor asks questions of art: ‘How does the form take you out of the ordinary? How does it create new and separate worlds?’ ‘To wander among graceful, enigmatic sculptures is indeed to be taken ‘out of the ordinary’ and through a mysterious and mesmerising landscape’.
2012 Girton Column, Girton College, Cambridge
2011 Breath, Memorial Gardens, Norwich
2007 Silence, Memorial to WW2 Slave Workers, Jersey
2005 Song, BBC Churchill Memorial, The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds
2001 Brunswick Square, Birmingham
2000 Enclosure, West Park, Southampton
1998 Oozells Square, Birmingham
1993 Symmetry, Wilfred Owen Memorial, Shrewsbury
1990 Time Benches, Gateshead Garden Festival, Tyne and Wear, and Euston Station, London
1984 Mnemonic, Colchester Hospital, Colchester
2010 Cairn, Memorial to Jeff Stinson, Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire
2000 Installation of “Table” & “Column” in Scotland in new configuration
1988 “Column” for Lord & Lady Irvine, London
1986 “Table” for Lord & Lady Irvine, London