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Paradise in a big city

July 25, 2016

Paradise1Finding something of interest that you were not looking for … it happened to me the other day when I came across a reference in an online database, mentioning a sculpture in London called “… and Wilderness is Paradise Enough”. This immediately raised my curiosity and when visiting London this summer I decided to go and see it myself and take pictures, rather than copying images from the web. The work is located at St. George’s Hospital, Blackshaw Road, Tooting, in a somewhat isolated, inconspicuous spot in the middle of a busy hospital environment and a nearby car park.

It was a nice, bright and sunny day and when walking around in the spot, one could almost immediately sense something of an exotic atmosphere, and the feeling of being somewhere else than in a big, busy, crowded city. Hospital staff were sitting in the grass and having their lunch, reading a book or just relaxed, probably unaware of the story of ‘Wilderness and Paradise’.

The reference that I had found was to a book  Public sculpture of South London, by Terry Cavanagh (Liverpool, 2007, p. 321-322). In this book the sculpture is described as using “the detritus of a quarry, built (as in a dry stone wall) into a group of shapes known colloquially as the ‘pineapples’. The scale of the piece mediates between the daunting size of the hospital and human scale, and is set amidst grass and young trees. It also has a quality of being unmistakeably made by human hand, something utterly lacking in the functional and institutional architecture. There is probably an almost unconscious response to both these things (human scale and making) which may relieve the stress of the hospital environment. So much in a modern health building is remote and alien to ordinary life – the never-ending corridors, the clinical efficiency, the ubiquitous magnolia paint, the notices which command people to do or not to do this or that – and this increases the patient’s sense of isolation in a world far removed from everything they know and value.” (1)

Paradise2In the hospital ground there was obviously no direction or sign as where to find it, nor does the little plaque at the entrance to the site give any information as to title and artist. It was only one of the ladies at the hospital’s information desk who was able to show me where to look for it.




The artist is Peter Randall-Page (1954), a well known English sculptor, whose work can be found in Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol and Newbury and in the permanent collections of the Tate Gallery and the British Museum. The work was commissioned by the St George’s Improvement Fund Improvement Committee in early 1985, and unveiled 30 May 1986. The plaque however says that it was relocated from the Chelsea Flower Show 2004. In Cavanagh’s book Public sculpture … more details can be found about its history, while on the internet lots of images of Randall-Page’s work can be found, including the work in question, as well as further information about the artist.

(1) Quoted by Cavanagh from M. Miles. Landscaping design (1990, p. 41).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2016 3:33 pm

    Thanks, Jos, for that interesting story about the wider influence of the Rubaiyat. What a nice resource to have in a modern hospital! We are bemused though by the fact that the title “…and Wilderness is Paradise Enough” (ewhich makes the link to the Rubaiyat) is not anywhere on the place itself. Was this title something given by the sculptor/creator or is it Cavanagh’s own name? Does he say anything more about it?

  2. J Coumans permalink
    July 25, 2016 3:47 pm

    Unfortunately no, there is no further specific info about this title in Cavanagh’s description. The author states that the title of the work is adapted from The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, and then quotes the stanza from which the line comes. However he gives a few more sources in the Notes, such as the hospital’s archives, press cuttings, arts magazines and a monograph on Randall-Page by J. Hamilton and M. Warner (1992). I have not consulted these so I am not sure whether these would answer your question.

  3. July 25, 2016 3:55 pm

    Thanks for the response, Jos. Clearly an investigation to be followed up sometime – when opportunity permits!

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