Residents and artists in Leigh On Sea have slammed a local artist who is taking part in the Leigh Art Trail for the first time after it emerged that he intends to transform his front garden into a ‘living exhibit’ of war memorabilia that has washed up on Chalkwell Beach over the past ten years. Charles Fizzington has announced that he has secretly been collecting the items in the middle of night before the authorities have become aware of any washed-up items, but in a worrying development he has also admitted that most of them could be classed as ‘live ammunition and explosives.’ As a result, local supporters of the Leigh Art Trail have been advised to exercise caution when attending his exhibit in Elm Road from 4th – 11th June.
Mr Fizzington said: ‘In 2006, I became increasingly frustrated with the actions of the Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Squad when they repeatedly kept pieces of washed-up ordnance for themselves, and I knew that as a committed artist I had to act and preserve these vibrant reminders of World War II for the benefit of the public good. I have around 65 landmines and similar items in my collection, and I have been keeping them in a specially-adapted garden shed until I could honestly say that the time was right to show them off to the world. After a decade of hard work, this time has come, and I look forward to welcoming the local art community with open arms. People are entitled to their opinions, but they need to remember that the SS Montgomery hasn’t gone up in a giant ball of flames yet, so why should a tiny little piece of its cargo behave any differently?’
He added: ‘Art is a living thing, and there is always a risk involved when viewing anything that could be considered as art. You could fall into the tank of formaldehyde and drown while looking at that cut-up sheep in London, the Mona Lisa could fall on your foot and smash your achilles tendon ….. you could even lose an eye while admiring Michaelangelo’s David if you approach it at a funny angle. Living art is all about getting involved in the moment of the artistic creation, and as far as I am aware most home insurance policies cover eccentric art installations within a 100ft radius anywhere if people care to spend time looking at the fine print.’
Leigh Art Trail Director Bronwyn Oldham is keen to remind everyone in the town that artistic content is the sole responsibility and right of the artist. She said in an email to our Chief Reporter: ‘As organisers of the Leigh Art Trail, what right do we have to tell people what they can and cannot exhibit? We could just tell Mr Fizzington to withdraw his display and call in the bomb disposal experts, but this would start a very dangerous precedent that flies in the face of the concept of freedom of expression. People need to remember that if there is any damage to the local area, it will create an even bigger example of living art, and I am reminded of the words of Jean-Paul Sartre here. He said ‘when one door closes, a gaping hole in the brickwork opens,’ and this is a lesson that we could all live by.’