David Bowie – ‘Earthly Messenger’

The Brief

Commissioned to celebrate David Bowie’s links with the town of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, the driving force behind a permanent tribute sculpture was music entrepreneur David Stopps. Bowie first appeared at Friars Music Club, Aylesbury in September 1971, performing the world debut of Hunky Dory. In January 1972 he unveiled this alter-ego Ziggy Stardust for the very first time at Friars. As the manager of Friars during that period, David Stopps felt passionately that Bowie’s connection with Aylesbury was an iconic moment in music, as well as in the town’s history and as such, deserved a statue to celebrate Bowie’s life and performances there.

The Concept

As a sculptor Andrew aims to bring alive the stories and achievements of the subjects he portrays, rather than just create static visual representations of them. With an iconic personality like David Bowie, and the many sides to both his public and private persona, the challenge was to bring all these facets together in one coherent work of art. Working to a brief that determined a pre-selected location and clear idea of budget, Andrew developed a concept design that utilised the large wall space of the chosen location and featured a bas-relief storybook of Bowie’s life alongside two dynamic three-dimensional life-sized figures. These figures would represent the two contrasting sides to his personality – the mature, besuited suave gentleman resting casually against the wall and his manic, famous alter-ego Ziggy Stardust leaping from it. The combination of bas-relief and traditional sculptural figures creates a dramatic and challenging contrast.

The Creation

Initially, the design was presented using a three-dimensional photo montage of the proposed life-size bronze sculpture. This original design, after in-depth discussions and collaboration with David Stopps, was developed into a maquette for presentation to the council and fund-raisers.

Because the sculpture’s proposed location was against the historic wall of the old Crown Court in Aylesbury’s Market Square, it gave Andrew the opportunity to create the unusual bas-relief element of the sculpture incorporating a selection of Bowie’s famous alter-egos into the design. The background also features a gold disc and images of some of his most iconic album covers. The story, images and iconography featured within the final sculpture design were chosen through research and collaboration with David Stopps, whose first-hand connection to Bowie and his consummate knowledge of Bowie’s music ensured that nothing important was missed.

Andrew Sinclair’s sculptures are unique in their highly skilled attention to detail. This aspect of his work makes them resonate with life, adding a quality of realism rarely seen in contemporary sculpture today. Translating the maquette into the final life-sized bronze sculpture entailed fine mathematical skills as well as Andrew’s remarkable sculpture method and technique. His innovative approach to both sculpture and moulding and casting enabled the smooth, professional production of this complex design. This sculpture delivers on many levels: weaving the story of Bowie’s life and multiple personas within the bas-relief, in chronological fashion from 1971 through to his death in 2016; to the engaging and truly life-like figures adorned with contemporary realist highlights of the folds of cloth, buttons and watch-chain leaving no detail left out; whilst ensuring Bowie’s distinctive facial features are true to life in both the outlandish Ziggy Stardust and as the happier, debonair, mature family-man he became in later life.

The Sculpture

The entire sculpture design, comprising of the two life-sized bronze figures of Bowie and Ziggy, the bas-relief and the separate gold disc – were all brought together like a giant jigsaw for the final installation in its new home in March 2018. After manoeuvring the completed bronze sculpture into place, ‘The Earthly Messenger’ was unveiled to great acclaim in front of an audience of over 3,000, including VIPs, the press, and world-wide TV coverage outside the original entrance to Friars, in Market Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. The sculpture has since become a destination in its own right, attracting Bowie fans and visitors from around the world. It even has its own web-cam so they can connect live via the internet!