Pop up sculpture surprises dog walkers on Swanage Beach

The Sheps Hollow end of Swanage Beach in Dorset is constantly evolving due to the climate but the latest change was unexpected – a sculpture of a man running through a door thrusting a baton!

The unusual sight was created by Wareham-based sculptor Robert Marshall who usually exhibits his work in galleries or sculpture parks but wanted to try something different.

Custodians art sculpture at Sheps Hollow
Robert J Marshall

The artwork was manoeuvred into position by a team of friends

“Pass the baton on from one generation to the next”

The pop up event on Wednesday 10th January 2024 was unannounced, so it was only to be discovered by chance, by those who ventured along to Sheps Hollow to the north of Swanage Bay.

Robert Marshall, who knows the area well as he’s worked at the nearby Grand Hotel for 35 years, said:

“I chose Sheps Hollow, near a recent landslip as the location for the sculpture to show just how much our environment is changing. It’s an environmental work with an optimistic message as we begin a new year.

“Custodian is the name of the artwork and also the name given to the figure that is running through the door. He is leaving one world behind and entering another.

“In this new world ‘man’ begins to reconnect with the natural world – symbolised by his head and hand holding a baton that is covered in a ‘flutter’ of butterflies.

“The message is simple; we need to encourage each generation to leave the world in a better place, as we pass the baton on from one generation to the next.”

Custodians art sculpture at Sheps Hollow
Robert J Marshall

Leaving one world behind and entering another

Custodians art sculpture at Sheps Hollow
Robert J Marshall

Robert Marshall with his pop up artwork at Sheps Hollow

“Great to connect to a different audience”

Robert has exhibited his work over many years but decided in 2016 to get a formal training, studying fine art at the Arts University Bournemouth and then completing an MA at the Royal College of Art in London.

For his latest venture he chose what he calls the post-Christmas consumerism period, and then had to wait for fine weather to be forecast.

Robert added:

“Not only was I checking the weather but I had to make sure that I had friends available to transport the sculpture down onto the beach. It weighs 400 kilos, so it took four people to carry it!

“In the end, the day was perfect with just the right light. Once it was in position, I didn’t really have five minutes to myself as lots of people were coming up to me to chat and find out more about what was going on. It was great to connect to a different audience.”

Custodians art sculpture at Sheps Hollow
Robert J Marshall

Dog walkers were surprised and delighted to spot the sculpture

Custodians art sculpture in the studio
Robert J Marshall

In Robert’s studio the artwork is created using a reclaimed door

Lit up at dusk

The sculpture stayed until it was dark, when it was lit up to create a different effect but then removed. So is this something Robert may do again?

He said:

“I don’t know yet. It was good to put it out there in the perfect setting on the beach. It was a bit of an adventure – we’ll have to see!”

Custodians art sculpture at Sheps Hollow at night
Robert J Marshall

As dusk fell the artwork took on a different glow

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