The Boules Player (2000)
Article by: Georgina Collins - First Published: 30 March 2011
Location: Bond Court, Leeds
There is a boules court in Leeds city centre. There is also an annual boules tournament in Bond Court, with the prize of the Colliers CRE Cup, and run by Northern Pentanque. It was the increased use and awareness of this court, provided by Leeds City Council and the Scurragh Wainwright Trust, after the annual tournament began in 1998, that led to the commissioning of the sculpture which stands here today.
The chairman of the Scurragh Wainwright Charity, Martin Wainwright, who started the boules tournament, asked the artist Roger Burnett to create a piece for the court, and the finished work was unveiled by the deputy mayor of Leeds' twin city, Lille, in 2000.
This bronze sculpture shows a French boules player being observed by a Yorkshire couple and their small child. They are sited at the edge of the court so that the boules player looks to be about to take his turn.
The depiction of aimless entertainment encourages one to take some time out of one's busy working day, or lunch break, to enjoy oneself and to relax. It is an essential part of the court, as one would be completely unaware that it was a boules court were it not for this sculpture.
Why are they dressed in old-fashioned clothing? Perhaps it is a reference to the history of the game - boules in its present form (no running required, as in the older version) was invented in 1907 in La Ciotat near Marseilles, and the first tournament with the new rules was organised in 1910, in the same town - it was after the new version of the game was invented that the sport grew rapidly in popularity.
Are the figures depicted in a way so as to tell us that the boules player is demonstrating to Yorkshirefolk and those in Yorkshire - i.e. the observers - how to play the game? Perhaps by being depicted as watched by a Yorkshire family, the boules player hopes that people will take up the game? The sculpture seems to implore to us, 'Don't rush back to the office after grabbing a quick sandwich and a takeaway coffee; play a game and enjoy yourself!'
Roger Burnett, who previously worked in engineering design, gave up his work completely in order to pursue a career as an artist. He converted a canal barge into a studio and went to the canals of France to make a living.
The artist is a painter, sculptor, print maker, book illustrator, writer, film maker, postage stamp designer, and broadcaster.
His first one-man show was in 1971. His interest in figurative sculpture developed in the 1980s, and in the 1990s he returned to England to further develop his skills relating to this field.
In 2005 he moved to the Caribbean, where he lived briefly in the mid-1970s, his studio on the island of Dominica.
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