Art plays a key role in And by Fire.
The killers in each of the novel’s two plotlines may be separated by centuries, but they are united in their passion for creating art and in their belief that art justifies not only self-sacrifice but the sacrifice of others—a line that most creatives, including this novelist, strongly feel should never be crossed. A number of crime scenes in the book are located adjacent to works of art, beginning with Christopher Wren’s Monument to The Great Fire of London.
Additionally, DI Nigella Parker is an art lover who frequents gallery shows and is currently involved, sexually, with a young sculpture she met as such as show. Which brings us to Wooden Boat with Seven People.
In chapter sixteen of And by Fire, Nigella and her boy-toy, James, go to visit a sculpture in Brushfield Street in Spitalfields, London. The striking large-scale sculpture is real not fictional, and was created by the artist Kalliopi Lemos in 2011. A public installation, it was placed in Spitalfields to reflect that area’s “rich history of providing shelter for successive waves of migrants across centuries.” (quote from plaque at the installation).
The piece’s seven seated figures are each sculpted from wire. They sit dejectedly—several with heads hanging and shoulders slumped. When I look at the sculpture, I wonder does this reflect the exhaustion of a perilous maritime journey across the Aegean Sea seeking freedom and a better life? Or does it signify something more: the fear, not unwarranted in this era, that after all the miles they have travelled they will be turned back instead of given asylum? The boat that the wire figures sit inside is authentic. “Not,” as the character James says, “that all good art isn’t authentic,” but in this case the wooden boat actually carried refugees travelling from Turkey to the shores of the Greek Islands.
This stunning and provocative sculpture is in keeping with Lemos’s intentionally focus on “challenging the viewer, with the focus on human rights, the issue of increasing global undocumented migration and female oppression( Kalliopi Lemos’s website).
That’s all for today but keep an eye out for future installments in my “London Hot Spot” series. Or visit these previous posts: “Standing in the Spot Where it Happened—Site of the Opening Scene in And by Fire; Point of Ignition: Where the Great Fire of London REALLY Started”; “A Flat with a View: Ni’s place in Bankside”; “Sir Christopher Wren’s Stamp on a NEW London”; “Helping London Rise Again . . . Allegorically”; and “London ‘Hot Spots’—Sir Christopher Wren’s Monument to the Great Fire of London.”