JG Ballard's "Home-Made" Lawn Sculptures
David Pringle writes: Remember those "Ballard-original lawn sculptures" which were spotted in JGB's back yard by one of his interviewers, Douglas Reed, circa 1970? We were speculating what exactly they were and whether they dated from his Pop Artist-wannabe phase of the late 1950s.
Well, in looking through old interviews, I've found another reference which I'd forgotten about till now. It doesn't tell us much more but it certainly confirms that there was Something There as late as 1979. Charles Platt included an interview with JGB in his book, DreamMakers (1980). It describes a visit he made to Shepperton in September 1979, and it includes en passant this description...
"Flanked by unsuspecting suburban neighbours, Ballard's house blends in unobtrusively. Its only distinguishing feature (not visible from the street) is a pair of small home-made abstract cement sculptures, standing out in the back garden like enigmatic delegates from a nation peopled by emblems of surrealistic art. They seem to be waiting, watching him as he works in the living room, by the window, seated on an old wooden chair at a 1950s-vintage dining table."
I would take it that the adjective "home-made" indicates that Platt thinks JGB created those sculptures himself.
Gwynn Richards replies: If he did create them in the late 1950s, that would date them fairly close, presumably, to the publication of "Venus Smiles" (1957), the story about the out-of-control sculpture in the narrator's back garden. Coincidence?
David Pringle responds: There are no coincidences with Ballard -- only "deep assignments". The story you refer to was actually called "Mobile" in 1957, and was retitled "Venus Smiles" when he re-wrote (and re-sold) it in 1967. But in both versions, yes, it's about a crazy sculpture -- so you may have hit on a synchronicity there.
Close-up of one of the "home-made" sculptures. Note JGB smoked cigars in those days... the white blob is unidentified, but could be a child's toy, or Ralph Nader's pudenda.