Sean Henry: a chance en­counter with a Windy Ocean­craft 760 led this in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised sculp­tor to start dream­ing…

Motorboat & Yachting - - Column -

My pas­sion for boats started in 1969 when I was just four years old. My par­ents took me and my three broth­ers on hol­i­day to France but my fa­ther got so frus­trated with the over­crowded beaches that he bought a sec­ond­hand 13ft Dory to es­cape the crowds. We towed it back home with us and from that mo­ment on we never looked back. Mum made us all wet­suits from a DIY pat­tern, Dad fash­ioned a pair of wooden skis from a kit, and we grew up mess­ing about on the wa­ter around Lang­stone Har­bour. The Dory was up­graded to some­thing called a Blagg 380, fol­lowed by a Delta, be­fore he set­tled on a Bos­ton Whaler. I loved that boat and promised my­self that if I ever got a boat it would be a Whaler too.

My ca­reer as a sculp­tor be­gan in 1988 and took a step for­ward in 1998 when I won the Villiers David Prize, which came with an £8,000 travel grant and an ex­hi­bi­tion of my work. I started to gain an in­ter­na­tional fol­low­ing af­ter shows in New York in the early 2000s, but I’m prob­a­bly best known for my larger than life pub­lic works in places like New­big­gin and the York­shire Moors.

Even so, it wasn’t un­til I turned 50 that I started to think about buy­ing a boat. I’d been en­joy­ing a day out with a friend when I spot­ted a pretty sports­boat go­ing into Yar­mouth har­bour. It turned out to be a Windy Ocean­craft and when I got home I pinned a photo of one in my stu­dio.

I dis­cov­ered that Windy had made just 76 of them and the only one cur­rently for sale was in Oslo. A 2004 in­board-en­gined 761, it was still out of my price range, but I emailed the owner to see if he would con­sider an of­fer. He spot­ted my name and asked if I was the sculp­tor Sean Henry. Amaz­ingly he knew my work from my Walk­ing Woman sculp­ture in Eke­berg­parken in Olso. Not only did he ac­cept my of­fer, but he later went on to buy a sculp­ture for his own house.

I think there is a con­nec­tion be­tween sculp­ture and boat­ing. Art is very sin­gle-minded and boat­ing gives me an es­cape that I can en­joy with fam­ily and friends. There is also a phys­i­cal link as I use JOTUN ma­rine paint to make my work weather­proof!

As an artist I con­stantly aspire to cap­ture some essence of the hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence. I think we all have a de­sire to leave our mark in some way. My par­ents’ in­flu­ence ex­tends be­yond in­tro­duc­ing me to boat­ing but I feel very grate­ful they did; it gives me great plea­sure and I’m hop­ing I can pass this pas­sion on to my kids.

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