Floating Head


Video: based on footage from Art in the Garden Installations Glasgow Garden Festival 1988.    Music: Mort Garson – Plantasia (Homewood Records)


Floating Head is an ambitious sculpture that was commissioned for Glasgow Garden Festival, 1988. It was one of five major sculptures commissioned for the festival that were built by shipbuilders at the Govan Docks on the Clyde. The sculpture bonds Glasgow’s industrial history, materials and processes with the process of art-making. The relationship between the artist and the highly skilled shipbuilders wasn’t necessarily collaborative, but the respect between them was clear. George Bonner, one of the shipbuilders working on the project, had fond recollections of the project and artist:

“Richard Groom worked as hard as I worked on his job, I’ve never met any other artist, I worked on the ‘Nose to Nose’, ‘The Bollard’ [two of the other artworks commissioned] but I never met those artists personally. I met Richard Groom, and Richard Groom put as much into his design as I did and everybody else.”

By the end of the 1980s, the docks were a site of industry in permanent decline. The Garden Festival created a curious relationship between the deserted dry docks, once home to a booming industry, and a short-term bloom of entertainment, contemporary garden design, and rides. The sculpture itself creates a discord between weightiness and buoyancy. It’s monumental in scale, a giant floating concrete head, its profile bobbing just above the water, expressionless and stoic like a relic from a lost civilisation. Disembodied, struggling to remain afloat. 

Richard Groom was a highly skilled artist, with an early career exhibiting and selling sculptures through a major London gallery. He worked as an architectural stone carver creating works for many of Scotland’s most loved buildings. Groom taught stone carving at Telford College in Edinburgh before developing and implementing the Traditional Buildings Health Check scheme for Stirling City Heritage Trust. He remained a passionate champion of both traditional sculpture skills and the preservation of the built environment until his death in 2019.

Sculpture Placement Group are partnering with Glasgow Science Centre and the estate of Richard Groom to relocate the iconic sculpture Floating Head in the Canting Basin at Govan Docks. We intend to relocate the sculpture for the summer months of 2020, Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Water, with a view to finding a permanent location on land in the future.

To compliment the conservation project we are providing a series of workshops to allow members of the public to use Floating Head as the inspiration. We’re bringing together the combination of skills that created Floating Head and allowing participants to create their own floating sculpture and to learn about the science of floatation, as well as basic sculptural techniques.

Floating Head at its current storage site in 2020.