Wednesday 23 February 2011, 11:05
When the BBC asked me to present the BBC Four series Romancing The Stone: The Golden Ages Of British Sculpture, I jumped at the chance - because I have long believed that sculpture in this country suffers unfairly from neglect.
Our towns and cities are full of civic statuary that we routinely ignore - in part, admittedly, because so much of it is stiff and lifeless, or bound up with propaganda, extolling the virtues of a wealthy and powerful individual or the state.
So if there is an underlying subtext to Romancing The Stone, it is this: to restore British sculpture to its rightful place, playing a central role in the evolving drama of the nation's art.
I felt thrilled to be working with such a talented team - I don't know about you, but I think that some of the shots of the works themselves, captured by the director Mark Halliley and the cameraman Ian Salvage, are nothing short of magnificent.
For instance, the footage, from the second episode, of Flaxman's marble The Fury of Athamas, at Ickworth House in Suffolk, transforms the sculpture from an embarrassingly overblown, youthful aberration, as it is occasionally characterised in the textbooks, to a defiant tour de force, challenging an august tradition of sculpture stretching all the way back to the Laocoon of ancient Rome.
Flaxman's early masterpiece features in the trail for the series that can be seen across the BBC at the moment - accompanied by some simply beautiful, haunting music by Erik Satie.
We filmed the series last summer. We were blessed with the weather - and a relaxed and sunny feeling graced the close-knit group working day-to-day on the three films, even in moments of potential crisis.
To begin with, Kim got me to hack at a slab of granite, in order to feel the difference.
There was a horrific, heart-in-my-mouth moment, which you can see in the first film, when I gave the chisel an almighty cack-handed thump with a mallet, forcing it to slip and graze Kim's fingers.
I was terrified I'd chopped them off.
But - thank God - Kim just gave me a big grin, assuring me that he's always accidentally savaging his fingers with heavy-duty tools, and carried on.
Kim came along to the launch of the series at the Royal Academy; when I shook his hand, I couldn't help checking that it was intact (thankfully, it is).
I like to think that Kim's cheery, happy-go-lucky attitude reflected the mood of all of us working on the series. I hope you are enjoying the programmes as much as we all enjoyed making them.
Alastair Sooke is presenter of Romancing The Stone: The Golden Ages Of British Sculpture.
The series is also available in iPlayer until Wednesday, 2 March.
Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.
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Tuesday 22 February 2011, 14:05
Friday 25 February 2011, 10:20