Walking over the canal towards King’s Place this week we noticed an eye-catching scaly sculpture perched on the towpath, as if guarding the boats on the water.
The creation of artist Steven Gregory, Fish on a Bicycle (1998) is an artwork that can’t fail to raise a smile. Heck, even the creature itself has a goofy expression that is, somehow, irrepressibly human. It brightened up a grey midweek morning, anyway.
Gregory was born in Johannesburg in 1952, later moving to London to study at St Martin’s College of Art (1970-72). He even did time as an apprentice stonemason, working on Westminster Abbey and Hampton Court.
But where, in fact, does the phrase ‘fish on a bicycle’ come from? It appears to date back to 1955, when Charles S. Harris wrote in the student newspaper Swarthmore Phoenix that ‘a man without faith is like a fish without a bicycle.’ A more famous feminist reboot of the phrase – ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’ – was later coined in 1970 by the Australian filmmaker, social activist, and writer Irina Dunn.
Gregory’s work, with its juxtaposing elements, perhaps captures these various allusions, but makes no further comment – other than that mischievous glint in his eye.
Fish On a Bicycle is part of the Pangolin Gallery Sculpture Trail at King’s Place, and is in situ until the end of 2023. Follow @pangolin.london