RAF Boy Entrants Monolith at National Memorial Arboretum, Ancaster limestone. Sycamore Key, Hoptonwood on a slate base. Detail from Fruits of the Forest, Ancaster limestone.


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About Stone Carving

About Viv

About Viv

Born in 1943 in Epsom, Surrey where he lived until 1962 attending Glyn Grammar School. Having been punished for being poor at painting at primary school, it took nearly 40 years for Viv to engage again with the practical side of art. During the intervening period he read for a law degree at Sheffield University and became interested in the Visual Arts. As President of the Students Union (1965-1966) he helped organize an Arts Festival for the University and the City. The Festival comprised a full artistic programme including an exhibition of about 25 works from the then unknown Bridget Riley and large-scale painted steel sculptures by Neville Boden. As Union President, he met the sculptor Henry Moore in 1966 when the University conferred an Honorary Degree on him.

Viv working on a project (Photo by Olivia Swinscote)  

His first venture into stone carving was at the Midlands Arts Centre – MAC (www.macarts.co.uk) – with tutor John Vaughan in the early 1980’s. He has continued to be guided by John on and off since that date. Subsequently he joined the Annual Summer School run by the sculptor, John Tonks, at Winterbourne, the listed gardens owned by Birmingham University. But work - firstly as Chief Executive and Town Clerk of Walsall MBC from 1982-1988 and then as Chief Executive at Dudley MBC from 1988-1999 - got in the way of any serious sculptural activity.

However, whilst in those roles he was able to pursue various cultural projects including presenting the first report to Walsall Council proposing the creation of a New Art Gallery for the Garman-Ryan Collection in Walsall and commissioned a Feasibility Study for a Sculpture Park in the Arboretum.

In Dudley Viv played a part in securing the refurbishment of Himley Hall as a Gallery and Summer Arts facility, the extension of the Broadfield House Glass Museum and the commissioning of six of the UK’s leading glass artists to make one piece of work each to add to the permanent Collection to mark the Millennium.

Viv working on Fruits of the Forest at Dudley College.

Viv working on Fruits of the Forest at Dudley College.

Without the constraint of work, in early 1999 he enrolled on a foundation course in art and sculpture at Dudley College (www.dudleycol.ac.uk) and on completing various courses now hires studio facilities for stone-carving from the College.

He is a member of the Shapeshifters Sculpture Company (www.shapeshifters.org.uk) a leading group of practising sculptors in the Midlands, who work at Dudley College and at Winterbourne.  

In April 2012 Viv was elected a full Member of the RBSA and has served as its Hon Secretary for 11 years. He was elected RBSA President in June 2022.

He has combined his sculpture with a portfolio of charitable and non-executive roles including Chairman of the National Forest Company (1999-2005), Chairman of the Birmingham International Airport Consultative Committee (2001-2012), mac Board Member (1999-2013), Chair of Dudley College Corporation (2004-2011). Viv was an active member of Birmingham Trees for Life, part of the Birmingham Civic Society, which planted 100,000 trees in the city over a 16 year period until its closure in June 2022. He is also an Ambassador for Stourbridge Glass Museum which opened to the public in April 2022.

He and his wife, Hazel, were responsible as research assistants for much of the text and the photographs on the Walsall Borough sections of the PMSA’s  publication on Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country (2005). Viv was awarded the OBE in recognition of his services to the Community of the West Midlands in 2005. He is one of the Deputies to the County’s Lord Lieutenant, an appointment conferred in 2008.

He has led the coordination of the Queens Green Canopy for the West Midlands, a tree planting project to celebrate The Queen's Platinum Jubilee.

Copyright © 2009 Viv Astling. All rights reserved.