The Wave

Wave is made up of about 7,300 individual bright red ceramic poppy heads suspended on towering stalks. The sculpture by artist Paul Cummings and designer Tom Piper was conceived to mark the centenary of the outbreak of WW1 and was originally shown at the Tower of London in 2014. The sculpture is currently on a UK tour and was installed at the CWGC Plymouth Naval Memorial on Plymouth Hoe in 2017.

Artist: Paul Cummins MBE and Tom Piper MBE (designer)
Date: August – November 2017
Location: View on our Public Art Map [desktop and tablet; requires Google sign-in]
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Commissioner: 14-18 NOW
Partners: Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Historic Royal Palaces
Supporters: National Lottery Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Project Description

Wave is one of two sculptures initially conceived in the installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London in the autumn of 2014. Over the course of their time at the Tower, the sculptures were gradually surrounded by a vast field of ceramic poppies, each one planted by a volunteer.

Ceramic artist Paul Cummings collaborated with theatre designer Tom Piper to create the impressive structures of Wave and Weeping Window. Cummins was inspired to use the iconic Poppy symbol to honour the deaths in the British Forces during WW1 with each poppy representing a life lost; 888,246 in total.

The hugely successful and moving piece was seen by over five million people at the Tower and following an overwhelming public response a decision was made to preserve the work for the nation. With support from Backstage Trust and Clore Duffield Foundation the sculptures are now being exhibited at venues across the country by 14-18 NOW as part of the Poppies tour.

In Plymouth Wave was displayed at the Plymouth Naval Memorial on the Hoe from 23 August to 19 November 2017 where it was seen by c500,000 visitors. A programme of events ran alongside the sculpture including a talk by Tom Piper and a performance of the Last Post by The Royal Marines Band Plymouth each Friday.

Both Wave and Weeping Window will continue to tour to locations across the UK, arriving at the Imperial War Museum North and Imperial War Museum London in autumn 2018. The sculptures will then be gifted to the Museums.

The commission is part of a wider programme called 14-18 NOW – a five-year programme of extraordinary arts experiences connecting people with the First World War. Working with arts and heritage partners all across the UK, 14-18 NOW commission new artworks from leading contemporary artists, musicians, designers and performers, inspired by the period 1914-18.

In Plymouth Wave was supported by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Plymouth City Council.

About the Artist

Paul Cummins MBE is an internationally renowned ceramicist whose reputation has grown exponentially in recent years with a number of high profile commissions. These have included installations at Chatsworth House, Blenheim Palace and the hugely successful ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ at the Tower of London in 2014. He is inspired by the beauty and exuberance of organic forms with particular focus on flowers, which he contrasts with the raw presence of steel and wire.

Tom Piper MBE is an award winning theatre designer who has worked extensively on set designs at the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as instrumental involvement with the redevelopment designs of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. His theatre credits more than 30 productions at RSC which include the award winning history series. He describes his collaboration with Paul Cummins as an ‘extraordinary creative journey’.