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NOT HAAF BAD; TOWN GOES TO WAR OVER SCULPTURE Artist defends fisherman statue branded an obscenity by critics EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: Mark Howarth

An artist yesterday defended his sculpture of a fisherman after critics branded it obscene.

Locals in Annan, Dumfriesshire want the PS40,000 statue - called the Haaf Netter - removed from a roundabout in the town centre.

They claim a salmon, which pokes through a net on the front of the artwork, is too suggestive.

And there have also been complaints about teen gangs gathering at the statue to take "rude photos".

But artist Paul Cowan insists there is nothing rude about the bronze and steel piece - erected in 2010.

He said: "For a week between the statue going up and the official unveiling, it was covered by a sheet.

"Perhaps that was suggestive of something underneath - but that was never my intention. The fish had to be welded on somewhere and that was really the only place but it's clearly too high up to be the man's privates."

Paul says he has been subjected to bullying and intimidation since a Facebook page was set up calling for the statue to be removed.

One local posted: "That thing at the Tesco roundabout is an embarrassment to Annan."

While another added: "That disaster at Tesco is an insult."

Now, after a gang gathered outside his gallery in the town, Paul, 49, says he fears for his family's safety.

He said: "Some online posts are quite abusive and bordering on incitement to violence and criminal damage.

"Recently, there was a gang of around eight people in their late teens or early twenties who gathered outside and were shouting abuse.

"The gallery's still open and it's paying its bills so I won't give in to this nonsense."

Paul was commissioned by Tesco to produce the tribute to local fishermen, which stands on a roundabout outside the supermarket in Annan.

It was titled the Haaf Netter - after an ancient fishing method brought to the area by the Vikings and still practised today in the Solway Firth.

Haaf Netters stand up to their waists in tidal washes and spread their nets across the flow to catch whatever is being swept along.

Paul denied reports that he had branded locals who don't like his work "peasants".

He said: "I don't use that kind of language. I'm really straightforward.

People don't really go out of their way to say something nice but they'll go to the ends of the earth to have a dig at something.

"As a result, you usually only hear one side of things.

"They have been whining since the Haaf Netter went up."

Labour MSP Dr Elaine Murray said: "This statue is a piece of art to commemorate and reflect part of Annan's fishing history.

"Of course, art is subjective so if you don't like it, you don't have to look at it.

"But whether the statue is to your taste or not, it is completely unacceptable to subject an artist and his family to this sort of online bullying.

"People need to calm down and remember that there is another human being on the end of their internet posts."

CRITIC: IT'S NET OFFENSIVE Edinburgh art critic Mark Fisher gave the Haaf Netter the thumbs-up.

He said: "It has proved a talking point in Annan - and a bit of lively public discussion about art is no bad thing in itself.

"The positioning of the salmon is unfortunate from certain angles, but the sculpture adds drama and character to a roundabout that would be otherwise undistinguished."

'' The fish had to be welded on..that was the only place

CAPTION(S):

RUDE LOOK Drivers get eyeful

FEAR Paul in his gallery

A BIT FISHY Paul denies he meant the salmon to be suggestive
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 2, 2012
Words:609
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