The sim­ple plea­sure of public sculp­tures

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

IN down­town Oslo, es­pe­cially the har­bour area, it is easy to trip over a piece of public sculp­ture, be­cause it is ev­ery­where, from the Gormley walk­ing up a build­ing, to the Har­ley trans­formed into a red deer stag; and from the al­loy diver to the ran­dom stilt walker seen here, and where else will you get the gut­ter­ing on your condo fin­ished off in the style of Vik­ing long­boat?

Public sculp­ture is where it’s at for me right now, and I think that there is a ‘need’ for en­rich­ment of the spirit, just for the sake of it; ‘Hey look at me, I’m here for your plea­sure’, and although in these trou­bled times it should per­haps come with the caveat, ‘Let’s face it, there is some bad stuff go­ing down around the world, but for now please en­joy the sim­ple de­light I af­ford!’

Where can we view such a thing within the reach of this news­pa­per? That’s down to you, and please let me know via where your favourite pieces of public art are sited. In Glos­sop, I can think of none; in Mottram there is a homely bronze of L. S. Lowry, in Manch­ester The B of the Bang dis­in­te­grated and there are a few strate­gi­cally placed balls, Alan Tur­ing and Matt Busby.

Fur­ther afield, I would prob­a­bly rec­om­mend a day trip to the York­shire Sculp­ture Park, and even though I am fairly sure you will dis­like and ques­tion some of the pieces, and be in­dif­fer­ent to oth­ers, there will be some­thing to catch your eye and make you feel good. The works of Henry Moore and Bar­bara Hep­worth sit in 500 acres of fields, hills, wood­land, lakes and for­mal gar­dens. This land­scape is not en­tirely nat­u­ral. In fact it has been al­tered a lot in the last few hun­dred years, mainly for the fam­i­lies that have lived on the es­tate since the land was listed as ‘waste’ in the Domes­day Book.

How­ever, it is far from ‘waste’ now, and the walks through the park, to the var­i­ous gal­leries, in­stal­la­tions and ex­hibits, are a plea­sure in their own right. On my last trip to the park I spot­ted red kite, buz­zard, kestrel, spar­rowhawk and even a roost­ing tawny owl high up in an old oak tree. The park has grown over the last 35 years from hum­ble begin­nings with £1,000 to fund a small ex­hi­bi­tion of 31 sculp­tures, to now con­tribut­ing £5 mil­lion to the lo­cal econ­omy and re­spon­si­ble for five in­door gal­leries. Within a na­tional and Euro­pean con­text YSP is unique, of­fer­ing artists and visi­tors ex­pe­ri­ences and op­por­tu­ni­ties un­like any­where else. ‘Great art for ev­ery­one’ has been YSP’s goal since open­ing to the public in 1977, en­abling ac­cess, un­der­stand­ing and en­joy­ment of art and land­scape for ev­ery­one, while dis­man­tling many of the bar­ri­ers that of­ten ex­ist be­tween the public and con­tem­po­rary art.

This vi­sion re­mains as strong as ever. The rev­e­la­tory na­ture of the park’s set­ting opens up many pos­si­bil­i­ties and en­cour­ages ex­plo­ration of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween art and na­ture, stim­u­lat­ing en­gage­ment and ad­ven­ture in the sur­round­ings. Check out for fur­ther de­tails, di­rec­tions and spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tions.

It’s a spe­cial place Oslo, a town at the end of a fjord, how­ever, as much as I felt at home with the public sculp­tures, the wilds were call­ing me, and be­lieve me, I did not have to travel far.

Færder Na­tional Park is one of the rich­est wildlife habi­tats in Nor­way, packed with ev­i­dence of the coun­try’s fore­bears, in­clud­ing amaz­ing pet­ro­glyphs – rock carv­ing – from long be­fore the Vik­ings, and mag­nif­i­cent scenery, shaped over mil­lions of years by vol­canic ac­tiv­ity, ice ages and land up­lift, but, most in­ter­est­ingly, 325 sq km of the 340 sq km, is un­der wa­ter. So, on the way to my boat, I heard the un­mis­tak­able song of the nightin­gale.

Sean Wood

●● The Stilt Walker statue in Oslo

The Laugh­ing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

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