The simple pleasure of public sculptures
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 email@example.com 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 www.ysp.co.uk 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.
●● The Stilt Walker statue in Oslo
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop