IF YOU go down to Da Street today you are sure of a big surprise – four new sculptures which form part of a public art trail.
LOCUS – led by Shetland Arts and Living Lerwick – launched this morning (Saturday), providing a new talking point and a fresh way to navigate the centre of town.
Outside Cee and Jays is Kenny Hunter’s As Above so Below, before David Lemm’s Stakamillabakka stands proudly opposite Specsavers.
Next to the Royal Bank of Scotland is Joe Ingleby’s Storm Cargo, while at the top of the old swimming pool car park art collective Civic Soup have teamed up with Shetland’s youngsters to create the wonderfully titled Never-Ending Gansey.
Local companies Garriocks, LEF and Malakoff were all involved in the construction of the pieces, with all sculptures fabricated locally apart from one bronze piece. The artists are not based locally, but they did integrate Shetland inspiration into the sculptures.
They are certainly eye-catching additions to the centre of Lerwick, and are sure to create debate – the sculpture outside Cee and Jays, the first to be installed, sparked a mixed reaction on social media.
That one represents the practice of gas extraction from below the seabed to the west of Shetland.
Speaking on a tour of the trail on Saturday morning, Shetland Arts’ exhibition manager Jane Matthews said Hunter – a renowned sculptor – was inspired by the view out over the sea to Bressay.
The concrete and bronze piece, part made by Garriock Bros, should age and change colour over time in the elements, while interaction is expected, and to an extent welcomed – some Wine Gums were added the other day, for example.
Along Da Street is Lemm’s Stakamillabakka, which is collection of forms based on ‘sea fastenings’ used in local industry to secure loads to boats.
They are presented in a “possible visual language” which is inspired by local dialect.
“The idea of it is rather than me saying this is this and this looks like this, it’s more about opening up a conversation into what language might look like, what the street might look like viewed through different spaces or different windows,” Lemm said.
He said “it could be a puzzle, it could be a poem”, and in industry-meets-art Lemm took inspiration from ladders on oil rigs, for example, and the Lerwick Engineering & Fabrication (LEF) yard.
Meanwhile outside the RBS is two halves inspired by the shape of a guillemot’s egg, with motifs included inside inspired by Shetland.
Ingleby’s piece – which doubles up as a traffic management object stopping people from parking at the bank door – takes influence from Scatness and Jarlshof as well as local chickweed.
The Never-Ending Gansey is a bit of an outlier, sitting in the flowerbed next to the tired phonebox at Hillhead.
Edinburgh based group Civic Soup collaborated with a number of Shetland schools and the pieces and colours are directly inspired by their suggestions.
Blue, they said, was a popular choice choice in Whalsay – possibly representing the sea and fishing links in the island.
Features in the artwork include musical instruments, a house, sheep and a ballerina, while there is a significance that the piece sits outside the local children’s reporter administration branch.
Civic Soup’s Ruth Hamilton said she believed it offered a different perspective from young Shetlanders.
“I think because we worked with so many kinds across different communities on the island, I hope it will be nice for them to feel some connection and for them to be able to recognise what they did, and tell those stories that they told us to their friends and to their families,” she said.
Money for the project, meanwhile, has come from the Scottish Government’s town centre fund and it pivoted on the themes ‘Where we are/Where we’ve come from/Where we’re going’.
A trail leaflet has also been designed by local artist Chloe Keppie, while two new murals are set to be installed in the centre of town in the coming months in a second phase of the project.
There were some quizzical looks at the sculptures as the trail launch on Saturday as people collected up their prescription at Boots or picked up a parcel from the sorting office.
But with a minimum lifespan of five years, the sculptures are here to stay – and with art by its very nature dividing opinion, it is fair to say the trail has brought new life and new conversations to the street.
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