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Thursday 15 October 2015

Review: The Line


On the Time Out description this sculpture trail runs from the O2 to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.  We did it the other way round but it was a little misleading.  There isn’t actually a sculpture in the Olympic Park as the description suggests.

The walk though the park is lovely, and something we’d never done before, but the first sculpture can’t be seen for a long while into the walk if you start here. It may be possible that there might be more added in the future.

The first artwork, called Network by Thomas J Price, is a sculpture of a young man standing casually looking at his phone.  A pretty normal thing to see in London but this guy is an impressive 9ft tall and cast in bronze.

The next part of The Line we apparently missed and I didn’t realize it until now and I will tell you why; The only place we could find that lists the artworks and has any form of map is the Line website. http://the-line.org/

This website is very difficult to use on your phone – a mobile friendly platform would be the first thing you would expect from an interactive accompaniment to a trail. The website didn’t work at all on my phone and was temperamental on my friend’s phone.  If it hadn’t worked then we wouldn’t have been able to follow the line at all as there are very few signs along the course of the walk and no maps or directions along the way. So we missed the video installation that is around this area. 

However the park, in which Network is located, is a hidden gem, there are things to climb and jump on, trails, a tightrope and a rather ingenious trampoline.  A group had left the remnants of a game of beer pong (apparently played with cranberry juice) on their ping pong tables.

Next was a scenic route though Tesco’s and to one of the more dramatic sculptures on the line.  DNA DL90 by Abigail Fallis incorporates shopping trolleys into the shape of a double helix.  The fact that this artwork is in such close proximity to the Tesco’s and the canal is perfect as it conjures up images of someone trawling these straight from the water and constructing them where they stand.  A child was trying to climb up it when we got there (a feat he felt proud of considering he was wearing skinny jeans, or so he kept telling his parents.) This sculpture was commissioned by a supermarket chain but it doesn’t say which one and apart from one handle apparently from Kwiksave all the other handles had the words Muscular Dystrophy on them, the understanding of which was aided by the discovery and interpreting of DNA.

The next piece was easily recognizable as the work of Damien Hirst.  Entitled Sensation, this piece is another one of Hirst’s blown up anatomical models, this time, depicting skin.  Compared to the other sculptures so far on the walk this one is much more playful and colourful, it stands out of its rather bland and empty surroundings. 

The next stage of the walk is though Cody Dock, a creative community that had a feel of a cult to it (according to my friend), walking though you did feel like an outsider but they were at least attempting to be welcoming with their little blackboard explaining what things were for and the names of the chickens.  I would think the floating dome would be an amazing place to see a live band.  After this scenic walk the next section is just a sad walk through an industrial estate that takes you to your next location, which is Star Lane.

My sheltered boyfriend (who didn’t join us on this trip) was suitably impressed with the name of this station, the DLR are known for some awesome sounding names. For some reason there were no trains straight to Royal Victoria, we had to go to Canning Town (otherwise known as the most confusing multilayered DLR station in the world) and then on from there.

I am pretty sure that this was the location of an artwork that has since been removed, I can only assume because a child climbed on it and then fell off, this was disappointing as there is no mention of this on the website and you could in theory wander (considering the awful map) round and round looking for it. From the website I can see this missing piece is meant to be Consolidator by Sterling Ruby which looks a bit like a geometric cannon.

However after giving up with this one we found the huge and impressive bronze sculpture by the river called Vulcan by Eduardo Paolozzi. This is a brilliant cubist representation of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking.  He is part machine and part man with a strange pair of mismatched feet.

Not mentioned at this point on The Line Website is the Martin Creed ‘sculpture’ which is probably the worst of all the pieces of modern art.  Work 700 is an iron girder of some kind.  Unfortunately the sign that accompanies this artwork was missing so I have no way of knowing what this is meant to mean, needless to say I am not a fan.  It’s not that I am contemptuous of Creed’s work in general, I studied some of his pieces for my dissertation, I admire his continuous questioning of what art can be but this piece feels out of place and disappointing.

Another point which I’d like to make about every one of the photographs on the website and press regarding The Line; not one of the photographs are taken in their current location. This makes it a little confusing when trying to find them and is frankly a little baffling.  Someone must have put them there; you would have thought they would have photographed them at the time?!

Rant over, for the next part of the journey was the most fun.  We took the Emirates Air Line to the other side of the river to Greenwich.  The Air Line for those who don’t know is a cable car that links one side of the river with the other.  You get amazing views of the Thames and The O2 (which I still refer to as the Millennium Dome.) It was great value at only £3.30 on my Oyster card.  There’s also a nifty little video about all that you can see from way up there.

While crossing on the cable car you’ll be able to see the next artwork, again missing from the website and without an accompanying sign this is Antony Gormley’s Quantum Cloud.  A wire sculpture which is, according to Wikipedia, a collection of tetrahedral units. If you look at it from the right angle you can see the ubiquitous figure of Gormley in the middle.

We are now at the last section of The Line, this takes us on a walk around the Thames and the O2.  The next artwork is Liberty Grip by Gary Hume.  This is a sculpture made of patinated and painted bronze, based on the arm of a mannequin, the type that model clothes in shops but it has been abstracted.  This is one of my favourite pieces of the walk, the most interesting thing about this is the use of the pink, an artificially bright colour in contrast to the dull bronze. Hume has taken something which is quite common and alludes to the human form but represented it as a synthetic and man-made creation on the scale of a celebratory piece of art.

At first sight the next piece seems to be an old boat/ship left on the side of the river.  At closer inspection A Slice of Reality by Richard Wilson is only a part of a ship expertly sliced all the way through on both sides it makes you wonder how such a large undertaking was completed with such precision. 

The next sculpture is the Here by Thomson & Craighead, a sign post which is meant to show the distance all the way around the world and back to the same point. There does appear to be something at this point but I did not see this signpost. Maybe we missed it and walked straight past it as it similar to a normal road sign or maybe it was removed?

There are mysteries in this art trail that maybe were not planned for – it doesn’t seem like anyone has walked the whole thing before and certainly not much information is available.

And this takes us to the end of The Line. A seemingly ill thought out and badly planned, hard to follow tour of modern art. This actually seems quite fitting as modern art can sometimes be as infuriating as this walk and arty types are not known for their logistical qualities. It seems that the main reason that this is not a cohesive walk along a continuous line along the canals or thorough parks is that it follows the Meridian Line, plus London is not known for having enough walkways that are not bisected by building sites, private land or large roads.

Having said that it was a decent way to spend a few hours, a good excuse for some exercise on a mild autumnal day and the chance to see some art and parts of London I don’t usually explore.  And as they add more sculptures along the way I shall probably pop along and have a look.

For more information see:

I found this after the walk – it appears we missed another artwork from this map however this is not mentioned on the official website (James Balmforth - Inhibition Point: Possibly may have been removed?)

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