England’s super sized art

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The trend for creating highly visible works of art looks set to continue with today’s public opening of Northumberlandia, ‘Goddess of the North’ – the latest of a number of big and bold public works dotted across the English landscape. With some of the country’s high-impact artworks dating back hundreds of years, it appears that England has quite a history in thinking big. In celebration of all things great and not so small, VisitEngland rounds up some of the nation’s best super-sized art.

Northumberlandia, Northumberland
First public openings: Saturday 8 September. Formal opening: October 2012
Charles Jenck’s Northumberlandia, or the Goddess of the North, is officially revealed to the public today. Thought to be the largest human form ever sculpted into land, the reclining female figure of Northumberlandia stretches 400m in length and is made up of some 1.5 million tonnes of rock, clay and soil. Far from being a rigid manicured art form, Northumberlandia is a living part of the countryside that will mature over time and change with the seasons: what visitors will experience today is only the start of something that will evolve through generations. www.northumberlandia.thelandtrust.org.uk

ArcelorMittal Orbit, Olympic Park, London
The ArcelorMittal Orbit rises over the Olympic site giving a brand new perspective of London from its freshly redeveloped home in the East End. The UK’s tallest sculpture to date, Kapoor’s swirling red construction was 18 months in the making and required 560m of tubular red steel to form the sculpture’s lattice superstructure. The result is a bold statement of public art that is both permanent and sustainable. Sitting between the Stadium and the Aquatics Centre, the ArcelorMittal Orbit has been a beacon for the Olympic Park during London 2012. The structure has quite been quite literally lighting up East London with a 15 minute moving light show every evening. After the Games, the monumental structure will be used as a visitor attraction and is aimed to bring an influx of tourism to the future Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. www.arcelormittalorbit.com

The Angel of the North, Newcastle Gateshead

Angel of the North

After a controversial start, Anthony Gormley’s ‘The Angel of the North’ is now almost universally loved, and it seems the feeling is mutual; the 20m sculpture’s wings are angled forward 3.5 degrees to create, in Gormley’s words, “a sense of embrace”. Dominating Gateshead’s skyline and dwarfing all those who come to see the Angel’s silhouette, this Newcastle icon now rivals the famous Tyne Bridge. A panoramic hilltop site was chosen where the sculpture would be clearly seen by more than 90,000 drivers a day on the A1 – more than one person every second – and by passengers coming in on the East Coast main line from London to North East England. www.gateshead.gov.uk/angel

Wiltshire White Horses, Wiltshire
There are over 20 of white horse hill figures in England, 13 of which are in Wiltshire. Most of these white horses have been carved into chalk hillsides, making central Wiltshire’s chalk downs the ideal canvas for such artworks. Of the 13 white horses known to have existed in Wiltshire, eight are still visible. Contrary to popular belief, most white horses are not of great antiquity: only the Uffington white horse is of certain prehistoric origin, being some 3,000 years old. Most of the others date from the last 300 years or so. www.wiltshirewhitehorses.org.uk

Cerne Giant, Dorset

Cerne Giant

Horses aren’t the only figures carved into England’s expanses of chalk. The country’s largest chalk figure is also its most controversial: Dorset’s Cerne Giant depicts a well-endowed warrior believed to encourage fertility.
To this day, couples trying to conceive travel to visit the, ahem, ‘particular feature’ of the naked club-wielding giant in the hope of boosting their fertility. Above the Cerne Giant stands a rectangular earthwork enclosure, known as the Trendle. Like the giant, the Trendle is of unknown origin, but it is believed to date back to the Iron Age. It is still used today by local Morris Dancers as a site for May Day celebrations. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cerne-giant

The Cerne Giant is not the only big man on a hill in England – The Long Man of Willmington is cut into the chalk hills of East Sussex. No-one knows quite why it’s there – the outline could be an ancient fertility symbol, a depiction of an ancient warrior or an early 18th century folly.

Coming Soon: Angel of the South, Kent
The Angel of the South, as it has been dubbed, is a proposed sculpture to be built at Ebbsfleet in Kent. Mark Wallinger’s sculpture will faithfully resemble a thoroughbred white horse, only, at 160ft tall, it will be 33 times the size of your average steed. The landmark will be one of the biggest artworks in England, comparable in scale to the Statue of Liberty. The landmark will be seen from the A2 and will be accessible on foot as part of Springhead Park. The project team is now also focussing on the financial challenges of the project and fundraising. www.ebbsfleetlandmark.com


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