From a veteran statue made of Iraqi concrete and sand to a giant two-sided head, a grand outdoor art project is about to arrive in the towns of Kent.

Led by internationally renowned artists, England’s Creative Coast includes projects in Gravesend, Margate and Folkestone, which hope to attract locals and visitors to the county.

The Margate sculpture was erected last week. Photo: Frankie Leppard

From today, the artists who make up the Waterfronts program have been inspired by the border between land and sea – the places that these temporary works will inhabit.

Sarah Dance, England’s Creative Coast Project Director, said: “Designed as a project outside the gallery walls, England’s Creative Coast offers a naturally socially distanced experience that connects people and places across the extraordinary network of arts organizations along the southeast coast.

“We hope that in these troubled times, these site-specific artistic commissions and geocaching trail brimming with seaside stories will inspire creativity through adventure.”

The project is led by Turner Contemporary and Visit Kent, and funded by Arts Council England and Visit England.

The first piece to be unveiled is Chicago-based Michael Rakowitz’s sculpture, “ April is the Cruelest Month ” on the Margate waterfront.

A close up of the statue of Margate
A close up of the statue of Margate

The statue has already been spotted since it was installed last week on Marine Terrace, but will be officially unveiled on Saturday, May 1.

Modeled after war veteran Daniel Taylor who served in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the cast includes items used by the veteran during his tour of duty, including a medal he received for his service.

Rakowitz is a friend of Taylor’s and created the statue by combining Margate’s chalk with concrete, calcite, sand and dirt from the Iraqi city of Basra.

Describing the project, the artist said: “There are a lot of things that interest and excite me in the prospect of doing a site specific piece of work in Margate.

“The story of poets and rescuers looking to the sea for inspiration and life fueled my project, as did the fossil rock on the coast, which reminds me that stone is an archive.

“But I am also driven by the urgency, to understand what it means to be on the edge of a place, where hospitality and hostility mingle.”

The work is also inspired by TS Eliot’s poem The Waste Land, which was written in part at the nearby Nayland Rock Boardwalk Shelter.

The Margate sculpture project was supported by the neighboring team at Turner Contemporary.

Elsewhere in the county, Creative Folkestone worked alongside Chilean artist Pilar Quinteros on a clifftop piece overlooking the coastal town.

Entitled “Janus Fortress Folkestone”, the sculpture will be a giant two-sided plaster head that resembles chalk cliffs.

A concept of Folkestone's new artwork
A concept of Folkestone’s new artwork

Quinteros said: “For much of human history it was believed that we lived in a world of binary nature, of opposites.

“Working for Waterfronts for the Creative Coast of England, and the specific location of Folkestone makes me think that this part of the country and its history is an important frontier, as a place of simultaneous entry and exit.

“It’s a specific place to think about the so-called opposites and what can be in the middle. Art, I think, opens up that possibility.”

In the ancient Roman myth, Janus is depicted with two faces and is considered the god of beginnings, transitions and endings – one face looks inward and the other towards the sea, representing the duality of borders. .

The work will be exhibited from May 29.

People will be able to view Folkestone's artwork from May 29.  Photo: Alan Langley.
People will be able to view Folkestone’s artwork from May 29. Photo: Alan Langley.

Gravesend’s arts organization Cement Fields spearheaded an off-land project on the town’s pier.

Created by Glaswegian artist Jasleen Kaur, “The first thing I did was kiss the ground” will be unveiled on May 22.

Sculpture and sound piece, the work will resemble a Sikh head emerging from below the waves.

Kaur was inspired by the migration story of Gravesend, being one of the towns that welcomed West Indian immigrants arriving in the UK aboard the Windrush Empire in 1948.

The city also has a large Sikh community, which celebrated the tenth anniversary of Guru Nanak Darbar temple last November.

An artist's impression of the Gravesend project
An artist’s impression of the Gravesend project

Reflecting on the location of the work, Kaur said: “You feel the weight of its history.… There is a small passenger ferry that takes you to Tilbury Dock, you can see the old cruise terminal and the flag competing. with the Union Flag Jack.

“So there are all these reminders, in the landscape of industrial functioning, of another time and another place: when migration was welcomed and linked to the rehabilitation of a post-British war.”

In addition to the three Kent works of art, there are four other commissions in Essex and Sussex.

Victoria Pomery OBE, Director of Turner Contemporary: “We are delighted that Turner Contemporary is leading this ambitious and multifaceted project. It is a fantastic opportunity for artists to create new site specific works and for audiences and visitors to engage in our work. and that of our partners.

“Investing in culture offers many benefits and has been a transformation in Margate and in the seaside towns of our partners.”

Deirdre Wells believes project will help boost tourism after pandemic
Deirdre Wells believes project will help boost tourism after pandemic

It is also hoped that the large-scale project will motivate more people to visit Kent’s coastal towns throughout the summer.

Deirdre Wells, CEO of Visit Kent, said: “England’s Creative Coast offers an exciting opportunity to showcase the cultural assets of Essex, Kent, East and West Sussex and to attract new visitors to the South East.

“The project offers inspiring itineraries that encourage visitors to travel further, stay longer and explore our cultural heritage in innovative ways. Whether it’s exploring our beautiful galleries, spending time with and seeing an artist at work in their own home, or participating in our new geography. -caching experiences, this project will give our visitors a unique opportunity to enjoy great art, great food and great hospitality. “

Along with the artwork, there will be a digital ‘geo-cache’ activity – a digital scavenger hunt where people can scour the coastline for clues and interact with each other.

To learn more about the project, click here

Read more: All the latest news from Kent



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