Sunday, 4 May 2014

Oh no - it's the Kelpies again

Artist Andy Scott with his 300-tonne Kelpies at The Helix park in Falkirk Photograph: Julie Howden
Cliché Artist Andy Scott with his 300-tonne Kelpies 
at The Helix park in FalkirkPhotograph: Julie Howden

You know, like most people in Scotland, I'm completely sick of hearing about the Kelpies and alleged millionaire cliché artist Andy Scott. But today there is yet another article about the project which is a cringing piece of self-serving nonsense. The Sunday Herald article reports that, "The creator of the Kelpies has told of his hope that his giant horse ­sculptures will become Scotland's answer to New York's Statue of Liberty". He is not modest in his ambitions! When I read this I found myself reaching for my axe and venturing out into the garden to chop some wood.

For people who are not up to speed on this project, it is a couple of 30 metre high horse heads beside a canal at the Helix Park, Falkirk, near the M9 motorway. It's a regeneration project of course, aimed at bringing in £1.5m each year through guided tours. 
The Kelpies on the Forth and Clyde Canal.  Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian
The Kelpies on the Forth and Clyde Canal.
Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian

I commented on this project back in 2011 so as always, I have led the attack. Scott appears to be Scottish Enterprise's house artist and the go-to person for inept people, philistines, numpties and me-too public sector folk who have had an imagination bypass. It isn't Scott's fault that he has this dubious following.

A recent scathing review by Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones branded the work a "piece of trash". He said: "The Kelpies is just a kitsch exercise in art 'for the people', carefully stripped of difficulty, controversy and meaning." Exactly! Jones went on to say, "I feel like crying that someone spent £5m on this piece of trash. Imagine the boost that bounty might have given to Falkirk's public libraries. Instead, school kids will be bussed to a park to gaze on brainless dreck".

These are harsh words but today, Scott appears to be unrepentant as, in the tradition of Private Eye, he uses a freshly cut onion to bring tears to his eyes as he shamelessly pleads for more people to phone him and commission future work. He speaks of the difficulty in gaining recognition for his work while being based north of the Border, and his hope that the Kelpies will boost his profile internationally. Ridiculous - people want more than metal horses these days. The entire article is laughable - for example, Scott says, "There has not been a single enquiry as a result of the Kelpies ... I think the sheer scale of them might in a weird way ... be too big and people think I am only interested in projects involving 300 tonnes [of steel], which is far from the truth". Perhaps there hasn't been a single enquiry because most folk are bored with his work.

I would like everyone to note that this is not a personal attack on Andy Scott. He is a human being after all - misguided perhaps, but he doesn't deserve to be pilloried for trying to make a bit of cash selling prefabricated horses. He has an entrepreneurial spirit after all and a slight artistic bent!  I know all about personal attacks and abuse - my mailbox is full of them every week and I have cried myself to sleep on many occasions. But over the years I have become stronger and more determined to get my important message out.

My advice to Andy Scott is two-fold. Firstly, please stop promoting yourself - it is embarrassing and you should let others do that. Secondly, stop being a fabrication yard for metal horses and think about developing a creative studio producing startling new work. For example a week in Aberdeen would open your eyes to many new sources of inspiration such as the dogs of war, the galleons of enterprise, the necessary destruction of historic environments or contemporary statues of Sir Ian Wood, Honorary Doctor Donald Trump or Honorary Doctor Wee Stuartie Milne. These ideas would be of-the-moment and relevant. Horses are not.

To all my fans, have a great week wherever you are. Remember you are always welcome at Auchterness. Cheeriebye for now!


Aaron Sneddon said...

The Kelpies are STUNNING, absolutely STUNNING. I have never seen such brilliant statues anywhere in the UK, they are wonderful. You perhaps should open up and look at the wider picture, Falkirk is on the map, moreover when people from over the world get to know about them, they will want to go visit them. I imagine, in a sort of sarcastic yet slightly truthful way, that Americans who would normally visit to gawk at the closed gates of Buckingham Palace, will bypass London alltogether, and instead go to Scotland (AND Falkirk), much more refreshing!

Dave Thompson said...

Hello there Aaron,

Thanks for getting in touch and joining the debate. Certainly the Kelpies are more interesting than the closed gates of Buckingham Palace but I cannot warm to Scott's work.

Best wishes to you and yours

Dave T