Following our two pieces on the Man on the Moors sculpture (July 2 and September 6), and the flurry (by blog standards) of responses they provoked, readers may be interested in the following comments, abridged with permission from an article by Ian Carstairs, President of the North Yorkshire Moors Association, in the Autumn 2017 edition of Voice of the Moors, the Association’s magazine.
A daily newspaper recently showed a huge close up of the seated man sculpture on Castleton Rigg, but it didn’t show what, for me, is most significant, namely the sculpture perched on the skyline of the wide open moor.
It set me thinking: why? What is the point of this? What does it add to the appreciation of the moors? And how many copycat projects will be spawned now a precedent has been set?
Frankly, for me, it does nothing positive. It only reduces the sense of wildness; that feeling that people haven’t intruded too much into the scene, which is the essence of this landscape.
To place an arguably contrived sculpture in it challenges a fundamental of what wild places are about. By its very presence, it stares you in the face that someone has been interfering here, eroding that much-vaunted ‘freedom from the pressures of the world’.
Moreover it leads me to question the point of art in the countryside and whether there is a principle at stake when it comes to appreciating and protecting the landscape.
Some years ago, an artist made large sculptures of daffodils and the plants for Dalby Forest. When asked their purpose, he said they were “to create a garden-like feel”. An indignant reader replied that “he really didn’t want a garden-like feel when visiting a forest”, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree.
Despite being a former art student, one-time designer and passionate photographer, I nevertheless wonder whether you can have too much of this kind of thing, and what and where is acceptable.
But uncomfortably I realise that I have contradictions in my views. Why is it that I find Anthony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ figures staring out to sea on Crosby Beach fascinating, yet rail against a sculpture on a moorland ridge? Why do I find our Association’s Millennium Stone tasteful, when it was equally placed there by design.
Perhaps the people for whom Crosby Beach is a special place felt equally strongly that it was diminished by the figures. I guess in the end there is no accounting for taste, nor the fickle nature of the human condition!
If a purpose of art is to elicit a response, even if that response is that it shouldn’t be there, then maybe the seated man has achieved a goal. But if I had to make a choice, I’d prefer to see our wilder countryside valued for what it is, free from unnecessary intrusions.
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