Sometimes, a sculpture becomes so large – both metaphorically as well as actually – that it becomes seemingly synonymous with its surroundings. London’s Fourth Plinth is one example; Newcastle’s Angel of the North is another. North of the border, Glasgow boasts the Heavy Horse. But Scotland is now home to a new work by the Heavy Horse’s creator Andy Scott. The 30 metre (100 foot) high Kelpies are two Clydesdale horse heads that sit on the Forth and Clyde canal, near Falkirk, while two sister sculptures, The Maquettes, will take up a residence in New York’s Bryant Park in March.
Since Scottish Canals’ George Ballinger came up with the name as part of regeneration work for the area, called The Helix Project, Scott was given “a basic concept and an open brief” to create a sculpture. “The Kelpies as a title is something that was gifted to me,” Scott says of the project. Taking a tea break from the day job, Scott is talking to us from his studio in Glasgow, where he’s currently working on his biggest commission in the USA to date, for a private art collector. Which, considering the sheer size and scale – not to mention the engineering ingenuity – of his other works, suggests something rather epic, although Scott is too polite to divulge any details.
The Kelpies, however, were not exactly small fry in comparison. “I had to work quite closely with Scottish Canals, and I had a couple of technical considerations to think of,” Scott says of the world’s biggest equine sculptures. “But the impact on the landscape became my main concern.”
It transpires that man’s relationship with the landscape – in fact, man’s relationship with anything – is what gives Scott his inspiration. “George [Ballinger] wanted The Kelpies to be ethereal and mystical, but I was drawn to the historical and social role of the horse,” Scott explains, “although there’s a spiritual bond between man and beast, and I try to convey that in my art. I was driven by the location and the brief, so that my passion for horses has evolved. I’m a city boy, so I didn’t have horses growing up, but I’m pretty fanatical now. I get why people are so emotionally attached to them.”
Despite his research, Scott surely still needed to have the real thing to work from, in order to perfect his sculptures? “My day-to-day work is pictorially-based, as it’s not practical to have the horses in the studio,” Scott explains. “But yes, I did have Clydesdale horses – my two ton muses!” he laughs. “They were huge, but docile – they were perfect gentlemen.”
In addition to the Falkirk installation, The Kelpies have taken on another life in the form of The Maquettes – although they were never part of Scott’s original plan. Created at one-tenth the size of The Kelpies, the smaller Maquettes were originally created, as the name suggests, simply as scale models. After Scott heard about a sculpture exhibition in Chicago, however, and received National Lottery funding to make a second, more refined set, he duly volunteered to send them Stateside, where they have remained ever since – firstly in Chicago, then Lake Michigan and currently in Purdue University’s Sculpture Park in Indiana. Their next home will be New York’s Bryant Park from March.
“It was unexpected, but wonderful,” Scott says of the ever-increasing interest in The Maquettes. Whilst the reaction has been hugely positive, The Maquettes will sadly not be a permanent fixture in Bryant Park. “It’s a donation of space only,” says Scott, although where they’ll head off to next is currently unknown, as it costs several thousand dollars to move them, and Scott goes personally to oversee each move. “It’s an unfortunate implication,” he says of the expense. “But people do feel safer if I’m there to oversee it all!”
Perhaps this is a mark of good craftsmanship on Scott’s part, but his view on this differs somewhat. “A mark of good craftsmanship is to make it look easy,” Scott reveals. “With a piece of art, you want to be enthralled by the skill, you want to be able to appreciate the craft, which is not easy to achieve.”
For his part, though, Scott has achieved this with The Kelpies and The Maquettes. The sheer majesty evoked by what is essentially nothing more than steel is truly testament to that.
To see more of sculptor Andy Scott’s work, go to www.scottsculptures.co.uk.