Art For Everyone : Public Art Installations

Read about the whole point of "Looking Around London" at this link here.

Get started with my pictures and thoughts on the London Tree Trunk Tour here.

The Tree Trunk Tour is going to be on Hamilton Road, and I'm blogging its creation here.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Oh Metal Tree, Is that Art I see?

When a piece of sculpture, or painting, or brickwork, or even some kind of multimedia presentation is put in place by an artist, one of the first questions that comes to my mind is: Is it recognisable?

Recognisable, in this context, refers to two things. The first on is whether or not I can identify it as being out of the ordinary enough to be a piece of art. Sometimes things blend in to the architecture or landscape too well to be picked out by the unobservant. For example-
Do you see the art in this picture? Maybe thought it was something to do with the sign out front? No, no, the gold tubes hanging from the ceiling are sculpture called Wins/Losses/Ties. Here's a site with some other angles.

The second way in which I would want to evaluate recognition, is by asking if what is depicted is familiar enough, and presented clearly enough to merit more attention from the viewer. The Flatiron building mural in Toronto, Ontario is an example that springs to mind immediately.
It's an attention grabber, and it begs you to investigate further. The mural is a very skillful tromp l'oeil, and mixes real and painted elements seamlessly. Another reward for the careful viewer is that the mural depicts a reflection of the building across the street!
In a private collection, the space for abstract art, and more controversial pieces can certainly be quite large. Raising the bar too high on the intellectual or conceptual scale for publicly funded projects is a dangerous practise for politicians and public servants. Well received community arts projects are, by definition, for most of the people, most of the time.

Let us turn our attention to the sidewalks in downtown London, Ontario, and see how things measure up.

Can you spot the artwork in the picture? Stands out pretty well to me. This is a Sassafras tree at the side of the John Labatt Centre.

Here's another one, along the back of the courthouse.

Sure is red, isn't it? The trees are all painted one solid colour. The same six colours, three primary and three secondary, are used consistently throughout the installation. Teh clour is key to what makes these sculptures what they are.

There is a Facebook group dedicated to asking these trees to be taken down and replaced with real trees. I would point out that we have a fair amount of the real thing, like, on the right hand side of this photo, and what stands out most is the metal one in the middle.
Also kind of important is the lack of light and soil available where the metal trees are installed. But let's get back to the other criteria. Does the art invite the viewer to find out more?

That, in my mind, is a much tougher call to make with this installation. Each work is signed, and identified by the species of tree at the bottom by a wleded bead of metal. Other people with the Internet have complained about the colours of the trees being too garish, or not 'realistic'. To those people, I would ask a simple question: What would you notice about this installation if the trees were brown and green? Other than the colour, what gets attention directed towards one of these sculptures anyway?
Seeing one tree might not make you curious, but I would argue that after walking two or three blocks, you would certainly start to ask "How many of these trees are there, and why are they here?" Which is a good thing. I think its certainly a question you would want to come up if you were responsible for the installation.
The unfortunate part, is that there is no more information readily available in that regard.

This post is only about one thing, however, recognition of the art, and of how it presents itself. Hard to argue that the Metal Trees of the Carolinian Forest haven't succeeded. Whether or not they are admired isn't the point, its whether or not they are noticed. There's no Facebook group for any aspect of the Tree Trunk Tour, so you could argure the  recognition level is higher for this project.

Soon, I'll give my take on the next element of publicly funded art- Accessibility.

This site is all about public art, but more important than reading about it, is finding it and seeing it. Which is why I have begun to compile a gallery of all of these trees in London, and put these metal trees on a map as I go. I've also got a map for the Tree Trunk Tour and pages for the artists involved in all of these projects.


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    1. It's the only hope I have of earning any income from this enterprise.

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