If the most important abstract line on the Earth’s surface, which we know from maps as the Greenwich Meridian, were to overlap and run in tandem with an important London river, you would think that this might be a noteworthy location for a sculpture trail! This is indeed the case. The name of this art trail is The Line and the important river that completes this cosmic alignment, and along which the trail progresses, is called the River Lea.
The Line begins in Greenwich, though not actually at the observatory. Rather the giant dome built to celebrate the new millennium provides a backdrop and also probably much of the land for the first batch of sculptures that mark the beginning of the trail. We encounter a sign that rather wittily points in what is effectively a random direction and states the distance back to itself as being approximately 24,000 miles. This is not an artwork for flat earthers. The sign would be true in any location on Earth but it seems particularly apt here in Greenwich once we have been primed to the idea that we are standing on the very soil from which the whole of the Earth’s navigation system is grounded. An upside down electricity pylon is nearby. “Are we in the Antipodes now?” seems to be the question it is prompting or at least allowing us to contemplate. Finally, a cable car whisks us off for a real flight as we earn our first air mile crossing the River Thames and land on its far side amongst the repurposed docks and another batch of great sculpture.
We’ve landed. Now we have the task of getting up to the Lea’s footpath. As this river enters the Thames it makes two majestic swishes, throwing its detritus onto the muddy banks and generally deterring any intrepid trailblazer from attempting a short cut to get to its side. Instead The Line guides us patiently round some backstreets and we arrive at Damien Hirst’s sculpture. It is also where the footpath begins, going upriver and the visitor is met here with the calm flow of an already diminished waterway and the smell of coffee and cake. The sculpture is predominantly pink and yellow. Though this colour scheme is not intended to imitate food, it nevertheless invokes memories of school dinners and my favourite puddings.
It is actually a sculpture of skin, not the sort you find on cold custard, but rather what we would see on our own bodies if we were somehow to be miniaturised to see things on a microscopic level. When sculpture is massively enlarged, which this is, the familiar can look extremely strange. The tubes, tissue, hairs and sweat glands are every bit as realistic as the anatomy pictures you see in textbooks or on television. It’s really very good actually, to such an extent that were the mud on the banks of the Lea itself rendered in this way, one wonders whether that too might be elevated to the level of art. It’s time to move on now and with one last artwork to view. Abigail Fallis’ spiral of DNA is an assemblage of shopping trolleys up a very large metal pole. As you might imagine they form a spiral pattern rising up from the ground with each trolley paired to another. This could be a meditation on shopping, as one account states, but whatever its intended meaning, it also portrays a childlike pleasure of simply stacking things and all the better that those trolleys still have their swivel wheels to remind us of their now defunct purpose.
Emirates Air Line which forms a vital link crossing the Thames for The Line sculpture trail.
Opposite larger than life bronze contemporary figure with its own smart phone by Thomas J Price on The Line sculpture trail.
Carsten Holler of Gagosian joins his spiral tube slide to the spiral tower of Anish Kapoor of Lisson Gallery.
Antony Gormley of White Cube showing Quantum Cloud on The Line sculpture trail.
Richard Wilson RA produced Slice of Reality, the title being visible on a life ring on board. The Line sculpture trail.
Sterling Ruby of Spruth and Magers and Gagosian produced this angular canon-like form. He paid particular attention to the spray paint whose code is displayed in welded lettering on the base. The Line sculpture trail.
Damien Hirst of White Cube on The Line sculpture trail. The painted bronze sculpture imitates a few cubic millimetres of skin.
Gary Hume of David Zwirner gallery with brass leg-like forms on The Line sculpture trail.
Abigail Fallis on The Line sculpture trail. Shopping trolleys imitate structural molecules in a DNA spiral. The poppies were growing round the concrete base.