Andy Goldsworthy, Charles Jencks, Anthony Gormley and Andrew Sabin have all changed the way we look at the world, thanks to their vision and landscape-changing sculpture on a monumental scale. Whether we look at the huge tree trunks incorporated into dry-stone walls that Goldsworthy created at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the ‘Goddess of the North’, into which Jencks transformed the debris of Shotton surface mine in Northumberland, the ‘Angel of the North’ that Gormley raised upon on a hill near Gateshead or ‘Coldstones Cut’, Sabin’s sculptural symbol overlooking a Nidderdale limestone quarry, we cannot fail to be moved. There is something elemental about the work of these men, which returns us to a land of ancient myth and to stories told around fires from generation to generation; their impact upon our psyche is immeasurable, though we may try to quantify it. We are thrust deep into the earth, forced to look upon the wild ocean’s swelling rages, inspired to peer out from our little world into the universe, led to contemplate the natural processes of time and conjured into the mysteries of legends that have haunted our race over millennia.
I visited ‘Coldstones Cut’ yesterday, on a clear, cold and brutally windy day. I followed the footsteps of the (already!) more than forty thousand visitors that the Sabin sculpture has attracted, although it was completed only two and a half years ago; practically speaking, it is the viewing platform for a stone quarry otherwise visible only from the air, so skilfully has it been hidden in the Pennine landscape. As I took advantage of the chance to view the magnificently clear 360-degree landscape from the tips of the twin ramshorn curls that shake themselves at the sky, I could understand the artist’s presentation of an internal ‘street’ (complete with bollards, yellow lines and humped roundabout) to demonstrate the purpose to which the quarry’s materials are put and, much more beguiling to me, draw my own conclusions about a shape which for me evokes male and female organs and the myths of fertility gods and goddesses. How imaginative the minds which first conceived of this project! How lucky for all of us that there were others to plan and argue for its completion! How monumental the task to bring such a sculptural idea into being!
Here we are, in the 21st Century, still desperately in need of the same sense of purpose as those who, in the far-off lands of our past, cut horses into hills and drew wild beasts on walls of caves. We are one humanity, living with the creative urge of our ancestors and looking for the same answers as they. We may carve, build, draw, paint… or write, but our need is the same: to place ourselves somewhere and to make sense of why we are here.
Thank you, Andrew Sabin and the many people it took to deliver this wonderful artwork to us. It is a living, life-affirming and awe-inspiring emblem of stark, brutal beauty and significance.