Contemporary art in West Lothian

I came across the Felty Folk again the other day, late on a sunny afternoon. They seemed to be lazing around on a wall:

Felty Folk on the wall

Neeva assured me they were collecting a special type of hairy moss for furnishings in Oosie’s home. I wasn’t convinced: Dod looked particularly relaxed, although Oosie was excitedly scampering about.

“I like to jump around on the moss, it’s bouncy,” she cried.

Oosie on the wall

“That’s why we’re having to collect some again,” Neeva sighed, resignedly. “She keeps ruining it by jumping around.”

Maybe that’s why Neeva and Dod weren’t looking very energetic, this wasn’t the first time… I wished them luck and carried on my way.


West Lothian is not somewhere you would expect to see International Contemporary Art, there are some quirky sculptures along the M8, but you would probably head to Edinburgh on an art quest instead. I heard about  Jupiter Artland in West Lothian when it opened a few years ago, but I had been putting off going there; which was crazy, because walking around parkland looking at contemporary sculptures is something I would really enjoy. My friend from Newcastle suggested we go, and I wasn’t too keen, because it sounded like it was on a vast estate and I would have to walk miles to see everything, which  is difficult for me having M.E. However, I decided it was foolish of me to deny myself pleasure just because I thought I only had enough energy to see part of it, after all, I could return and see the rest another time. So we went, and it was fantastic; and here is a taster for you:

A Forest by Jim Lambie, Jupiter Artland

A Forest - Jim Lambie

This is on the back of the Steading wall, as you pass through the entrance into the parkland. I like this because it’s attractive; it’s shiny and bright coloured and I was intrigued by the technique. I didn’t think about the way it reflected the trees at the time, although I see it clearly now. I took a photo of it from within the trees:

From the forest - to The Forest

The next sculpture is apparent very quickly – a 10 foot high rusty cage and…

Suck by Anish Kapoor

Suck - Anish Kapoor

…a dangerous looking arty hole. I was surprised to find it was by Anish Kapoor initially, but getting closer and looking at the hole, it has the same curved shape he is so obviously fascinated with in his other work. Humans always have an urge to look into a hole in the ground, but if you get too close to this one maybe it could suck you in, like a vortex – it must be why it’s caged.

An 'ole in the ground

Onward to another contemporary art heavyweight – Antony Gormley:

Leg of Firmament by Antony Gormley

Leg of 'Firmament' by Antony Gormley

Apart from his very famous Angel of the North, he has made a number of sculptures filling the human body with nodes and vortices, and cubes. It’s often hard to make out the human figure initially and it’s quite fun walking around identifying the body parts. I liked his name for the piece, because you view the sky through it and the intersecting lines made me think of star maps, and searching the sky to identify the constellations.

Some of the sculptures have to be experienced in real life, and really don’t make sense in a photograph, so I’m not even going to try, I will just say that I loved the Stone House sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy, and you just have to visit and discover it yourself.

The first Weeping Girl I saw reminded me of the scary end scene in the Blair Witch Project film. When you get a little closer, you realise there are a few of the Girls that you search out among the trees, slightly disturbing, but quite sweet.

Weeping Girls by Laura Ford

Weeping Girls - Laura Ford

They looked like they were made from fibreglass, but they were cast metal.

There were a number of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s works through the park, but somehow, they were a little disappointing. I have visited his garden, full of his work at Little Sparta, and his work is more effective en masse, when you are immersed in his world. This one wasn’t too bad:

Temple of Apollo by Ian Hamilton Finlay

Temple of Apollo - Ian Hamilton Finlay

It works well in the location, and I liked stepping into the temple to see the hand carved lettering – I’m a bit of a sucker for letter carving and stone.

Another non-event for me was the Cornelia Parker work, Landscape with Gun and Tree 2010, it’s a realistic but super-sized rifle leaning against a tree, and it didn’t really excite me. Looking at the blurb about it now, it’s referring to a famous Gainsborough painting, Mr and Mrs Andrews, where the man is posing with a rifle, so I can see what she’s getting at, but does it work if you have to explain the reference? I’ve loved her work with suspended objects before though. I was very surprised by the In Memory work, by Nathan Cole, it’s a high concrete wall which looks like a building without a roof, you discover an opening and find the familiar surroundings of a cemetery, with gravestones and flowers, there’s even a bench to sit on (it was very welcome). Although it’s quite ordinary, it somehow creates its own special world, and you are taken to a contemplative place. Quite lovely.

The next sculpture was KNITTED!!
How excited I was!

Over Here by Shane Waltener

Over Here - Shane Waltener

This is a view of it from the wrong side, it was the best way to photograph it. It is approached from the wood and the central hole frames a view across open fields. The way it is pinned out between the trees is like the way a lace shawl is pinned out to dry and give definition to the lace. It’s also a bit like fishing nets hung out to be mended and dried – it’s knitted from 4 strands of fishing line held together.

Knitted fishing line

A great sculpture, and it was knitting, and it made me happy.

We had completed our circuit of the sculptures out the back of the Steadings, and I was now feeling a little weary and in need of a cup of tea. Luckily there was a chromed 50’s caravan serving refreshments in the courtyard. It was all very civilised, a pot of Earl Grey tea, and a Bakewell tart in the cobbled courtyard surrounded by lovely arty things. I was impressed with the attention to detail here: to the standard and quality of The National Trust, but way more cool and arty. The sympathetic and creative restoration and conversion of the Entrance Steading:

Entrance Steading building

The Jupiter Artland logo: a beautiful design and repeated everywhere:

Jupiter boot scraper

The map guide to the park: lino cut illustration by Iain McIntosh. The truly amazing and original iron work gates:

Jupiter Gates

I loved the flowerheads made of chromed nails:

Chromed nails on gates

Lovely things everywhere:

Hartstongue Fern

After refreshments, we headed to the huge Charles Jencks Life Mounds sculpture we had passed by driving in.

Life Mounds by Charles Jencks

His work is familiar, there is one of his pieces outside the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. This is a vast sculpture, and is a delight for children and adults alike. It really brings out the child in adults too:

Life Mounds by Charles Jencks

Each of the mounds has an inscription, and some ceramic sculptured pieces at the top, and tired as I was I just couldn’t resist going up one:

Me on Life Mound

We had a lovely walk past donkeys, sheep, and an alpaca back to the car. In the car, on the way out, we noticed huge boulders placed in the trees, which we realised was the Stone Coppice sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy, I guess I’ll look at that one properly, next time. I will be going back. A highly recommended day out, and an amazing contemporary art collection.



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