Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Post Alert on Budleigh beach

Standing tall and quivering slightly in the breeze, it’s been likened to a four-masted schooner at anchor in the bay.

This newly-installed sculpture overlooking Budleigh beach has already become a talking-point in the town since it appeared seemingly overnight.

Many coastal UK resorts have embraced the idea of beach art. Maggi Hambling’s sculpture The Scallop erected on Aldeburgh beach in Suffolk to celebrate the life of composer Benjamin Britten was a recent example.

However not everyone has welcomed the new arrival. The idea of a beach sculpture in this special location has been vexatious since the idea of a hollow glass structure containing pebbles in a formaldehyde solution failed to find favour in the town.

Budleigh sculptor Michael Taylor was one of many local residents who felt that the concept of a seafront sculpture which celebrates this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is not without merit, but on reflection doubted, as he put it, that any man-made structure could ever compete with “this stunning natural environment.”

Others however have praised the new sculpture for its integrity of design, which combines unobtrusiveness with simplicity. A particularly intense shade of blue has been chosen for the masts, reflecting the often navy almost Mediterranean sea-tones along this stretch of the Jurassic Coast. The structure’s subtle movement in the wind acknowledges the dynamic nature of land, air and water at this point, with its shifting landscapes and constant erosion.

The latest arrival on Budleigh’s sea front has rekindled discussion on the whole question of the viability of artwork on the Jurassic Coast. Kim Hart, from nearby Colaton Raleigh, felt that the sculpture could have a utilitarian element as a support for a hammock. “Why not hammocks all the way along the sea front?” she mused. An 87-year-old visitor to Budleigh who declined to give his name was less enthusiastic about the structure as art. “It doesn’t appeal to me, but then anything goes today,” he admitted. “Unmade beds and so on…”

The artwork’s siting at Steamer Steps and its nautically symbolic design were clearly intended to evoke the days of Budleigh’s past glory in the 1920s and 30s when steamers like the Duke of Devonshire and the Alexandra regularly called to take passengers for trips along the coast.

Above: Visitors to Budleigh beach admire the newly-installed artwork

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