Tensegritree Towers: image courtesy of Expedition Engineering - UK
As you go about your daily routine around campus, do you stop and notice the several towering monoliths that peer down at you? Sometimes in the busy clamour of daily life, we often forget to take in the serene stillness of the artwork around us. Testament to Canterbury’s left field and subtle je-ne-sais-quoi, our campus is dotted with curious statues that may have gone unnoticed by many.
The Tensegritree towers between the Marlowe Building and the Templeman Library is an off-kilter, distorted work of transcendentalist art. The statue was designed as part of the ominously titled 12 Beacons project, a move to renovate the campus upon Kent’s 50th anniversary. A team of engineers working under the leadership of Professor Don Grey constructed the statue. This should be considered as an important factor in understanding the work, as it reflects a construction mindset parallel to an artistic ambition.The statue is in memorial of trees that had been cut down prior to and during the construction of the university. A sense of the omnipotent prevalence of technological progression is conveyed through the statue, through the awkward clinical atmosphere it creates and the stiff, rigid nature of the limbs. It resembles the form of a tree, but its detail is industrial, alien and so intentionally indicative of its artifice.
The Synapse-Soleil sculpture is another of UKC’s enigmatic statues. The statue evokes Russian constructivism, in its parallel with Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International (circa 1919), a planned monument by Russian artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin. The Synapse-Soleil stands outside the Jennison building, a small orb placed at the centre encircled by a spiralling arm of metal. The statue communicates the idea of growth and movement upwards, reflective of the spirit of self-improvement central to the university ethos. Similar to the Tensegritree, this statue also was constructed by people within an academic field. Designed by Michael Green and Saw Frewer of the School of Engineering and Digital Arts, the Synapse-Soleil represents somewhat of a trend in UKC’s statues.
Statues represent a moment in time and space that cannot be repeated in any other medium in quite the same way. A statue is a cosmology represented in three-dimensional form, placed again within our three-dimensional world. As an idea, they are quite surreal. And yet, they are also all around us. Architecture, cars, furniture, these all serve purposes and yet can all be considered sculpture, or at least, the principles of sculpture can be applied to them. Yet pure sculpture, unfiltered through the lens of utility, is often unappreciated. This object is not naturally occurring, and needs no reason to be there besides what it says to us when we look upon it. They often have symbolic meaning, statues are erected a lot of the time because of events in the past. Hopefully with this in mind, take time
out of your day next time you pass a statue to consider what it says to you and why it might be there in the first place.
Synapse-Soleil: Image courtesy of University of Kent