As you may know Cold War Steve is in the midst of taking his work out of the house, into the outside world and across the country. Following last week’s open-air exhibition at the Riverside Country Park, Medway, in the border county of Kent, which saw eleven large-scale pieces of art forming a surreal nature trail, Cold War Steve has made his next stop.
From Fri 26 Sept, visitors to Boscombe Beach in Bournemouth will be met by a 25-metre-long curved windbreak featuring a giant new public artwork. The work, an immense celebration of the people and things that make the UK great, will feature a number of Bournemouth and south coast characters gathered on Boscombe Beach. The work will face the sea, providing a source of warmth in form and image, an exemplification of the positivity of the country.
However, the work was originally conceived as a diptych – a double-sided windbreak that would, on its reverse, carry a contrasting image with a darker atmosphere, featuring notorious figures familiar to anybody with any knowledge of Cold War Steve’s work. In its complete form, the diptych aimed to celebrate the positive characteristics and values of the country, while also carrying a darker, but humorous, reminder of our current national sources of shame and embarrassment.
We are thrilled to be showing the work as part of Bournemouth’s Arts by the Sea festival and honoured to be claiming a prime spot on the beach. However, we are disappointed that Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council will not allow us to display the whole work on the beach. Despite many discussions, requests and assurances about the sentiment behind the work, the Council has stood firm and so the people of Bournemouth will be denied the full spectacle of a 25-metre doubled sided windbreak presenting two sides of the nation’s face. The display will still go ahead but with the offending side covered up.
Cold War Steve says: “The windbreak in Bournemouth is by far the biggest piece I have ever exhibited; it’s an engineering feat and a return to a subject I love in Bournemouth Beach, which previously featured on my work for the National Gallery of Scotland called ‘Harold, A Ghost of Lost Futures’. It is a celebration and hopeful piece about the UK (with some local heroes included too), looking at the values that make us great – inclusivity, compassion, diversity, charity and creativity; whilst the censored ‘other side’ deals with the dark underbelly of our society, the movements of intolerance, hatred and division – issues that should never be ignored, let alone covered up. It also looks at the failure of political leadership. I look forward to hearing what people think about the artwork they can see and also the artwork they can’t. Someone else made that decision for them, sadly.”
I understand the work is challenging, but so far people have taken this the right way, seen the comedy, the anger, the social commentary and satire and reflected on it as a whole and not seen it as simply a provocation. I do feel it is a mistake for one side to be covered over and to ignore the message as a whole – to block out the dark and only celebrate the light feels counterproductive when we could have these difficult conversations together now.”
The Boscombe Beach work is part of Cold War Steve’s ongoing venture to take his work safely to the outside world again. This September and October, he is unveiling four ambitious new outdoor artworks, with displays still to come in Coventry and Liverpool. All pieces will be out in the open and free for everyone to visit.