For a country whose most dangerous animal is a big squirrel, the UK has long had a place in its heart for the lion. Part of our heraldic history, it has continued to capture our imaginations and one of the most impressive Cultural Olympiad commissions was surely Shauna Richardson’s massive crochet lions that toured the land. More static but equally as eye-catching is Ben Long’s new scaffold lion for the grounds of Bruce Castle in Tottenham, north east London.
Standing over ten metres tall it’s a feat of fusion, between art and engineering, robust material and surprisingly delicate overall effect and it’s the eight in this ongoing series of works.
“I’ve always loved Landseer’s lions in Trafalgar Square but I suppose what I am offering is an alternative to stone or bronze monuments – Scaffolding Sculptures reflect the change and evolution that the urban environment is constantly subjected to,” Ben said.
“Scaffolding is a modular and adaptable system, and so too are my sculptures. If you view each sculpture that I have made chronologically, you can see the progression and how with each stage I get a little better at mastering this unconventional medium. This is an important idea to me – that the value of continual development is more crucial than any one complete artwork."
Ben explains the process has two distinct phases, and that the success or otherwise of the final piece all comes down to preparation.
“Planning for each Scaffolding Sculpture takes about six months. I start by creating scale models in the studio and then I work with a structural engineer who helps me make adjustments and improvements to the design.
“The model for the lion was five months in development, yet it took only three weeks for me and my team of two to construct at full scale. The project is really all about preparation and planning and there are very few creative decisions made at the construction stage. All that has been taken care of in the studio. The final few weeks are just about pure scaffolding and hard graft."
The sculpture is part of Haringey’s PARK ART project commissioned by Up Projects
and alongside the work on display there will be a series of events, including a talk by Ben on September 5.