When I was growing up, there were apparently more golf courses in Ireland than playgrounds. At the age of seven my younger sister and I even resorted to improvising a see-saw out of a styrofoam surfboard and random cylindrical plastic thing we found in the shed. All this makes me massively appreciate a decent and fun playground structure, though my feelings are admittedly mixed with a dash of envy for the kids these things are actually designed for. Sigh.
Which is why Gary Webb’s permanent public sculpture, Squeaky Clean, appeals on any number of levels. Webb is a sculptor of playful, idiosyncratic works, and in this case his style absolutely fits the bill. Commissioned by Frieze Projects East for Charlton Park, Greenwich, the sculpture works both as a public artwork and a playground; the best type of public sculpture, in my opinion. What’s more, it’s aesthetically wonderful, with the confectionary appearance of the different components evoking nostalgic feelings and serious cravings for some Fruit Pastilles, and the undulating overall form reminiscent of the meandering ways we draw, invent, and tell stories when we’re that age. Anyway, in this artwork you can hang out on the “swiss-cheese” seat, swing about on the large glossy saccharine-looking spheres suspended by poles of various lengths, and watch the scenery morph and mutate in the reflected surfaces of the rotating plastic wheels. Awesome.
It’s all part of Frieze Projects East, which seeseEast London become a hub of public art installations. The work is curated and produced by the Frieze Art Foundation, and is commissioned by the London 2012 Festival and CREATE. There are six sites in total, each specifically commissioned for each of the Olympic host boroughs.
Among them are Love, an inflatable sculptural installation by Anthea Hamilton and Nicholas Byrne, which is installed in the beautiful art deco interior of Poplar Baths, Tower Hamlets, and thereby opens it to the general public for the first time since it shut down in the 1980s. There are mattress-esque balloons and a bouncy castle internal space where you can watch animated work. Can Altay’s Distributed, meanwhile, plays with scale in the installation of enormous mirrored door-knobs, which is all rather Alice-in-Wonderland. Klaus Weber’s Sandfountain, meanwhile, is a fountain that spouts sand rather than water, and this jarringly arid spectacle evokes post-apocalyptic scenery, sandstorms, and desert ghost-towns as much it reminds us of the joy of building utopian cities on a beach. Nice.