Published: 15:18, 29 April 2021
| Updated: 15:20, 29 April 2021
From a war veteran statue made of concrete and sand from Iraq to a giant two-faced head, a major outdoor artwork project is poised to arrive in towns across Kent.
Launching from today, the artists who make up the Waterfronts programme have taken inspiration from the border between the land and the sea - the spots these temporary artworks will inhabit.
Sarah Dance, Project Director of England’s Creative Coast, said: "Conceived as a project outside of gallery walls, England's Creative Coast offers a naturally socially-distanced experience that connects people and places across the extraordinary network of arts organisations along the South East coast.
"We hope that in these troubled times these site-specific art commissions and geocache trail brimming with seaside tales inspire creativity through adventure."
The project is being led by Turner Contemporary and Visit Kent, and funded by Arts Council England and Visit England.
The first piece to be unveiled is Chicago-based Michael Rakowitz’s sculpture ‘April is the cruellest month’ on Margate's seafront.
The statue has already been spotted since being installed last week on Marine Terrace, but will be officially unveiled on Saturday, May 1.
Modelled on war veteran Daniel Taylor who served during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the cast includes items used by the veteran during his tour of duty, including a medal he received for his service.
Rakowitz is a friend of Taylor, and created the statue by combining chalk from Margate with concrete, calcite, sand and earth from the Iraqi city of Basra.
Describing the project, the artist said: "There are many things that interest and excite me about the prospect of making a site-specific work in Margate.
"The history of poets and rescuers looking out at the sea for inspiration and life has informed my project, as has the fossil bearing rock of the coast, which reminds me that stone is an archive.
"But I am also led by urgency, of understanding what it means to be at the edge of a place, where hospitality and hostility mix."
The artwork also takes inspiration from the T.S. Eliot poem The Waste Land, which was in part written in the nearby Nayland Rock promenade shelter.
The Margate sculpture project was supported by the nearby Turner Contemporary team.
Elsewhere in the county, Creative Folkestone has worked alongside Chilean artist Pilar Quinteros on a clifftop piece overlooking the coastal town.
Titled ‘Janus Fortress Folkestone’, the sculpture will be a giant two-faced head made out of plaster which resembles the chalk cliffs.
Quinteros said: "For much of human history it was believed that we lived in a world of binary nature, of opposites.
"Working for Waterfronts for England's Creative Coast, and the specific location of Folkestone makes me think of that region of the country and its history being an important border, as a place of simultaneous entries and exits.
"It is a precise place to think about the supposedly opposites and what can be in the middle. Art, I think, opens that possibility."
In ancient Roman myth, Janus is depicted with two faces and is considered the god of beginnings, transitions and endings - one face looks inland and the other looks out to sea, which represents the duality of borders.
The artwork will be on display from May 29.
Gravesend's Cement Fields art organisation has spearheaded a project off land on the town's pier.
Created by Glaswegian artist Jasleen Kaur, ‘The first thing I did was to kiss the ground’ will be unveiled on May 22.
A sculpture and sound piece, the work will look like a Sikh head popping up from below the waves.
Kaur was inspired by Gravesend's history of migration, being one of the towns which welcomed West Indian immigrants arriving in the UK aboard the Empire Windrush in 1948.
The town also has a large Sikh community, which celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Guru Nanak Darbar Temple last November.
Reflecting on the location of the work, Kaur said: "You feel the weight of its history.…There is a small passenger ferry taking you across to Tilbury Dock, you can see the old Cruise Terminal building and the flag-post compete with Union Jack flag.
"So there are all these reminders, in amongst the industrial functioning landscape, of another time and place: when migration was welcomed and bound up with rehabilitating a post war Britain."
Alongside the three Kent artworks, there are a further four commissions across Essex and Sussex.
Victoria Pomery OBE, Director of Turner Contemporary: "We are delighted that Turner Contemporary is leading this ambitious, multi-faceted project. This is a fantastic opportunity for artists to make new site-specific works and for audiences and visitors to engage with our work and that of our partners.
"Investment in culture delivers many benefits and has been transformational in Margate and our partners’ seaside towns."
There are also hopes that the large-scale project will motivate more people to visit Kent's coastal towns throughout the summer.
Deirdre Wells, CEO of Visit Kent, said: "England’s Creative Coast provides an exciting opportunity to showcase the cultural assets of Essex, Kent, East and West Sussex and to attract new visitors to the South East.
"The project offers inspiring itineraries encouraging visitors to travel further, stay longer and explore our cultural heritage in innovative ways. Whether it's exploring our wonderful galleries, spending time with and seeing an artist at work in their own home or taking part in our new geo-caching experiences, this project will give our visitors a unique opportunity to enjoy great art, great food and great hospitality."
Alongside the artworks will be a digital 'geo-caching' activity - a digital treasure hunt where people will be able to scour the coastline looking for clues and interacting with one another.