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November 2012

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    stuart haygarth’s strand installation

    November 29, 2012

    It was a couple of days ago that i saw a post on dezeen featuring the strand installation by stuart haygarth at the recently opened macmillan cancer centre.

    I first came across stuart’s work around 2006. Fascinated by seeing an artist using rubbish as a raw material, i was quickly hooked. The tide chandelier was by far my favourite piece until now!

    I couldn’t quite stop thinking about the strand installation so at the first convenient moment i hopped on my scooter to go and see it for myself. Upon arrival and entry to the centre i gasped at the sheer size and immense impact of the installation hung in the atrium. Wow! Photos don’t do it justice……

    After a brief encounter with the welcoming staff i was greeted by the lovely james, who showed me around the building and gave me a little tour of the entire art project. I even got to see the very private roof gardens (psst, don’t tell anyone). Thank you james for giving up your time and generously feeding my curiosity!

    Armed with my camera i felt like a child in a sweet shop. There was this bittersweet atmosphere in the air. The cancer centre was full of patients coming and going while i was admiring the architecture, design and artworks. Everyone was so nice and friendly i even had a little natter with one or two patients.

    Stuart haygarth has been commissioned by the university college london hospitals NHS foundation trust to create a permanent installation for this centre in central london. Entitled ‘strand’, haygarth emabarked on a 45o mile coastal walk and collected man made objects, which have been washed ashore by the sea. Physically and mentally challenging the journey took him from gravesend in kent to lands end in cornwall.

    Haywarth chose the walk along the coastline because, historically, the sea was viewed as the ‘unknown’. This seems to resemble the patients state of mind when diagnosed with the disease. It seems to me that sharing the ‘fear of the unknown’ was a big factor in the decision to embark on a solitary walk and source the debris from which to create this installation.

    Patients and staff were also invited to contribute objects to the artwork.

    Haygarth documented this journey with a travelogue of photographs and the objects have been categotrised by colour and are suspended from the atrium.

    I think if i worked at the centre i would play a game with colleagues: spot as many recognisable objects as possible. I certainly played that game in my head whilst taking the photographs. How many can you spot?

    I’m fascinated by colour, shapes, details and patterns and from that perspective i was in sheer heaven. I love how, depending where i was standing, be it the gound floor or at the top of the stairs on the first level, the light and the juxtaposition of the objects rewarded me with different viewpoints. Secretly i wished i was strapped in a harness and floating above it for yet another view.

    One of the receptionists told me that before installation they just saw these suspended fine metal cables with a little note on each one. Everyone was waiting in anticipation for the mystery to be unfolded. Apparently it was hung within a couple of days. I’m so curious about that process. I wish the process was videoed. Was it?

    It reminds me of the wonderful chihuly chandelier hanging in the foyer of the v&a. The hanging of it was a massive undertaking and was filmed. Look at the explanation of the cleaning process. I suppose i love the idea of knowing what happens ‘behind the scenes’.

    On the first floor of the centre you’ll find these framed prints of the collected objects, some categorised by colour. I loved being able to see items close up and imagining their origin and history. There was a real sense of intimacy and an ‘unspoken’ knowing that these represented fragments from people’s lives.

    In line with great storytelling, there was some ‘behind the scenes’ in the form of the map, illustrating the length of this journey. Additionally, haygarth printed a selection of postcards depicting the various beaches and sharing his diary entries with us.

    Here i’ve chosen to show you haygarth entries for the first and last day of his journey. This really made the whole project come alive for me and i hope that people pick up the postcards and enjoy reading snippets of this journey.

    I want to leave you with some images that encapsulate the fantastic sense of design used in this centre to enhance patients wellbeing as much as possible. Particularly fond of the 3rd floor, the teenage cancer trust unit, i was touched by the overriding sense of playfulness that made me want to hang out there. They had a snooker table, a football table and there was arts and crafts happening in one corner.

    This marmoleum flooring, on the first floor reception area, was designed and generously donated by sir peter blake RA

    I was very humbled and touched by so many aspects of my visit and you know when something just feels right? Well, this centre just feels right and stuart haygarth’s incredible installation just feels right. It’s like team work at its very best!

    Strand was made possible by the generosity of the michael & morven heller charitable foundation.

    After i returned home, i picked up the phone to stuart haygarth, introduced myself, and asked to interview him in his studio. So stay tuned for a real treat (have collected photos of it in magazines) in the new year.

    Happy weekend everyone. Hope it’s colourful x

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