By Katy Cowan
When artist Stuart Haygarth was commissioned to create a permanent artwork for the University College London Hospitals’ new UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre in 2012, he decided to walk along more than 450 miles of England’s coastline to collect manmade objects that had washed ashore and then arrange them into a giant, hanging installation for the new facility.
Speaking of his inspiration behind the artwork entitled Strand, Stuart explains: “At some point, cancer will affect most of us – either directly or indirectly through people we know. It has become one of our biggest fears. Dealing with the disease is both a mental and physical journey and throws the diagnosed into the unknown. Therefore, the starting point of the sculpture was a personal physical and mental journey. My practice generally revolves around collections of found objects, which tell a story.”
Starting from where the River Thames meets the North Sea at Graves End to the furthest point on the south coast, which is Lands End – the objects he found on route showed fragments of people’s lives. Balls of various sizes, old lighters, shoes, combs and children’s toys were later categorised by colour and then brought together for the final piece.
Stuart added: “I would imagine being diagnosed with cancer creates an explosion of emotions and might engender many mental and emotional reactions including confusion, a sense of chaos, yet also strength and determination.
“From the collected objects I created a visual explosion of colour and form, yet one that through the precise arrangement and installation of the objects also radiates calm and control. The objects at the core of the sculpture are white and gradually the objects turn to yellow, orange and red until the outer pieces are black. The mass of objects are suspended from a platform on a series of fine metal cables giving the impression that the explosion is frozen in time. The beautiful shock of ordered colour works in harmony with the neutral clean colours of the hospital interior.”
All images courtesy of Stuart Haygarth