Last Monday my girlfriend and I walked The Line. It's a new sculpture trail in London that follows the Meridian Line and links the 02 Arena with the Olympic Park. The sculptures are large and contemporary. I couldn't wait.
We walked The Line from north to south. After a winding walk from West Ham station we turned off Stratford High Street onto the path beside Three Mills Wall River.
We wondered if this was one of the sculptures. It wasn't. But at least we were on the right path. The squiggly thing in the distance is the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the UK's tallest sculpture.
The most northerly sculpture on The Line is Network (2013) by Thomas J Price. Made of silicone bronze, it depicts a man holding a smartphone. There's nothing on it, as far as I can see. Maybe it's broken. The man doesn't look very happy with it, that's for sure.
The second artwork is three videos by Bill Viola. We missed it. Not surprising really; it's installed in a tidal mill. We walked on (and on and on) to sculpture number three...
DNA DL90 (2003) by Abigail Fallis. It's a great sculpture; a double helix made of supermarket trolleys and steel. But my word, it was a nightmare to find. That's why Laura is wearing that expression.
The Line is waymarked by rectangular signs. Often the signs are clear to see and understand. But sometimes they're not. Between Three Mills and Cody Dock - in my opinion - they're not. It would help if maps faced in the direction of travel too.
Still, at least we got to see the back entrance of an Amazon distribution centre, and the industrial wasteland beside the Thames. Every cloud...
Cody Dock is a wonderful place. It's a community-focused centre for culture and education. A boat has been converted into a cafe, concrete canal sides turned into gardens, and a lane lined with huts for art activities. Plus a pile of tyres transformed into Hina, eel goddess of the moon (with a taste for curious artists).
Outside the entrance to Cody Dock is a sculpture by Damien Hirst. Not a bad crowd-puller. Sensation (2003) is a painted bronze sculpture of a cross-section of skin.
Sensation is as much an educational tool as it is a work of art. Squat and lumpy and brightly-coloured, it's irresistible to touch. If only it had sensors and hidden speakers so it could tell you what you're poking.
To continue The Line, we rode the Docklands Light Railway. Star Lane to Royal Victoria. Two stops. Beside the Royal Docks we couldn't miss the fifth sculpture...
Vulcan (1999) by Eduardo Paolozzi. This huge and impressive bronze sculpture, clearly influenced by cubism, depicts the Roman god of fire and metalworking. We drank coffee in its shadow and looked out at the striking skyline of Canary Wharf, the O2 Arena and the Emirates Air Line.
The Line continues across the Thames via the Emirates Air Line. If you feel inclined. We didn't. One more sculpture and we'd call it a day.
Work 700 by Martin Creed was nearby. We nearly missed it. A stack of three steel girders of various widths, it was partially hidden behind food stalls and its horizontal lines merged with the dock behind it.
I imagine that Work 700 is a striking piece in a clinically white art gallery. But here, on the lower dock side, on a patchwork of paving stones, it looks like something a ship has left behind.
The Line shows great promise: big sculptures by big-name artists in a big city. And let's not forget it's free. But the sculptures are few and far between. I'd like to see many more, and clearer signs between them. Maybe a line painted on the floor?