Established in 2015, The Line
is Londons first dedicated public art walk; an outstanding, free outdoor art gallery, following the line of the Greenwich Meridian along a route which passes through 3 of the most diverse boroughs in the UK (Newham, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich).
To mark the 5th anniversary of the critically acclaimed art walk, The Line announced the unveiling on 5th August of Reaching Out, a new, specially commissioned sculpture by London-based artist, Thomas J Price. Depicting an anonymous everywoman absorbed in a process of silent communication, she is striking in her ordinariness, yet, as a public monument, is remarkably rare. As has been brought to the fore in recent Black Lives Matter debates, there is a startling lack of representation in public art and Reaching Out will be one of only three public sculptures of Black womanhood in the whole of the UK.
Price says of the work, Reaching Out is my first individual full figure representation of a woman, and one of very few public sculptures of a Black woman in the UK (one of the first being a short distance from where I grew up). This new work, depicting a young woman standing holding a mobile phone in both hands, continues a theme of balancing experiences of isolation and connectedness, whilst acknowledging the different ways in which technology mediates our lives.
Reaching Out celebrates Londons diversity and explores multiple themes of contemporary relevance; from the debate about representation, to social isolation and the complex relationship we have with technology. Reaching Out is a work about the contradictory connectedness and isolation of modern life and a bold statement in public art which both invites and opens-up discussion on issues of pressing social relevance.
Price has consistently explored representations of Black characters in his work and in Reaching Out he plays with both the values society ascribes Black womanhood and preconceptions of what public sculpture should represent. At 9ft tall, the scale is deliberately larger than life and whilst the pose carries an echo of the neo-classical, Reaching Out is deliberately un-triumphant, instead countering the expectations of monumental sculpture associated with historical depictions of white men. It makes a statement about celebrating a different set of values and recognising the intrinsic value of the everyday - the strength in Prices figure lies in communication and Reaching Out with her own voice.
Justine Simons OBE, Londons Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, said: Londons strength is its diversity yet many of our stories, our histories and our communities are not reflected in our public realm. Thomas J Price is an inspiring artist who regularly explores these themes of representation and perception through his work, so Im delighted that his new sculpture will be joining The Lines collection of works.
The installation of Reaching Out is funded by the London Legacy Development Corporations Neighbourhood Priorities Fund. The installation is situated at Three Mills Green part of the 26 mile long Lee Valley Regional Park near Stratford. As part of the grant, The Line will deliver special learning resources exploring themes and issues addressed in Thomas J Price's work, including workshops with local schools and free, downloadable learning packs available at www.the-line.org.
Lyn Garner, Chief Executive, London Legacy Development Corporation, said: We are pleased to fund the installation of this exciting and timely sculpture through our Neighbourhood Priorities Fund. We hope that the free workshops and learning packs developed by The Line that we have also supported will inspire and connect local schools and young people with the arts.
The Line was established by Megan Piper and the late regeneration expert Clive Dutton OBE, whose lifes work was rooted in a commitment to improving the quality of life for people in urban environments and to putting art and culture at the heart of regeneration. Running for 3 miles through one of the largest areas of regeneration in Europe local support and engagement have been fundamental to the continued success of the art walk.
Megan Piper, Director of The Line, said, The lack of diversity in the public realm is under long-overdue scrutiny and this installation as a portrait of a contemporary Black woman, rather than a sculpture depicting a historically celebrated (white male) figure feels particularly pertinent. Were delighted to continue our relationship with Thomas J Price. His earlier installation, Network, was one of our inaugural loans in 2015 and was a highlight of our programme for local communities.
The Line currently features monumental sculptures by ten artists, including Antony Gormleys Quantum Cloud and Gary Humes Liberty Grip at Greenwich Peninsula and Joanna Rajkowskas The Hatchling and Abigail Fallis DNA DL90 on the River Lea. New additions for 2020 include the recent installation of Laura Fords Bird Boy at the Royal Victoria Dock and the extension of the route through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, to encompass the UKs largest sculpture, Anish Kapoors ArcelorMittal Orbit, and Carsten Höllers The Slide.
Thomas J Price (b.1981, London) studied Sculpture at Chelsea College of Art (2001-04) and received an MA from the Royal College of Art (2004-06). Price has exhibited widely in the UK, including solo shows at the National Portrait Gallery (2016) and Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2014). His first international institution exhibition took place in 2019 at The Power Plant in Toronto. Price has recently been commissioned by Hackney Council to create a new public sculpture for Hackney Town Hall, commemorating the Windrush Generation.
Since 2005 Price has made figurative sculptures which function as psychological portraits. His imagined subjects usually male, usually black have features which are in fact an amalgamation of sources: observed individuals, 'types' represented in the media, and ancient, classical and neo-classical sculptures. Across these works, Price plays with methods of presentation, material, scale, and detail in order to challenge viewers' expectations and assumptions.
Early sculptures were given geographic identities based on areas where Price has lived and worked (Hackney, Brixton, Dalston, Deptford) street names with historic gravitas or mythic qualities (such as 'Achilles Street') that make the ordinary sound heroic and the fabled appear normal. In their emotional depth and arresting monumentality these anonymous portraits assert the value of the depicted subject, powerfully subverting traditional social and aesthetic hierarchies. Prices work is included in a number of public and private collections, including Derwent London, Damien Hirsts Murderme collection (UK) and the Rennie Collection (Canada).
The Line was co-founded by Megan Piper and the late regeneration expert Clive Dutton OBE (1953-2015) whose lifes work was rooted in a commitment to improving the quality of life for people in urban environments and putting art and culture at the heart of regeneration. Local support and engagement with grassroots organisations were key to the development of The Line and continue to be fundamental to its success.
The Line was initiated through a Spacehive crowdfunding campaign, which raised over £140,000 in less than eight weeks in 2014. In the subsequent five years, through the generous support of sponsors and patrons, it ran without public funding. Since its inception, The Line has received phenomenal in-kind support from its Founding Supporters, which include Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Farrer & Co. Founding Patrons include Garfield Weston Foundation, Oak Foundation, Bloomberg and Liberty Specialty Markets.
The Line went from being the seed of an idea to opening to the public in just 18 months and in May 2015, The Line unveiled monumental sculptures along the footpaths of East Londons waterways. The inaugural loans, which included Damien Hirst, Eduardo Paolozzi and Thomas J Price, came through an open submission and were selected by a panel that included Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Wallinger, curator Omar Kholeif, art critic Richard Cork, collector and philanthropist Anita Zabludowicz and Simon Myers, local resident and founder of Cody Dock. The Line currently includes works by ten artists. The majority of these are loans from artists, galleries and private collections but The Line also highlights a number of pre-existing works along the route, including Antony Gormleys Quantum Cloud and Richard Wilsons A Slice of Reality.
In 2020, The Line celebrates its fifth anniversary with the extension of its route into Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the launch of a new website and, for the first time, site-specific projects, commissions and cultural collaborations. The Line has recently been listed in Condé Nast Travellers Best Walks in London.