The 'Cumbernauld mermaid' and other sad tales

The 'Cumbernauld mermaid' and other sad tales

by Charles Harris
article from Friday 20, January, 2017

DEAR READERS, thank you for your letters, interest and kind response since Christmas. I am encouraged by your words and very pleased that you have clearly grasped how any attempt at visual art is instantly recognisable for what it shows, and not otherwise, despite any stories, excuses, or alleged symbolism to the contrary. What you see is what you get! So I am happy to again try to address the miserable matter of public art inScotland, and I am pleased to enclose some letters accordingly:

"Dear Charles,

My friends and I have read your articles with interest and thanks, as we would like to tell you how annoyed we are by that monstrosity on the North carriageway on the M80 by Cumbernauld. It has constantly raised questions with us, as it always appeared like a lady of ill repute stepping outside her front door in the morning, arms raised seductively. Before I vaguely understood it was supposed to represent welcoming people to Scotland, but now I know exactly actually what I see and think about this disgusting monstrosity. This is not a right, or a decent idea to welcome visitors to Scotland. So can you suggest how we can remove it?"

I confess I totally agree. It is a complete disgrace, badly demeaning for all women and poor for Scotland in every way. And yet is typical of that current 'Anything is Okay,' mentality of modernism in art, with contempt for everything and everybody. And I do say typical, as this ugly junk is everywhere, while nobody has mentioned it for the same reason you gave. They have been baffled by three generations of butter propaganda. Butter, because it has been laid on thickly with a trowel and Butter, because it melts instantly in the heat of proper criticism and reality. So yes again, it is disgusting. While the camera angle in this photo is favourable. Viewed from the middle in front it is just vile.

Today, and regarding the question of how to get rid of it? This question also stands for all the rest of this junk elsewhere too for similar reasons. Yet I am also happy and very pleased that responsible people are now encouraged to believe their own eyesight and recognise artistically what these ugly and corrupting things instantly and visually state. Simply an ugly disgusting piece of junk is just that, no matter what title, stories or lies you invent. So I will put this question to our kind readers, does anybody have any suggestions as to what can be done here to remove it?  

While for the future, we do need responsible officials to understand that opinions are not the same as professional knowledge. Where those involved in these processes, should certainly consider receiving proper traditional training in art, before they presume to make these value judgements, as knowledge of art it is not just liking bright colours and modernist ideas. And stop pretending, do learn instead how to draw. For it is naturally important to select the right courses for knowledge. 

Simply, if you want to be a pastry cook, don't enrol on a welding course, or vice versa. Historically, all we have ever seen is favouritism; and a continuous rotten bias towards failed modern conceptual art, without displaying any proper professional all-round understanding, or consideration for the responsibilities these officials have and clearly neglect. This must change.

While normally I don't bother to separately engage with any examples of modern art falsehood, in view of your letters I did ask around for a professional artistic view of this thing. And generally, the view was that it practically resembles a poorly produced mermaid. Yet with no evidence of the sea in this location, why should there be any requirement to try to assemble one? So professionally I am left to ask aloud, how appropriate was this choice of public art? Which once again leads to that old question - Is weird, incompetent, trendy, ugly, unsuitable, inappropriate, disgusting and modern, the only choice ever available for public art?

While I also understand this thing claims links to the Angel of the North. And this indeed is a further questionable consideration, as there may also be more to that rusty piece of metal than meets the eye. I do recall the day it was erected and a BBC breakfast feature, where the presenters were running around trying to find somebody to say something good about it. More Butter. And Oh dear! There was a concern it may blow over in a strong wind that day, so endeavouring to create more sensation for a failed story, they apparently then asked the artist, who I also recall they then claimed had said, 'He wasn't worried - he had been paid. ' And then another question arose afterwards, about who was the leader of the English Art Council, when this thing had been commissioned? And of course more Butter!


So I looked again at this ugly object, and what also struck me academically, (quite apart from the obvious low pornography) is how the person who made this seems to have tried to steal the wonderful ideal of that marvellous beautiful painting and presence of a woman on the barricades, by Delacroix and just corrupted it. For Delacroix was painting the truth of women, equally involved in the struggle and the ideas of freedom at that time; which also led to those ideas for the statue of Liberty; and the aspirations and thoughts which encouraged people to revolt against slavery. Accordingly, I then presented my thoughts to a friend this week, a classical scholar, and here is the comment I received in reply:

"Delacroix’ wonderful painting of ‘Liberty Leading the People,’ also showing a bare-breasted woman, was immediately recognised as a sign of freedom and French Republicanism. It equally struck a chord particularly with the Americans at the time and as you said, it directly led to the creation of the Statute of Liberty. Whereas we can see nothing beautiful, or any new academic thought in either the Angel of the North, or this motorway thing resembling a lost Mermaid. They do not symbolise anything worthwhile. Indeed the only things which come to mind for me are stupidity for the rusty Angel and disgust at this mermaid. Whereas when I look at the Delacroix, I both see and experience beauty and inspiration!

If this is Modern art’s declaration of their open obsession with symbolism and poor quality, well so be it!  For it does absolutely nothing in either case, whereas Delacroix painting goes right to the heart like an arrow and rouses the human spirit. It splendidly exists in contrast with these modern Mermaids and Angels, and all the other rubbish that is foisted on us with our own money, and we are left scratching our heads, only wondering who is making money here and for what?"

So for interest, I then went on-line myself and found the following statements regarding this commission:

I discovered the person calls himself, ' A public artist.'

'He has received over 70 public commissions and many of the commissions come from local community groups. He is careful to involve them in these projects and draw inspiration from their involvement.

At a cost of £250,000. It has attracted criticism on two counts. Many people thought the money could have been better spent in other ways. And some people felt the site chosen for the sculpture was wrong,

On hearing the artist favoured locating the sculpture overlooking the M80, rather than at the Cumbernauld Centre, local councillors Alan O'Brian and William  Homer resigned from the CCCL in protest.' Mr O'Brian is quoted as saying, "We found it pretty insulting that somebody could just come in and decide that our town centre wasn't good enough for his sculpture."

Thus dear readers, I think you should draw your own conclusions here and must look carefully at what you see around you, for this situation needs reforming most desperately today, in every respect, and I do welcome any practical suggestions, ideas and assistance from you accordingly.


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