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The Kelpies

The sculptures and the canal lock area of The Helix parklands are officially open to the public since Monday 21st of April.

The Kelpies (photo: courtesy Andy Scott).

The Kelpies were officially inaugurated on the 17th & 18th of April. A dramatic pyrotechnic display orchestrated by world renowned French events company Groupe F saw the Kelpies encircled by flames and animated by projections. The event was skilfully co-ordinated by UZ Events and was attended by tens of thousands of spectators.

The Kelpies (photo: courtesy Andy Scott).

The Kelpies are 30 metre high horse-head sculptures, standing next to a new extension to the Forth and Clyde Canal in The Helix, a new parkland project built to connect 16 communities in the Falkirk Council Area, Scotland. The sculptures were designed by sculptor Andy Scott and were completed in October 2013.The sculptures form a gateway at the eastern entrance to the Forth and Clyde canal, and the new canal extension built as part of The Helix land transformation project. The Kelpies are a monument to horse powered heritage across Scotland.

The Kelpies (photo: courtesy Andy Scott © Ben Williams).

Built of structural steel with a stainless steel cladding, The Kelpies weigh 300 tonnes each. Construction began in June 2013, and was complete by October 2013. However the process of fabricating the steel was several years in the making. SH Structures,of Yorkshire, carried out this fabrication and also managed the erection of the sculptures on site. The Kelpies are positioned either side of a specially constructed lock and basin, part of the redeveloped Kelpies Hub. The 1:10 scale models, known as maquettes, have been displayed locally and across Scotland at events and locations including Edinburgh International Airport, the Field Museum in Grant Park, Chicago, The Falkirk Wheel, Expo 2011 (Aberdeen), Expo 2012 (Edinburgh) and Expo 2013 (Glasgow), BBC Scotland, Glasgow, Sheffield International Steel Celebration and more recently Bryant Park in New York.

The sculptor

Andy Scott and Clydesdales's Horse (photo: courtesy Andy Scott).

Andy Scott was born in 1964, he is a Scottish figurative sculptor, working in galvanised steel, fibreglass and cast bronze.Scott graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1986 with a BA Hons in Fine Art Sculpture and in 1987 with a diploma in Postgraduate Studies.

His sculptural practice combines traditional dexterity and draughtsmanship with contemporary fabrication techniques, and many of his works are site specific, creating narratives and a powerful sense of place within urban developments.

Working on a scale model (photo: courtesy Andy Scott).

“The title and theme of The Kelpies as mystical water-borne equine creatures was inherited at the outset of the project, almost eight years ago.” Explains Andy Scott, ”  Since then it has evolved dramatically and in the process the ethos and function has shifted from the original concept.   Falkirk was my father’s home town and that inherited link to the town has been one of my driving inspirations.  A sense of deep personal legacy has informed my thinking from the outset, with old family connections anchoring me to the project.   As an artist I frequently tackle the theme of equine sculpture in my practice.  My horse based works are always rooted in a socio-historical relevance or respond to a brief from the client.  In almost every project they are related to the site, the audience, history or a combination of themes.
This is the case with The Kelpies.  The mythological associations behind the original brief have been absorbed by other sources of inspiration in the creative processes, and the ancient ethereal water spirits have been forged into engineered monuments.

Building the Kelpies (photo: courtesy Andy Scott).

The Kelpies are modelled on heavy horses (two Clydesdales of Glasgow City Council actually served as models in the process) and it is this theme of working horses which captured my imagination and drove the project.  Clydesdales, Shires and Percherons, the equus magnus of the north.   They are the embodiment of the industrial history of Scotland and the Falkirk / Grangemouth area.  Heavy horses would once have been the powerhouse of the area, working in the foundries, the fields, farms and of course the canal itself, pulling boats along the Forth & Clyde from coast to coast.  Falkirk was also home to reputedly the worlds biggest horse: in the 1930′s Carnera hauled wagons laden with soft drinks around the town (made in Scotland from girders, of course)

Working on the Kelpies (photo: courtesy Andy Scott).

The materials of the sculptures are deliberately those of Scotland’s former industrial heartland, steel construction on an architectural scale:  equitecture   The towering horse heads have an industrial aesthetic with structural columns and beams visible through the riveted laser cut steel plates of the skin, the manes rendered as geometric overlapping slabs of steel.  The entire structures are illuminated inside and out to create a stunning spectacle in hours of darkness.   They elevate Falkirk and Grangemouth to national and international prominence and bring with them a sense of pride and ownership, having achieved global media coverage.  As a canal structure they partner the iconic Falkirk Wheel, and echo its grandeur.  They stand as a testament to the achievements of the past, a paean to artisanship and engineering and a declaration of intent for the future of Scotland.

The Kelpies mirroring on the channel (photo: courtesy Andy Scott © Ben Williams).

As with all of my works, they will doubtless create many narratives and the original Kelpie myth will inevitably resurface.  The title will spark a mystical interpretation in many viewers.  That is up to the beholder and of course I welcome the engagement of the widest possible audience in the sculptures.   My intent however is built around a contemporary sculptural monument more than an ancient legend.  Water-borne, towering gateways into the canal system, The Helix park, and the nation, translating the legacy of the area into proud equine guardians.