Art, Meaning of.. (And Other Things)

Cairnhead  Glen in South-West Scotland
Cairnhead Glen in South-West Scotland
Went for a drive today, to find the Striding Arches, a piece of land art by Andy Goldsworthy. Last autumn, signposts for it went up all over Galloway, so we finally decided to see what the fuss was about.
Finding the arches wasn’t so easy. I went online for info, but couldn’t find a precise location – just the information that there were three four Arches, all within sight of each other, plus indications that they were in the Cairnhead Glen north of Moniave. So off we tootled to Moniave.
There was a distinct lack of the the yellow direction signs that were all along our stretch of the A713; the only one we saw was in Moniave itself. But from there on, there was little chance top get lost – the road simply kept unwinding along and up without a fork, through fields and farmsteads and following a fast, lively burn that tumbled down from the forested hills.
The road got steadily narrower and rougher; we bumped over a cattle grid and sheep started ambling out of our way. We passed the odd cottage and farmhouse, but no sign of any artwork – the road narrowed still further, to a single car’s width, and the land on the left started dropping steeply away. “Don’t look down” B murmured. Then we entered Cairnhead forest itself and rode ever upwards through dark stands of plantation pine. Eventually, after maybe half an hour from Moniave, we found ourselves at a gate, with a tourist information signboard.
Still no sign of any artwork, and the signboard didn’t look to helpful. We walked along the road for a while; there was frozen slush and now underfoot and I had to go slowly, testing for ice with my stick. B strode ahead for a while, then came back – “Nothing up there, just more of the same, you’re tired, it’s getting late. We’ll go back”
So we turned back. And then, I saw it – an arch on the top of a distant hill, silhouetted against the sky. We’d finally found one, after giving up looking! Too far to go and take a close-up look though, and I doubted I would ever make it up the hill anyway. But I was pleased that we’d seen it, even from afar.
We got back to the signboard, and discovered that we’d missed an information map on the back of one of the panels – which, of course, showed us exactly where each of the three Arches could be found.
And naturally, there was one within mere yards of us, hidden up a track on the wooded hillside that appeared to lead only to a barn of some kind.
One of the Striding Arches
One of the Striding Arches

The Arch itself was impressive – it was emerging from a window on the end of a small building. The windows were darkened and the door locked, so we couldn’t see if the Arch extended right into the cottage. Was it tethering the building to the ground, or was it supposed to be growing out of the cottage? Whichever, it seemed to belong there somehow.
We looked for the other two Arches – according to all the information about them, they had all been erected within sight of each other – but could only see the one we had already located.
“Hmph” said B “Why make your art so difficult to see?”
“Maybe because the journey to find the artwork is actually part of the artwork itself? Anyway, you know what artists are like – they’re either mad bastards or devious bastards. Or both. Or just plain bastards.”
“The whole lot of them – bloody artists.”
We got into the blessedly warm car and drove back down the valley, into the thickening bank of fog, with crows flapping out of the mist and the trees and the walls sweeping past silently.