Conrad Shawcross is sending kids loopy in Dulwich Park

Just yards from South London’s popular Dulwich Picture Gallery, Dulwich Park has built a reputation for extending resident exhibitions and providing a platform for public art.

Three years ago the park’s bowling club house became adorned with a brand new mural, a result of a collaboration between the gallery’s Ingrid Beazley and street artist Stik, recreating old masters on the streets of the area. This popular piece is still highly visible close to the children’s playground (currently undergoing a refit). Over the years the park has also been home to a unique Barbara Helpworth sculpture, Two Forms, designed in 1969 and installed in 1970, that is until it was stolen by metal thieves in December 2011, leaving a dearth of public art in this popular family space.

Conrad Shawcross’s work Three Perpetual Chords, commissioned by Southwark Council, hopes to address this with a brand new collection of cast iron sculptures, forming a permanent installation in the park and promising to be theft proof. The sculpture work was unveiled last weekend, and was launched to coincide with his exhibition Counterpoint, currently on display in the Gallery’s Permanent Collection.

As fairly local residents, we were lucky enough to be early on the scene for giving them a test run, and I have to say, they proved popular with children of all ages. All three of the imposing knot-like sculptures are visible from a single viewpoint, creating an exciting challenge for kids, as they follow the trail to negotiate the progressively more complex frames.

Interestingly, on our visit, there seemed to be a trend towards navigating the structures barefoot to try and gain some traction, something that I am sure will have the health and safety teams at Southwark Council holding their breath. But, like a breath of fresh air against a newly ‘gentrified’ playground of tree houses and exposed wood, these felt like a nod to the old-school climbing frames of the 1980’s, the ones that were almost impossible to negotiate, no matter how old you were.

Shawcross’s exhibition is only on until 14th June, but thankfully these interactive wonders are here to stay. And for once, it’s the adults standing on the sidelines looking confused, whilst the children, like some kind of second nature, seem to understand exactly what to make of them.

Conrad Shawcross: Counterpoint is showing at Dulwich Picture Gallery until 14th June 2015 (Tues-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat-Sun 11am-5pm, Admission £6, Children under 18 go free).

Three Perpetual Chords are closest to the Court Lane Gate, Dulwich Park.

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