i went on a trip today with a good friend to widnes; not a normal way to spend a tuesday afternoon but it was well worth it. the museum we went to see was nice enough, but the real highlight was the discovery of a fantastic piece of public art which neither of us really knew about. as we were driving along the motorway a ghostly head appeared above the trees to our right. we made notes. must google ‘giant head widnes’ when we were done in the museum. said search revealed that the head was jaume plensa’s ‘the dream’, located in the former sutton manor colliery in st. helens. on the way home we stopped off to have a closer look.
one of the first things that struck me about the sculpture was the beautiful approach to it. in comparison with the ‘big thing in a field’ build up to the angel of the north, this was bliss. thoughtfully cultivated woodland, evidence of the great work which the forestry commission carries out. even right by a very busy motorway it was nigh on silent at the peak. a lovely walk up the hill brought us face to face with a huge, elongated girl’s head. it appears to include elements of buddhist art, yet in a knowingly european style. it is a strange, yet brilliant piece of art/architecture.
the dream is at times difficult to look at. the perplexities of the elongated yet squashed proportions of the face are at once intriguing and off-putting. the pure white (and we were very happy to note that the work was still pure white, no sign of graffiti yet) gleams in the sun, the reflected sunlight hurts your eyes if you look at it too long. the distinct lack of lips and eyes are possibly the most unsettling aspect, asking questions of whether the subject is enjoying her dream. all this from a giant head.
the title of the sculpture is perfect too. the dream sums up so much about it. walking or driving towards/away the dream, it appears to exist in an somewhat unreal haze – the play between the white sculpture and the forest and sky around it makes it seem almost unreal. whilst the girl is dreaming, so are you.
i love chance encounters like this. stumbling upon something that you didn’t even know existed.