Andy Goldsworthy is one of the world’s foremost artists working directly in the landscape. Striding Arches – a series of grand, self-supporting arches standing on hilltops surrounding the natural amphitheatre at Cairnhead – is the first of Goldsworthy’s large-scale projects involving multiple structures to be installed in a public landscape in Scotland.
Each arch stands just under four metres high, with a span of about seven metres, and consists of 31 blocks of hand-dressed red sandstone weighing approximately 27 tons.
Other arches made of Dumfriesshire sandstone by Goldsworthy stand in Canada, the United States and New Zealand, echoing the travels of emigrating Scots over the last 200 years or so, and of the sandstone carried as ballast by timber ships making the return voyage to North America.
Crucial to Goldsworthy’s selection of sites was his stipulation that no matter which arch you find yourself at, you should always be able to see the other two: the three arches are linked together by sightlines. ‘What I am working is the space, the line, the stuff that is intangible, the atmosphere of the work, the feel of it, the bits in between. That for me is the work.’ The project has developed from a mutual desire by Cairnhead Community Forest Trust Ltd, Andy Goldsworthy, the leading British environmental artist (who has lived locally in Dumfries & Galloway for over 20 years) and DGAA to create permanent multiple sculpture installation for a public landscape space in Dumfries & Galloway. The proposal originated several years ago from a wish by the artist to assist with regeneration in his home area of Nithsdale.
Andy Goldsworthy’s Striding Arches , is a multiple installation of four 12ft sandstone Arches in Cairnhead Forest near Moniaive, Dumfries and Galloway. Three arches are sited in specifically chosen high points, including the skyline, around the natural amphitheatre of the Cairnhead Forest, and one arch strides through a renovated Bye building in the heart of the glen. The siting of the Arches helps to create a path network to encourage public access to the Cairnhead Forest and Glen and create links with the Southern Upland Way, which skirts the edge of Cairnhead Forest.
Artists, Pip Hall and Alec Finlay have been involved in the project to help interpret the landscape and its history. Pip has carved the names of the farming families who lived at the byre into a stone bench and carved the old spellings of Cairnhead into the dyke entrance to the Byre area. Alec Finlay has created a poetry walk which follows the Dalwat water up the Cairnhead valley. The walk encourages visitors to pick up a postcard at the Byre and collect words at the confluences (where streams meet the Dalwat water). These words can be found on rubber stamps in wooden boxes.