VISITORS to London will be disappointed to find Nelson's column completely obscured and its height seemingly reduced by the bulky wraps of the cleaning firm. In the corner of Trafalgar Square even St Martin-in-the-Fields is looking odd.
It is not the anti-apartheid picket on the steps pointing at South Africa House that is so surprising as another temporary addition to Gibb's 18th-century design. For the next three weeks the classical colonnade will be pierced by a giant baroque scroll, • Painted with an ornamental trompe l'oeil effect to create the illusion of volume and at the same time to counteract the logic of the building's ,,architecture, the 40 .foot sculpture seems to float mysteriously in space. It is the work of Edwatd Allington who wants to restore the value of orname4it so that embellisfiment and edifice can regain equal visibility.
This project is one contribution to TSWA 3D, a nationwide public arts event organised by Television South West and Soigh West Arts which has temporarily transformed twel* buildings in the British Isles. It'is billed as the "largest ever public art event in Britain" with(' an audience numbered in millions.
At first the authorities at St Martin's were Sceplical but the
vicar can now s that he is "delighted". There is much more reaction, in' Derry where Antony Gormley, Ste has local connections, has /Aced three iron double fignres along the walls.
St Columbai-fOunded a monastery there in 546 but in 1600 the cathedral and monastery were demolished to build the walls which now average 15 feet in width and symbolise the divided society.
Gormley's siamese twin figures, with arms outstretched in a cruciform shape, embody the two communities as they look away from''each other yet remain inescapably bound together.
One Protestant church, which has recognised the Christ-like image, has already demanded their removal. One sculpture has been scribbled on and another has suffered blazing tyre `necklace death'. Gormley accepts all this and says that he expected it.
Derry is the project's greatest test as the committee had wanted spaces that were meaningful, alive with the association of history and with a lack of neutrality which may discourage the idea that they are available for art.
This is as far as you can get from an urban plaza or a sculpture park. If the walls carry a political charge so do the three Christ-like figures insisting on looking towards Catholic and Protestant.
Of all the 3D artworks it is planned to keep Gormley's figures in place beyond June and through the sensitive summer period.
More immediately dramatic is George Wyllie's straw locomotive hanging 175 feet up above the banks of the Clyde in Glasgow as a reminder of the industrial past. In Liverpool we are invited inside the classical Oratory next to the Anglican Cathedral for Holly Warburton's multi-dimensional tape slide show exploring transience and timelessness.
Earlier views of St Martin-inthe-Fields can be seen at the Museum of London where Londoners: The Way We Were (daily except Mondays until August 2; admission free) has just opened.
William Logsdail's painting shows the front of St Martin's one damp day 99 years ago when brewers' drays enjoyed the less restricted traffic system. A decade earlier Tissot portrayed American visitors under the National Gallery portico with their backs to St Martin's. This is the very angle considered by the TSWA 3D team before Edward Allington's work was erected.
A much earlier American visitor was Princess Pocahontas and one of her entourage is
featured in the Strangers section as A Red Indian in St James's Park 1615 from Michael van
Meer's album. Although this exhibition gives an opportunity to see such famous works as Frith's Railway Station again, it is the small less known pictures which are so revealing.
Street scenes include a curds and whey seller across the road from St Mary-le-Bow in about 1730, a milk maid (who had probably milked the cow nearby) selling milk on the street and a ginger bread seller by Francis Wheatley of Cries of London fame.
This was the period when William Hogarth gave a more alarming view of street life with such drawings as Gin Lane illustrating slum quarters around St George's, Bloomsbury.
Hogarth's Tyburn execution scene, showing an early Methodist preacher delivering an admonition, can be seen with the more detailed drawing by Lauron of the triangular gallows a little later in the 18th century. There is also a first view of a compelling drawing by Theodore Gericault of an execution on May Day 1820 in the City.