The title and theme of The Kelpies as mystical water-borne equine creatures was inherited at the outset of the project, almost eight years ago. Since then it has evolved dramatically and in the process the ethos and function has shifted from the original concept. Falkirk was my father’s home town and that inherited link to the town has been one of my driving inspirations. A sense of deep personal legacy has informed my thinking from the outset, with old family connections anchoring me to the project. As an artist I frequently tackle the theme of equine sculpture in my practice. My horse based works are always rooted in a socio-historical relevance or respond to a brief from the client. In almost every project they are related to the site, the audience, history or a combination of themes.
This is the case with The Kelpies. The mythological associations behind the original brief have been absorbed by other sources of inspiration in the creative processes, and the ancient ethereal water spirits have been forged into engineered monuments. The Kelpies are modelled on heavy horses (two Clydesdales of Glasgow City Council actually served as models in the process) and it is this theme of working horses which captured my imagination and drove the project. Clydesdales, Shires and Percherons, the equus magnus of the north. They are the embodiment of the industrial history of Scotland and the Falkirk / Grangemouth area. Heavy horses would once have been the powerhouse of the area, working in the foundries, the fields, farms and of course the canal itself, pulling boats along the Forth & Clyde from coast to coast. Falkirk was also home to reputedly the worlds biggest horse: in the 1930′s Carnera hauled wagons laden with soft drinks around the town (made in Scotland from girders, of course)
The materials of the sculptures are deliberately those of Scotland’s former industrial heartland, steel construction on an architectural scale: equitecture The towering horse heads have an industrial aesthetic with structural columns and beams visible through the riveted laser cut steel plates of the skin, the manes rendered as geometric overlapping slabs of steel. The entire structures are illuminated inside and out to create a stunning spectacle in hours of darkness. They elevate Falkirk and Grangemouth to national and international prominence and bring with them a sense of pride and ownership, having achieved global media coverage. As a canal structure they partner the iconic Falkirk Wheel, and echo its grandeur. They stand as a testament to the achievements of the past, a paean to artisanship and engineering and a declaration of intent for the future of Scotland.
As with all of my works, they will doubtless create many narratives and the original Kelpie myth will inevitably resurface. The title will spark a mystical interpretation in many viewers. That is up to the beholder and of course I welcome the engagement of the widest possible audience in the sculptures. My intent however is built around a contemporary sculptural monument more than an ancient legend. Water-borne, towering gateways into the canal system, The Helix park, and the nation, translating the legacy of the area into proud equine guardians. Andy Scott, November 2013.