Keir Smith, 1986

“The Iron Road was installed along a stretch of disused railway embankment deep in the forest. The site was entirely appropriate to the spirit of the sculpture; more than any other work it achieved my ambition to blur the boundaries between site and sculpture, to allow resonances from the work to extend far out into the host landscape.” Keir Smith

Keir Smith worked on the Iron Road for almost a year. Twenty evenly spaced railway sleepers were placed on the curve of a disused railway line to bring the spirit of the forest’s industrial past to life. The sleepers, made from a eucalyptus wood called jarrah, were obtained from the London Underground. The end sections of each sleeper still carry the cast-iron ‘chairs’ which once supported the track.

Each sleeper bears carved esoteric imagery relating to the site: from feathers and leaves to a flaming wheel, a burning house and a shattered tree. A jar with water pouring out refers to the stream running underneath the embankment. In Smith’s words: “these sculptures carry a sense of meaning but are not decodable. There is no key which unlocks a precise narrative; the carvings are allusive and finally illusive.”

About the Artist

Keir Smith (1950-2007) studied fine art at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (1969-1973), before attending Chelsea School of Art (1973-75), where he developed work informed by art and architecture of the past, archaeology, mythology and landscape. Along with Iron Road, he also created large scale outdoor works for Grizedale and Yorkshire Sculpture Parks and Cass Sculpture Foundation. He taught at Birmingham Polytechnic until 1990 before becoming Head of the Sculpture Department at Wimbledon College of Art.