White line artist Sue Austin
By Jo Irving
Sue Austin heads a small group of artists who have taken to the streets of Plymouth and have certainly made their mark and left a trail of debate behind them.
Head down towards the University in Plymouth and you'll notice some white lines weaving across pavements and roads, leading away from the Roland Levinsky building into town.
The lines are the work of three fine art students, part of Freewheeling, who all want to challenge the concept of public and private space and leave their temporary trace on the city's streets.
The trio are in the final year of their degree course and are all intent on creating a talking point, while leading you from A to B.
Sue's wheelchair route into Plymouth city centre
There are single white lines, double lines and even a spiral line made out of grass. The tracks lead from the university, into town and down to the Barbican, along the Hoe and into Stonehouse, stopping or starting, whichever way you want to look at it, at the Royal William Yard, the art department's other campus.
For one of the artists, Sue Austin, from Hatherleigh, the lines are all about reshaping people's conception of wheelchairs, which she believes can be quite negative.
Sue moved to Devon from the Midlands 14 years ago and started using a wheelchair after a prolonged illness. She wants to make her images fun and positive.
"The object of the wheelchair is the public gaze - which means enabling people to see wheelchairs in a new way that creates positive associations of freedom and play.
"I've seen children playing on the lines, adults looking at them and even pigeons walking along them."
Sue creates double white lines through the city
The white lines have certainly drawn people's attention, but not all for the right reasons.
Jack Morris, another member of Freewheeling, says they have had to jump through a lot of hoops to get all their art work, quite literally, on the ground.
"We wanted people to have fun moving from one art campus to the other.
"If we're going to form new perspectives then we have to push the boundaries."
He and a friend went round the city on a bicycle, they used a chalk based paint, similar to what you'd get on a grassy football pitch to create a continuous circuit from one part of Plymouth to the other.
"The paint's got about a two to three week life span, before it washes off in the rain" Jack said, "so we want it to last until the end of our exhibition on the 26 June 2009."
Visitors to the Barbican, walk the line.
Sue says the support from the University's art department has been a great stimulus as well as the go-ahead from the city council to daub walls and pavements with paint.
"I've been surprised by people's reaction as well as the media attention. We felt the lines would brighten up their day."
Whether you think it's good or bad the white lines have certainly raised a lot of eyebrows if not a few questions, which all the artists believe is good for debate.
If you want to see more then log on to the website at the top right hand of this page.
last updated: 11/06/2009 at 10:23
Have Your Say
What do you think - is it art or not? Give us your view in the box below. This messageboard is moderated.
Kirsty Curnow Bayley
Hillary and Glyn Humphreys