220 x 98 x 118 inches
The significance of John Atkin’s Searchlight Beacons sculpture, and associated Pod Seat designs, at London Southend Airport is that it visually and coherently binds together past and present histories of the site.
It is probably true to say that for most local residents, workers or visitors; the airport's past and present histories are disconnected. Some will not know what went before the arrival of the Stobart Group. Others will recall the commercial era of Freddy Laker. The airport's military role in World War II is probably much less known.
John Atkin’s work successfully re-connects the three distinct periods of the airport by using aircraft shapes, representative of each period, in the surface design and by installing three tall beacons as the centerpiece of the work. Each beacon has been laser cut with a different aircraft shape and when viewing the work – whether up close, at different angles, lit up at night, or when caught by sunlight – all three aircraft are un-mistakenly and evenly linked together, giving the long presence of the airport in this area, a joined-up history and legacy.
The use of ‘searchlights’ in the centerpiece of the sculpture is another reference to the airports past military history but they also offer a further significance. Literally pointing upwards, they are forward-looking; future looking. They suggest a significance to the airport’s re-emergence and it’s role in catalysing local regeneration, helping to build new futures and histories in this part of Essex.
Eight granite pod seats form part of the artist commission and add further significance to the links with the airport’s past and present histories. The shape of each seat is inspired by aircraft tail fins. This isn’t strikingly obvious at first given the horizontal position and size of the pods. The connection to the airport is interpreted by the artist with subtlety and understatement. Where aircraft have changed shape over time – as reflected in the ‘searchlights’ in the main sculpture - tail fin shapes remain fairly constant and as such, the pods are timeless and reflect all stages of the airport’s history.