Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

I've Been Counting on Those Sheep; Artist Wants Credit for Flock Poetry

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

I've Been Counting on Those Sheep; Artist Wants Credit for Flock Poetry

Article excerpt

Byline: David Whetstone Arts & Entertainment Editor? 0191 201 6366 ?

AWRITER from the North East who turned a flock of sheep into a media sensation was left baa-king mad when she saw the same idea being promoted elsewhere.

Valerie Laws won a PS2,000 Arts Council grant in 2002 to create Quantum Sheep, a project in which 15 of the animals were each sprayed with one word of a short poem or haiku.

The idea was that the words would form a meaningful haiku - or "haik-ewe" as Valerie called it - however they were viewed on the backs of the grazing sheep.

A media call featuring Valerie and the sheep attracted not just local newspapers but TV crews. Valerie was even interviewed live on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

But the Whitley Bay writer was moved to contact the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) at West Bretton, near Wakefield, after it appeared to be promoting a similar creation called Write to Roam by artist Alison Cooper.

A programme assistant at YSP said neither the park nor the artist had been aware of Valerie's work.

A flyer for the venue, picked up in Leeds, had a photograph of sheep with words painted on them.

Accompanying text said the YSP's Country Park would be animated by the sheep "sprayed with individual words inspired by research around the heritage and ancient grazing land of the Bretton Estate".

It added: "As the sheep move, lie and graze they create chance groupings of words, both sensible and absurd. Visitors are encouraged to explore the landscape taking inspiration and humour from the constantly evolving formation of phrases, sentences and interactions."

A previous manifestation of the Cooper sheep artwork was on a farm at Cawthorne, near Barnsley, last summer, which also attracted local media attention.

Yesterday Valerie said of the artist: "It appears she has been commissioned to do a project which is almost identical to mine, although not as skilled.

"She hasn't added any new twist or development to it.

"Ever since Quantum Sheep, people have said to me, 'Are you the sheep woman?' It makes me sound like a very strange kind of superhero but it is very much my calling card. …

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