Leo Fitzmaurice, Arcadia (2007)

This sign is at once ironic, illusory and completely superfluous. So it ticks a lot of boxes to signal that it really just labels itself. Arcadia is after all the name of this artwork.

More irony comes from the introduction of roadside signage into such a wild, mythical realm. A nearby motorway would kill the atmosphere. It would make shepherding a nightmare.

Then illusion comes from the fact that, lovely as this scene be, it is far from unspoiled nature. It is the heavily landscaped nature of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and it certainly isn’t Greece.

And thirdly, there is this sign’s lack of necessity. We can see this is an attractive view. So Leo Fitzmaurice’s artwork really just gets in the way. Culture is unavoidable like that.

It will always speak of the millions who have gone before us. So the heritage-brown sign reminds us Arcadia has been at times a battlefield, a historic industry and a ruin.

It also recalls that famous tomb painted by Nicolas Poussin. His signage reads: Et in Arcadia ego; an “I woz ere” by death.

Death in this case may come by road or industrialised sightseeing. There may be an environmental message here, and what are those any more if not momento mori?

The above work is one of a series Leo Fitzmaurice has installed around the idyllic grounds of YSP near Wakefield. This is by the visitor centre. For directions etc, see gallery website.

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