Varga Weisz’s five-headed sculpture ‘Rug People’, its body wrapped in blankets and cardboard, appears stranded and forelorn. Arrived as if by magic, the group huddles together on a carpet, which covers the disused railway tracks of the old harbour station. This, with its history of bringing First World War soldiers to the harbour to embark to France, as well as being the terminus for the Orient Express until 2008, provided the major inspiration for Varga Weisz’s work.
When you are in Folkestone’s old abandoned harbour station you are standing on a site that has witnessed the full range of human experiences and emotions over the years. As the Kent terminus for the Orient Express it has seen many excited travellers indulging in some up market leisure time but it has also been the place of unimaginable fears and foreboding as the final stop in Britain for the soldiers destined for the battlefields of Europe in the First World War. The stations dilapidated platforms and overgrown tracks are the last vestiges of this unique history and the inspiration for ‘Rug People’, a sculptural installation by Paloma Varga Weisz. The ghostly echoes of the orient seem especially poignant to the artist since on her journey to Folkestone she witnessed the refugee camps in Calais that house those that a fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and beyond. As her artist father was forced out of Nazi occupied Paris during the Second World War escaping from war and persecution is part of Varga Weisz’s own family history as well. Carrying a group of five unusual passengers a carpet has magically appeared on the stations tracks, as if from some unknown fairy tale. In the popular imagination a flying carpet is not only associated with the orient but also unrestricted travel and freedom. Here however the carpet is firmly grounded and its voyagers downcast holding blankets and huddled together this group are not in the midst of some carefree journey, but seemingly stranded. This sense of abandonment is reinforced by the sculptures base made from sticks, rugs and cardboard which echoes the precarious shelters of migrants and the homeless.