Wendy painted these flowers for my parents a few years ago, and the painting now hangs on the wall in their house. I possess absolutely no artistic skill, so I’d not have a hope of producing anything even remotely similar…!
We’ve all been there: you get to the airport, and with a jolt of horror realise that you’ve forgotten to buy a souvenir gift for your friend or loved one. What will you do? You panic, and then decide that you’ll have to pick something up at the airport.
Luckily, Heathrow has your back on this one…
Simply buy this life-size steel mesh sculpture of Tom Daley, a snip at just £18,000 and oh-so-easy to slip into your hand baggage.
I shouldn’t mock. Nikki Taylor is clearly a very talented artist, and it is sort of nice to see an airport trying something different. I guess the idea is that people might appreciate the art while trapped in an airport in a way that they may perhaps not at other times. But there’s something so amusingly incongruous about the experience that it’s hard not to smile.
This plan, the Grainger Town Sculptural Map, can be found just across the road from Newcastle Station. It was designed by Tod Hanson and Simon Watkinson, and put in place in 2003.
The idea is that the buildings have been reduced to their “essential forms” – no Earl Grey atop the Monument, for example – to provide an enjoyable spotting challenge to locals and tourists alike. When I first saw it, though, I didn’t realise it was meant to be a representation of the local area, so it didn’t really challenge me at all. Whether that’s a comment on the artwork or my own dimness, I’m not sure.
Here’s another angle that shows the pretty lights within:
Today, I’ve been to visit Northumberlandia, a colossal sculpture of a woman, 100ft high and a quarter of a mile long. It’s made from the excavated material of the open-cast coal mine next door, leading to its more common colloquial name: Slag Alice.
This is a closer view of the face from atop Alice’s right breast. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write!
As the sculpture is new, and still bedding in, it is only open to the public on selected days and at selected times. It’s expected to be fully open later in the year.
This is, erm, Alice’s left nipple, with Shotton surface coal mine in the background, demonstrating where the material of her form was gathered. It is still very much operational. The coal mine, I mean, not the nipple.
The sculpture cost around £3m, and it was entirely privately funded. It was designed by Charles Jencks. As well as making lots of landscaped art, he co-founded Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres, of which there are now fourteen across the UK. They provide evidence-based psychological, emotional and informational support to anyone affected by cancer – whether a patient, relative or friend.
This is a slightly whimsical picture of Alice’s right hand, which points roughly in the direction of the exit…!
Admission to Northumberlandia is free. And here’s a mildly amusing unusual sign:
Tonight’s the Last Night of the Proms, so I thought it would be appropriate to feature something musical. This is Roman Bar Column, one of a number of bottle-themed waymarkers in the Ouseburn Valley created by local Fine Art graduate Lewis Robinson. I say he’s a Fine Art graduate, but that was nearly a quarter of a century ago, and he’s done an awful lot since then.
Here’s a closer look at that violin:
Now I did say that these sculptures were bottle-themed, and you might be wondering how this ties in. Well, on the other side of the sculpture, you’ll find this:
When the sculpture was first plonked here in 2002, this was a neat visual pun as it was opposite one of Byker’s most famous pubs, The Plough Inn, which dated back to the late 1800s. Unfortunately, this closed down a few years ago, and the building is now occupied by Albaik, a (highly rated) Lebonese restaurant. This rather ruins the gag.
Now, given that I was at the top of the Ouseburn Valley, and given this blog’s history, how was I supposed to resist a picture of the Ouseburn?
This is Spirit of Jarrow, a Graham Ibbeson statue commemorating the Jarrow Crusade. Surprisingly, it was commissioned by Morrisons, the supermarket chain; less surprisingly, it’s in Jarrow.
The Jarrow Crusade was, of course, a 300-mile march of 200 shipyard workers from Jarrow to Parliament in 1936, highlighting the unemployment and poverty of the North East. It certainly didn’t result in a quick win: Stanley Baldwin refused to meet the marchers, and the depression in the North East continued pretty much up until the war.
That said, it did highlight the plight of the North East, and generated a lot of popular sympathy. It’s often cited as a milestone in the formation of the modern Labour party: it’s interesting to remember that the formal position of Labour party of the day was opposition, though Labour giant Ellen Wilkinson was its biggest political proponent. It’s perhaps a sad reflection of modern politics that such differences of opinion within a party are rarely tolerated these days.
This is Bottle of Notes, a 1993 steel and enamel sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen which forms text from Captain Cook’s journals into a white bottle; a blue note inside is formed of a line of poetry by one of the artists. It’s about 35 feet tall, and leans at a considerable angle. It was forged a little further north in Hebburn.
Since the bottle’s 1993 installation, mima – the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art – has been built behind it. It opened in 2007, but is (perhaps unfortunately?) best known for hosting Jeremy Clarkson et al’s Top Gear exhibition of automotive art in 2009.
This is the MediCinema in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary. I’ve never had the opportunity to venture inside – my job took me to a different hospital before it opened – but I understand that it’s a full scale 56-seat cinema with Dolby Surround Sound and all mod-cons.
Opened in 2009, it was the first purpose-built cinema within a UK hospital, and gives patients – particularly those in hospital for a long time – the chance to do something a little different to break up the monotony of hospital life. It even has space for people to attend in their beds!
The building of the cinema was supported by a number of local and national companies (from Fenwick to Disney!), and it’s maintained and run in association with the national MediCinema charity. I think it’s a really interesting example of a hospital doing something a little different!