Tag Archives: art

Jill Payne collaborates with artist Eloise Govier for Bristol Bright Night

On 26 September, project team member Jill Payne collaborated with the Bath-based contemporary fine artist Eloise Govier in the creation of a large-scale public art installation in the water spaces of Bristol’s Millennium Square. The installation, Ticker-Tape: Waterscape, formed part of the Bristol Bright Night event hosted by the At-Bristol Science Centre and was designed to challenge viewers’ perceptions of energy production in the landscape. Visitors were encouraged to walk around the artwork, a floating sculpture of 500 fluorescent bricks accompanied by a 5-minute visual soundscape broadcast on the BBC Big Screen overhead, and discuss their perspectives on art and energy landscapes with Eloise and Jill. Jill also provided an accompanying public lecture at the nearby Watershed.

Ticker-Tape: Waterscape is part of a series of Ticker-Tape installations created by Eloise Govier to spotlight and generate discussion on areas of contention in the public domain. Ticker-Tape was launched in April 2013 and has been executed in various sites across Europe, ranging from the Welsh/English border to a UNESCO-protected modernist housing estate in what was formerly East Berlin.

Bristol Bright Night is part of the annual ‘Researchers’ Night’ programme, an EU Commission-funded project that aims to engage publics across Europe in celebrating the latest and most stimulating research at a local and international level.

Art Installation

Ticker-Tape: Waterscape, Bristol’s Millennium Square (photo: Alex Dowson/Eloise Govier)

Northumberland’s ‘Hardest’ Geordie forces us to think about Landscape Art and the Definition of a Beautiful Landscape

By Leona Skelton

During my summer holiday in Northumberland, I visited the relatively new land sculpture, Northumberlandia, near Cramlington. Northumberlandia could certainly handle herself in Newcastle on Tyne’s drinking and clubbing centre, the Bigg Market, containing 1.5 million tonnes of rock, soil and clay, towering 100 feet high and measuring a quarter of a mile long. Changing with the seasons, and designed to mature over generations, she reflects the local people’s relationship with the environment, providing a welcome sanctuary for dog walkers, tourists and hill walkers, notably to the exclusion of cyclists. This ‘Lady’, covering a 46-acre, free access, community park, and containing over four miles of footpaths, is certainly worth a visit. As can be seen in the photos, she is perhaps best appreciated from the air, but the majority of her visitors don’t own private choppers, so they wander the ground – under her nostrils, along her fingers, over her brow and down her legs. It certainly makes for an unusual (and completely free) day out.

Northumberlandia’s Face

Northumberlandia’s Face (Photo: Leona Skelton)

The landowner, the Blagdon Estate, with the Banks Group, a Durham-based land development and mining company, funded the £3 million project privately to sugar the pill of restoring the neighbouring Shotton surface coal mine, which is now back in operation, feeding the UK energy industry. The site is now maintained by the Land Trust, with the support of Northumberland Wildlife Trust. Inspired by the adjacent Cheviot Hills, which are renowned for their gentle curves and majestic presence as they watch over the county, Northumberlandia was designed by her creator, the American born architect Charles Jencks, to celebrate the female form. Jencks describes the site as a ‘cosmic setting’, explaining that through his work, he attempts to find relationships between ‘the big and the small, science and spirituality and the universe and the landscape’ – quite an ambitious brief!

Northumberlandia’s Right Hand

Northumberlandia’s Right Hand (Photo: Leona Skelton)

The tourist attraction, which presents a very tangible and graphic example of a human impact on the landscape, inspired me to think about: landscape protection and damage; the definition and definitions of a beautiful landscape; nature, sculpture and art; and how we have forged, continue to forge and, indeed, to express our ever-changing relationship with the environment. In December 2013, shocking statistics were aired in the media, confirming that UK golf courses took up more land than UK homes. To take golf courses as an example, does constructing them damage or enhance the environment? It’s a hugely controversial and ultimately subjective question. Many golfers would argue that a well-tended and pristine golf course is a form of landscape beauty in itself, as they genuinely appreciate, admire and enjoy the environment of manicured fairways and greens, artificial lakes and ponds and sculpted bunkers filled with clean and soft sand, the hallmarks of an impressive golf course, for which a substantial number of golfers are prepared to pay large sums of money. How many golfers, however, object to the extensive use of pesticides, weed killers and machinery to obliterate nature and effectively sculpt the landscape in order for them to play their apparently land greedy game? Can both a golf course and wild flower, moorland wilderness be beautiful, admired and cherished? The answer is yes, but the respective groups of admirers, I guess, would be almost mutually exclusive.

Northumberlandia reminded me of the land art which appeared across the beautiful, albeit agricultural, landscape of the Yorkshire Dales during Le Tour de France in July 2014. The project, Fields of Vision, produced twelve pieces of artwork, which were created on the hillsides visible from the cycle route, with the intention of entertaining the cyclists and spectators, as well as showcasing Yorkshire proudly to the world in no uncertain terms. Co-ordinated by Pennine Prospects, a rural regeneration company for the South Pennines, the artworks were produced by artists, young farmers, scientists, cyclists, communities and landowners. The giant images included a flat-capped farmer, one man and his dog, a poem and the image of a bike, literally worn into the hillside by a plethora of cyclists following a designated track in the shape of a bike.

Transforming the landscape into art is not a new concept, having been an expression of human relationships with the environment since ancient times. The giant man engraved into a chalk hill above Cerne Abbas in Dorset is believed to date back to the Iron Age. If we are to develop our understanding of human relationships with the environment, perhaps these very obvious expressions of human culture, installed into the landscape to communicate a particular and enduring message, using the land itself as a medium for communication, might be a good place to start.

Finally, as I can’t possibly write a blog without referring to my current Tyne project, the Jetty Project’s ‘Cone’ sculpture, recently erected on Dunston Staiths, is also well worth a visit. It dominates the Tyne riverscape in a powerful and deeply symbolic way, I’m sure you’ll agree.




Aerial View of Northumberlandia: http://www.lbc.co.uk/britains-newest-and-biggest-tourist-attraction-59229/view/26887


BBC Magazine: ‘How much of the UK is covered in golf course?’ [24/12/2013] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24378868


BBC News, England: ‘Aerial artworks for Tour de France in Yorkshire’ [09/06/2014]





Dunston Staiths: Industry as Art in the Landscape of the Tyne

By Jill Payne

As part of their Newcastle trip in June, the Power and Water team walked through Riverside Park to Dunston Staiths with Dr Angela Connelly from the Jetty Project and David Fraser, industrial heritage researcher.

Does energy infrastructure have to be redundant before it can be accepted as integral to the landscape?

Dunston Staiths is an iconic window into the age when coal was king on Tyneside. Built in the 1890s and finally closed in 1980, it’s a towering wooden structure that facilitated faster coal loading onto the ships that lined the Tyne at Gateshead before hurrying their cargoes to London and other industrialising centres hungry for fuel. In 2013, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded nearly £420,000 to the Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust as part of an ongoing restoration plan for the Staiths that includes improved public access and enhanced engagement with Newcastle’s coal heritage. The funding also envisions the ‘reconnection of the Staiths with the surrounding saltmarsh and wider natural heritage’.

Dunston Staiths at low tide. Photo: Jill Payne

Dunston Staiths at low tide. Photo: Jill Payne

The Staiths, of course, has been connected to the riverscape that it looms over ever since its construction; it’s us onlookers who need to be shown how to see it that way. On the whole, energy infrastructure tends to be too large-scale and, well, industrial, for many of us to view it as anything more than non-natural and detached from nature – and quite often, nowadays, detached from people and communities too.

Dunston Staiths, now a scheduled monument and Grade II-listed building, reminds us that today’s ‘eyesore’ energy infrastructure may be tomorrow’s cultural heritage site. Some 35 years after the Staiths’ working life ended, it’s not difficult to view it as a grand addition to the public art dotting Riverside Park as it spools out from the centre of Newcastle. Here, works like Andrew McKeown’s ‘Riverside Rivets’ (2010) – giant rivets strewn alongside the path – anticipate the Staiths further upriver and remind us that people were working the riverbank long before we relaxed along it.

Andrew McKeown’s ‘Riverside Rivets’ (2010). Photo: Jill Payne

Andrew McKeown’s ‘Riverside Rivets’ (2010). Photo: Jill Payne

As energy production methods change, the redundant infrastructure of past technologies – so often super-sized and out of scale – builds up around us. The more structurally viable of these constructions can be reinterpreted to excellent effect: viz the stunning spaces of Tate Modern, formerly London’s oil-fired Bankside Power Station. Others are more challenging: the cooling towers of Richborough Power Station in Kent were demolished in 2012, although not without debate and commemoration.

As heritage technology, we can deal with energy infrastructure – celebrate it, even. If it must be demolished, there is likely to be at least some concern expressed for the loss of landmarks and historical markers. Over the years, layers of meaning can be attached to any physical presence; time and socio-cultural associations can help us to smooth over the disconnection between us and the energy structures that have sustained us. However, over and above the comfort engendered by familiarity, it seems that we may be more accepting of energy structures as integral to our communities and our landscapes once they are no longer fit for their original purpose. Are we better able to appreciate them once they are presented to us outside of their original, workaday context? What, then, does this say about our responses to the infrastructure that currently supports us – solar panels, wind turbines, nuclear reactors – or, like fracking mechanism – may do so in the future?

More about Dr Angela Connelly’s Riverside Art Walk with the Power and Water team and David Fraser here.