Nightlife

Nightlife

Nightlife

The area my studio is located in, Kelham Island, is a rapidly changing place. When I got to Sheffield in 1990 it was a decayed landscape; half derelict factories, some still housing light industry, set among the wasteland of it’s industrial past. Nobody lived there, after sundown it’s main visitors were the kerb crawlers and their targets, and the drug addicts seeking a space were they could be undisturbed and (relatively) safe. It wasn’t radically different in 2012 when I joined Kelham Island Arts Collective. There were some new build flats, a trendy cafe and a posh restaurant had replaced one of the greasy spoons, but it was still possible to take low rent spaces in one of the many crumbling factories, an ideal (and perhaps typical) location for artists.

Fast forward 7 years and though the surface looks the same behind the facades much has changed. A plethora of housing development has meant a large resident population, and there is a strong sense of community emerging. Much of the development pays at least lip service to the visual identity of the area’s history. New businesses emerging these days are micro-breweries, craft bakeries and the like, and sympathetic zoning by the local authority means less pressure for change of use, protecting the existing light industries. Day and night the Island is much more vibrant, pubs, cafes, restaurants and wine bars abound, and post sundown the visitors much more wholesome (if no quieter). Indeed, the area has recently won an Urban Renewal Award. Let’s be clear – this is not gentrification. No one lived here,  there has been no clearance, either of industry or residents. As an artist it’s a great place to be, and in painting Nightlife, I pay homage to the intelligent redevelopment of brownfield sites.

 

 

 

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Battle of the giants final40pc

Battle of the Giants

The requistioning of horses during the 1914-18 war gave Sheffield’s industry a considerable problem. The horse was still the main means of transport, including that of moving goods and industrial plant around the City. One company came up with an unusual solution to the problem; Thomas Wards, a scrap dealer, leased an elephant from a menagerie in the city, and used her to help transport metal scrap and machinery around Sheffield, a vital contribution to the war effort. The elephant, Lizzie, was reputed to have overturned a steam traction engine, and I have depicted the aftermath of this, and placed the event in front of the Sheffield Tramways power station that is now the site of Kelham Island Industrial Museum.

In the 1980’s I worked for a community murals organisation in North London. We created murals in schools, hospitals, and a railway station, great fun and I learnt a lot. Now, 29 years later and I’m doing the same again, and loving it. I had been wondering for a while how my current, industrial inspired style would work as street art, and have  been given the opportunity to find out thanks to an exciting initiative generated by the Kelham Island Community Alliance (KICA Facebook page).

The Kelham Island Arts & Cultural Heritage Trail started as an anti-graffiti measure, with a particular focus on telecommunications cabinets (those green steel boxs that have become such a feature of street furniture). It was recognised that taggers were less likely to spray over street art, and so a project to generate murals on all 27 of the cabinets was born.

The brief calls for artworks reflecting the cultural, environmental, industrial and social history of the area, and the individual boxes are sponsored by local businesses. The cabinet I painted is sponsored by a company called The Suit Works, who have a very positive approach to tackling unemployment (a subject very dear to me) – check them out Suitworks website

The Suitworks are a social enterprise, and were able to sponsor the cabinet due to support from Jerry Ibberson, whose family were Sheffield Cutlers, at the Violin Works in the centre of town Brief history of Ibbersons.  In recognition of this, I have include a Violin in the painting, propped up in the bottom R/H corner.

Waterwheel

Waterwheel

Being a 3d work, I had and interesting time coming up with a cohesive design. One side panel references the River Don, the power source that enabled the growth of Sheffields industry.

BOTG Tram end

Sheffield Tram on Mowbray Street

The other shows a Sheffield Tram coming down Mowbray Street, appropriate given that the central panel shows the power station that generated electricity for the tramways network in the city.

So far three cabinets have been completed, and you can see them below. From left to right the works are by me, Simon Wigglesworth Baker, and James Croft. I also have a commission for a 4th, and we expect more to be completed over the next year. An exciting initative and one that I’m proud to be part of. I would like to thank KICA for the opportunity, and once again the Suitworks and Jerry for making it possible.

The first 3

My, Simon’s and James’s cabinets brightening up Ball Street.