Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Public Art ... and Cathedral Spires

Public art is becoming a big thing in Belfast. October 2007 update: there's more public art on the way in Cornmarket (Author Square).

There’s so much of it about.

We could start with the John Kindness’ Big Fish in Donegal Quay: a 10m long, ceramic tile-covered salmon that landed in 1999.

It has its own flickr group and there’s a browsable 3D version online too!

Just downstream a little is the Ring of Thanksgiving (sometimes known locally as “the doll with the ball”) that stands at the city centre side of Queen’s Bridge, welcoming visitors into Belfast. Andy Scott’s 15m high statue sits at one end of Thanksgiving Square, which in a somewhat stereotypical Irish way isn’t square.

Inspired by Myrtle Smyth’s visit to the Thanksgiving World Assembly in Dallas, Mo Mowlam (then Secretary of State) announced Belfast’s Thanksgiving Square saying:

“Northern Ireland has known much pain and suffering. Now we are at the beginning of a new era of peace and prosperity. The creation of this place of thanksgiving is symbolic of a better tomorrow for us all.”

It’s a place where people “can spend time to contemplate and thank whoever for whatever—embracing the spiritual idea of thanksgiving.” And it’s a place with a photogenic yet overly tall basketball hoop.

Moving on down the river bank, there are Deborah Brown’s Sheep on the Road in front of the Waterfront.

No longer able to graze at Arts Council NI's HQ, they moved to the free range Lagan Side Waterfront patio.

Now the Broadway roundabout at the top of the M1 used to be the site of an ugly electricity pylon surrounded by overgrown trees and bushes.

But this piece of NIE art has been pulled down, and as I went past the Westlink roadworks recently, they looked to be working in the foundations and putting in the first support for Trillian, Ed Carpenter’s 45m tall wild flower (representing a post-Troubles city) which won a Belfast City Council-led commissioning competition. Ed’s website comments:

“Trillian rises over Broadway Roundabout, marking the southern entrance to Belfast, offering a symbol of transformation. Its gesture is bold and delicate, engineered and organic, familiar and extraordinary. The delicacy of nature and the strength of human resolve are suggested in graceful lines and robust steel. Trillian reaches upward toward the light.

Perched and leaning, it suggests life in the balance. This sense of precariousness is only symbolic, however, as myriad armored cables insure great structural integrity and redundancy. At night Trillian forms a luminous beacon in the sky, visible for miles. Rainy skies are penetrated by beams of light extending up into the mists, further heightening the presence of the sculpture.”

This short post is no longer short. But it was inspired by the news that Stan’s St Anne’s Cathedral is to finally get it’s spire. An elegant grey stone spire with gothic carving and gargoyles, stretching up into the clouds and towards heaven ...

Ahem, no. A 100m high stainless steel needle that will illuminated at night, and will have to be quickly pencilled in as a new aviation hazard for flight charts of Belfast!

William Crawley’s a fan, you can read his opinion over at Will and Testament. (Incidentally, he calls the Ring of Thanksgiving “Nuala with the Hula”.)

I think I’ll reserve judgement until I see it. The last pieces of the spire are en route from Switzerland, and arrived yesterday, and it should be erected in place by Monday 23rd. In the meantime, the cathedral’s Spireblog is worth a read.


Gohir said...

I like to call her Nuala with her Hula

Anonymous said...

I like public art in principle, but why do they all have to have a (usually quite dubious) peace-and-reconciliation factor? Perhaps that's the only way you can get money from the government to do them these days.

Anonymous said...

My problem with the 'thing with the ring' is that it looks like it's not much more than the fairy on top of the tree of the Laganside corporation. If it was publicly funded I'd be very surprised. It's just a big shiny ornament really...

The Big Fish is how public art in Belfast should be done. It's a simple idea done really well, it's got humour, it's iconic and at least John Kindness is a local lad!

Anonymous said...

I was around st annes a few days ago takin photosand noticed the construction work at the back of it, now i know what it was for.

Blogs rule.

Anonymous said...

The sign of Babel-Fast St Annes

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear that the name I invented for the large sculpture of the lady holding a metal ring beside the Lagan has spread. I named her Nula with the Hula and proceeded to tell a tour guide friend of mine this and he's been spreading the word ever since.

Duncan Astbury said...

I had been photographing Nula with the Hula and was wondering what she should actually be called so thanks for the information.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should update this post again to reflect the Broadway balls that are in the process of being erected now.

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

Oh, there are lots of posts on RISE, and a few photos to go up soon too.