As we go about our daily business our surroundings become familiar and buildings, once admired, begin to fade into the background. Ultimately they become simply a backcloth for journeys to work, nights on the town and weekend shopping expeditions. Adding interest and texture to the streetscape, public artworks appear but, after a while, these too start to slip by unnoticed. I thought how true this was of so many of our local buildings and artworks as I headed for the river-hugging Royal Quays to re-visit some more of my favourite pieces of public outdoor art.
I was keen to renew my acquaintance with the multi-figured ‘Dudes’ together with the 71 foot high orange steel structure called ‘Tyne Anew’. Created by Permindar Kaur, the ‘Dudes’ consists of thirteen brightly coloured figures standing on a grass-covered mound close to the entrance to the International Ferry Terminal. With their shiny helmets and boots they appear to be marching towards the terminal building. But what are these figures? Are they warriors, retreating or attacking, or simply toys searching for new playmates from another country or continent? Are they friends or foes? In fact they represent what a port is about: moving, travelling, seeking out the new. They are also quite simply, a little bit of fun.
For my next port-of-call I headed downhill to see the mightily impressive steel structure, ‘Tyne Anew’ by American sculptor Mark di Suvero. This work stands immediately next to the river and is a monument to artistic engineering and balancing skill, with the three huge tripod style legs supporting a top piece that gently twists and dips in the wind. It took three years to construct in the artist’s New York studio before being dismantled and shipped to England, where the installation was carried out over a period of three days in July 1999. This eye-catching work is intended to be a constant reminder of the industrial foundations on which the North East was built and, in this respect, it certainly achieves its aim.
The Royal Quays development is dotted with a few more pieces of artwork and a wander around this peaceful landscaped area will reward the keen-eyed with a few small surprises. But next, I wanted to have another peep at the bronze ‘Market Woman’ by artist and sculptor Hans Schwartz, so off I went to Wallsend town centre where this interesting artwork is located.
Born in Vienna in 1922, Schwartz was orphaned as a teenager and eventually settled in England. He became a full time artist in 1964 and was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to paint the portraits of Nikolaus Pevsner, Joe Gormley and Tom Jackson. The ‘Market Woman’ was installed in 1966 and Schwartz wanted her to “appear as a tough hardworking peasant and not a graceful girl”. At the time of unveiling the work was greeted by a storm of criticism but these days the work is much better loved and deservedly so.
I had enjoyed my brief artistic journey and, as I made way I home, I was already making a mental list of other outdoor artworks that I wanted to re-visit.
by Geoff Holland © 2016
Geoff Holland is a regular contributor to a number of magazines and the author of four books of self-guided walks, ‘The Hills of Upper Coquetdale’, ‘The Cheviot Hills’, ‘Walks from Wooler’ and ‘Walks on the Wild Side: The Cheviot Hills’. All books can be purchased online from www.trailguides.co.uk. Geoff, who has lived in Monkseaton for over 40 years, also operates the award-winning website www.cheviotwalks.co.uk. His poems have appeared in a number of publications.