On 25th July the statue of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey was decapitated, the head falling 40 metres to the ground. This event took place in 1941, courtesy of a random lightning strike, and was the starting point for the Artwork “Headcubes” at the foot of Grey’s Monument in Newcastle City centre.
I was interested in re-staging this story with a hi-tech response to a historic setting. It was achieved by digitally scanning a cast of the head in 3D and using this to control a 5 headed CNC machine, creating a negative void of the head in solid blocks of clear acrylic. This was then side lit with LEDs and set within the plinth of the Monument itself
Re-evaluating this early project, I wonder whether my approach would be the same if I was requested to develop such a proposal again. Much has changed, and it is currently in store, whilst the area around Grey’s Monument undergoes redevelopment. In light of the current debates about public statuary I am curious as to what role, if any, this piece might have going forward? The Work is something of an anomaly in my output in that it is the only figurative piece that I have produced in 25 years as an Artist working in the Public Realm.
Earl Grey was a former Prime Minister (1830-1834), generally seen as a social reformer, his tenure seeing the introduction of the Reform Act in 1832, and the Abolition of Slavery Act 1833. The Artwork was well received by the public, but slated in the academic press criticised for its “antiquarian” and "pseudo historical" approach by Paul Usherwood in his essay Public Art and Pseudo History http://www.ub.edu/escult/epolis/WaterIII.pdf. Reflecting on this I wonder whether this is why I never claimed the title public artist, just an artist exploring the buildings and spaces that are used by people on a daily basis, and the associated narratives.