Birmingham’s artsy bits…
Our walking tours of the city look at public artworks that are all around us. This page moves us to the east side of Birmingham where public art mixes with graffiti art and industrial architecture in the most exciting way.
Saturday mornings - a walk!
24 hour Walkway to Moor Street (Anuhadra Patel, 2003) Incorporating artistic elements in the city street scene can be so innovative. This walkway becomes a pleasure if we care to stop and take some notice in our busy lives. Anuhadra Patel (1961- ): Moved to Melbourne, Australia, where she continues to practice. See here…..
….looks east
Inside ‘Tempus Fugit’ Aston University Ray Lonsdale, 2004 Located outside Aston University library the weathering of the Corten steel like base and the stainless steel layered head is adding to the attractiveness of this unusual piece. The name invites us to look inside where we find the small child, which alludes to our childhood shaping our adult lives. As Ray said: “No man can fully escape the nine-year old boy he once was”. RayLonsdale (1965- ): A north east sculptor who started as a steel fabricator, and turned to artistic pieces in 2002. Ray’s website is here…
Peace Sculpture, Aston University William Pye, 1985 This was originally placed at the site of the BSA factory which was bombed in 1941. It was recited at the University in 1991 due to lack of maintenance and vandalism at the Acker’s Adventure site in Small Heath. The inverted V forms a structure for sixteen directed jets forming a trellis within the triangle. The water flows at different pressures and Pye suggested this was looking at “different cultures striving to meet in a state of peace and harmony”. As the water pressure drops the flow diminishes to a point of stillness “man’s mortality is evoked”. The Peace Sculpture was an early Pye exploration into using hydrostatic pressure to change the way the water flows. Outlets placed at regular descending positions from a common head see different curves, depending on the pressure at that height as demonstrated in the photo. The Peace Sculpture is the first of ten such hydrostostatic installations shown on William’s website (see here…) William Pye (1938-): See the artist’s website for a huge range of work here….
Tipping Triangles Aston University Angela Connor, 1994 A water feature with stainless steel ‘tippers’ which are fed from the top and one by one offload their contents. Connor suggested that the triangle alluded to the Aston University logo and the aim of the work is to “provide beauty and tranquillity”. Angela Connor, (1935- ): Website here….
Crown Courts Vincent Woropay, 1988 From hewn stone to the final bust, this shows the Chantrey sculpture of James watt as it develops and also in reduction. In his retirement Watt produced a machine to make enlarged or reduced copies. This piece is made from black Indian granite. Watt came to Birmingham to work with Matthew Boulton and lived close by in the Jewellery Quarter. Vincent Woropay (1951-2002): Vincent simply died too young. See more here…….
Old Square Mural Kenneth Budd, 1967 The history of the site of Old Square chronologically told from left to right with key elements including events and people associated with the Square. Old Square was finally lost to redevelopment with Joseph Chamberlain’s Corporation Street.
Robert Thomas, 1968 The Greek goddess Hebe was the daughter of Zeus and Hera and the wife of Hercules. She had the power to restore youth and vigour. The statue was originally installed in the middle of Holloway Circus and marked the building of the inner ring road. The bronze girl originally lay viewing her own reflection in an oval pool surrounded by a large water feature. Hebe has had several important events in her life. In 1981 she had to be repaired after some vandalism. Worse was to come when in July 2000 Hebe was stolen one night. She was recovered from a garage in Selly Oak in September 2001. For her new position as the Aston University end of Corporation Street she was surrounded with railings produced by Anu Patel. When originally reinstalled the original water features was also placed in position but unfortunately this has now been removed, and this rather loses the sense of her positioning. One of the city’s finest and most important 1960s pieces of public artwork and what a survivor she has been. Hebe deserves at least the occasional clear out of rubbish. The throw away cups, broken glass and worse does not help to maintain eternal youth! It would also be nice if the reflective bowl came back out of storage, and dare we ask for the original water jet as well!
Robert Thomas ( 1926-1999) was a very highly regarded Welsh sculptor with many pieces of public art in Cardiff and South Wales. He was one of the ‘Rhondda Group’. Find out more in this Guardian obituary…
Hebe Corporation Street
All the books I should have read Aston Uni Marko Mäetamm, 2019 A six foot high pile of books in Finnish granite with a few more on the side. Perhaps a little reminder for the science and engineering students at Aston to read some literature as well! The full text reads: “All the books I should have read, but I’ve been doing other things instead. Marko says that: “They are the books I should read now but I still find so many other things to do.” Marko Mäetamm (1965-): Marko’s work has been exhibited all over the world. See website here……
Aston Stones John Maine, 1975-7 Originally 5 works which were purchased individually and placed in the form of an old cross. The original five stones explored symmetry and were placed along along two axes which originally intersected the site and were known as the Old Cross and were in sight of each other. However with campus redevelopments over the years this association has been lost and indeed only one of the stones is easy to discover. John has contributed annually to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition since 1995 See later work by the artist here: www.johnmaine.co.uk
Wattilisk
Methodist Central Hall Allegories of Methodist Teaching, Gibbs & Canning, 1900-3 The Methodist Central Hall was a centre for temperance in the early twentieth Century with table tennis on offer to tempt you away from the Saturday night hostelries all around. More recently the building has been used for a variety of commercial organisations including as a night club but the badly needed redevelopment of this listed building still has not firm date or plans. The current owner has now boarded up the main entrance behind which are some art pieces depicting events in the life of John Wesley. Planning permission to renovate the building was granted in 2018 but since then problems have been encountered. It is good that teraccotta is able to withstand the forces of nature, however it is an embarrassment to Birmingham that that these major pieces are being allowed to deteriorate.
Queen Victoria Law Courts Aston Webb and Ingress Bell, 1886 Victorian ideals of law and order and considered one of the finest civic buildings of late Victorian Birmingham. London architects . First totally terracotta clad building – supplied by Edwards of Ruabon. Includes Gothic, Renaissance and Flemish elements. A number of leading artists of their day were involved in the detail.
Detail of the Old Square mural depicting the 1791 Priestley Riots.
Selfridges Façade, Temporary Art Infinity Pattern1, Osman Yousefzada 2021 Temporary cover for the building in the city's Bullring shopping centre. The iconic Selfridges store is being refurbished ahead of the Commonwealth Games, which comes to Birmingham in 2022. The 15,000 discs are being stored which is certianly wise as for the last few years they have been gradually dropping off so the ‘doing nothing’ was not an option. Osman is originally from Balsall Heath and now lives in London. Osman Yousefzada website: www.osmanstudio.com
New Book - November 2021 Invention & Design; Elkington of Birmingham If you enjoy the mix of industry and art that underpins so much of Birmingham’s growth and development you will love the new book: Invention & Design; Elkington of Birmingham. The book has been written and photographed by Jonathan Berg, who runs Positively Birmingham walking tours. It will be officially published in November 2021 and copies will be available as soon as the book is received from the printer, hopefully by mid-November