This commission for the Jubilee 2 Centre swimming pool glazing was installed January 2012 and comprises of a digital collage work that spans over 50m of glazing reaching heights of 4m.
This work, titled 'Return of the Raven', is a variation based on a series I call 'Flight Of the Raven' started in 1998 which a visual interpretation of a jazz piece of music of the same title by Don Grusin . The visual interpretation has changes of energy from hot and frenetic to expansive and cool, with 'piano' elements that float and fly off into the distance. I felt this was appropriate for the dynamics of the activity of swimming and also of health and wellbeing. The design also complemented the modernist aesthetic elements of the Jubilee 2 architecture. Uncannily, I discovered that the Raven, now a protected species, is returning to the central areas of Britain after 50 years.
The project was an amazing journey for me and the communication between the client, artist, fabricator, architect and town planning one of mutual respect, support and commitment.
When I saw the advert for this commission I was ecstatic as I had always dreamt of creating this large-scale work. Before entering the competition I visited Newcastle-under-Lyme town centre and was struck by the views, in between buildings, to the distant landscape. This rhythm of building and vista seemed like breathing in and out and a metaphor for swimming. I was also fascinated by the elegant, contemporary architecture of the new building.
Looking through my repertoire of works I came across ‘Flight of the Raven’ and felt it matched all these aspects but could be also be modified to make it a unique response to the building and scale and function.
A crucial element of the work was that it complemented the architecture of the building and 'spoke the same aesthetic language' as this stunning and elegant building. There were obvious points of departure where the artwork had to stand alone as 'artwork' and not 'design', where it had to lead me to a place without 'contrivance', to stretch beyond the point of control to a point of transcendence.
In creating the final work, technical issues raised by the Planning Department- such as limiting use of bright colours- and the architect's concerns about minimising the use of yellows and greens because of its effects on perceived skin colour, were taken into consideration. These technical and aesthetic points of view have helped shape a unique variation of this series.
The final design was composed to build up in a crescendo from the domestic scale streetscape on the East Elevation and round to the taller North Elevation which leads towards the town centre. I was aware the design had to work both from the outside-in during the day and inside-out during the night time, visible on the major traffic route into the town centre.
The artwork process took over four months and involved detail meetings with the client, Planning Department, Architect and installation team. In addition, the Planning department and Architects wanted to see some transparency and translucency and intermittent views in to the pool. The colours had to take into account street impact as well as colour reflections off the water on to skin. The design had to work from the inside and the outside, in daytime and night. Each panel was meticulously dimensioned and the whole composition harmonised with the building in order to create a balanced design at an architectural scale requiring working with several technologies, models and creative processes.
Within the design you will find calmness balanced with high energy, like a musical composition. I wanted to push the current technology for this medium to achieve a sense of depth, colour and rhythm, a cathedral like ambience with light and colour sparkling through in the day and a beacon by night.
An important ingredient that ensured the success of this commission was the confidence and support from the Client, Department of Planning and Architect and the installation team all of whom I thank immensely. For me, this commission was truly a dream come true and has been a wonderful experience
I hope it enriches the experience of the users of the pool and the wonderful Jubilee 2 Centre building and contributes to the streetscape of Newcastle-under-Lyme.