Visitors are reminded they are entering a special area. Specially commissioned waymarkers are positioned at the main gateways to Ouseburn, whether its descending into the valley from the City Stadium Park, or via the burn footpath near the Toffee Factory. This ‘Gateway’ art takes the form of turquoise coloured bottles and monuments.
As well as the ‘gateway’ art there are plenty of murals by the Ouseburn School, now Newcastle Enterprise Centre, these murals are often reflected in the river when the tide is high and the light is right.
Other works of art are easier to miss, Newcastle City Council maintains a list, now out of date, of Art that once formed a walk around the Valley. Some of this Art is long gone or has been replaced, the valley is forever changing. A more up to date and comprehensive list exists on this web site.
Armstrong Bridge was designed by William Armstrong and built at his Elswick Works on the Tyne, it has a span of 168 metres (552 feet). The Bridge took two years to build and was opened in 1876 at a cost of £30,000. When it was finished Armstrong gave it to the people of Newcastle along with the Park, it was used by pedestrians, horses and later on cars.
The bridge affords magnificent views of Jesmond Dene which was another of the great mans lasting legacies. It is said that Lady Armstrong took pity on horses toiling up Benton Bank, pulling carts laden with coal or market produce and suggested a high level bridge to her husband. A bridge was built at the Elswick Works, opened in 1878 and later presented to the borough.
Motor traffic was stopped in 1963 and after pedestrianisation a market was established. A delightful arts and craft market, held here regularly on Sunday mornings, continues to this day.
Situated next to the West end of St. Thomas’s Church at Barras Bridge. This statue is a First World War Memorial to the fallen of the 6th (Territorial) Battalion of Northumberland Fusiliers. In WW2 plaques were added for the 43rd and 49th Battalions of the Royal Tank Regiment. There are also stained glass windows in church commemorating them. The life size bronze figure stands sheathing his sword over the severed head of the dragon while the pedestal below is decorated with an enamel on the same theme, perhaps most remarkable of all is the face, which is very striking.
Location: Barras Bridge, Newcastle. Materials: Bronze, Portland Stone and Granite. Sttus: Listed Grade II.
Paul Gascoigne, Jimmy Nail, Sting, Basil Hume, Mike Neville
John Hall, Pete Beardsley, Catherine Cookson, Tim Healey, Jackie Charlton
Alan Shearer, Brian Johnson, Brendan Foster, Rowan Atkinson
Famous Faces – Bob Olley 1996
Bob Olley’s mural depicting famous personalities from the north east region, was created while working as Artist in Residence at the Customs House Gallery, South Shields. ‘Famous Faces’ includes the portraits of fourteen of the area’s most charismatic figures looking out of the carriage windows of a Metro train. In order to convey the breadth of achievement spanning across the region, celebrities are depicted from a multitude of backgrounds, encompassing sport, entertainment, broadcasting, literature, music, acting and the church.
‘Byker Barcodes’ was commissoned in 2013 with support from Arts Council England, Newcastle City Council and Nexus.
The 11 metres wide ‘Byker Barcodes’ artwork Trails and Treasures captures everyday and overlooked features, patterns and detail from the streets of East Newcastle and weaves them into a colourful design inspired by local people.
The finished work by ‘rednile projects’ is also interactive, embedded with QR codes which can be scanned by smartphones to reveal stories and information about the area.
It marks the first of a series of six new commissions for Byker Metro which will appear over the next two years with the support of Arts Council England, Newcastle City Council and Nexus, which owns and manages Metro.
You are never far from a work of art in Newcastle and this continues in Jesmond. After alighting from the Metro, ascend the stairs and you’ll notice an intriguing sculpture behind some glass panels. This is by RAF Fulcher and entitled Garden Front, an was developed using the language of 18th century garden design. A panel on a nearby wall will give you more information about it. Passengers emerging from Jesmond Metro Station, could be forgiven for thinking that this is an old relic of a bygone age. In fact this sculpture, Garden Front, by Raf Fulcher was created to contrast with the modern architecture of the station.
The most ambitious artwork at Sunderland – and one of the most complex Nexus has commissioned – is Platform 5 by Jason Bruges Studio. The west wall of the station, previously plain blockwork, has been replaced by more than 10,000 glass blocks. Low energy led lights behind each block turn the wall into a giant screen, each glass block becomes a pixel providing a 140 metre long digital canvas for the artists’ imagination.
Jason Bruges Studio has transformed this into an animated visualisation of the long-forgotten platform the wall now conceals. Local volunteers were recruited to be filmed to create a language of digitised characters who appear as shadows of passengers waiting for trains, and gathering in random patterns and groups before a train arrives. As each train departs, with its passengers onboard, so the empty platform again begins to be populated by expectant passengers, moving along it in new patterns of behaviour, reflecting the constant ebb and flow of humanity through this busy station.
It is an ever changing cycle of people coming and going, an intriguing creation and a unique response to one of the city’s transport gateways.
Hilary Paynter’s ‘From the Rivers to the Sea’ is more than a fitting tribute to Bewick’s achievements and advice. Whilst Thomas Bewick worked within the technical constraints of his day Hilary Paynter was keen to explore how her images could be enlarged and given an architectural presence.
Reproduced as vitreous enamel panels her wood engravings provide a panoramic travelogue which link the station’s platforms across the concourse. At the end of his life Thomas Bewick wrote of engraving that, ‘I cannot help feeling a deep interest, and ardent desire, that the Art may long flourish and that those who follow it may feel happy in the pursuit…’.
‘Passing’, a triptych mosaic, expresses the passing of time through the image of a young family.
This is perhaps one of the most beautiful of all art works on the Metro, helped by its setting. With a little imagination you can see what once were ticket office booths behind each of the four arches. A cafe has recently moved in behind, Coffee Central. The outer panels depict them on a day trip to the beach while the central panel depicts a nocturnal seascape, devoid of human activity.
These two stained glass works at Monkseaton Metro are incorporated into each end of the original glazed canopy protecting passengers on the platform from the vagaries of the weather. ‘Beach’, executed in a bold and colourful style, was designed from a schools competition won by Rosalind Hurst. ‘Shipyards’ is more abstract in its treatment of the business of the river.