The colourful work of an influential artist is raising eyebrows. David Whetstone reviews a landmark exhibition.
THE artistic vision of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi was once best represented in the North East by his mighty bronze sculpture, Vulcan.
Owned by North East property developer Peter Millican, it occupied a prominent site outside Central Square North, the building on Forth Street, Newcastle, which was built by Peter’s company, Parabola Estates.
Vulcan, a 7m tall representation of the Roman god of fire, was installed in April 2000 when Mr Millican described its creator as “the greatest living UK sculptor”.
Paolozzi died in 2005 and in 2009 Vulcan was removed, supposedly temporarily to join other examples of the artist’s work on tour.
It was replaced by a tower of supermarket trolleys in double helix formation made by the artist Abigail Fallis, called DNA DL90.
Vulcan’s whereabouts are unclear, with Peter Millican said to be on business in South Africa.
Will it ever return to Tyneside? That’s a question we will try to answer in the coming days.
In the meantime, another side of Paolozzi is revealed in a fascinating exhibition which has just opened at the Queen’s Hall Arts Centre in Hexham.
General Dynamic F.U.N. is on tour from the Hayward Gallery in London and it consists of 50 prints – screenprints and photolithographs – made between 1965 and 1970.
If Vulcan gave every appearance of being a heavyweight artwork by a titled arts grandee, the Hexham exhibition shows the mischief and playfulness of a young Pop Art pioneer.
Paolozzi was born in Edinburgh in 1924, the son of Italian immigrants who ran a sweet and ice-cream shop in the port of Leith.
After school he would help his parents in the shop and became fascinated by sweet wrappers, cigarette cards and magazines.
Using tracing paper or scissors, he pasted fragments into scrapbooks, inadvertently stumbling on the artistic medium known as collage.
He ended up in the best place for him, Edinburgh College of Art, from which he graduated to the Slade School of Fine Art in London.
As a student in 1947 he held his first one-man show in the capital. He made £75 – enough to move to Paris where he met some of the leading artists of the day including Leger, Brancusi and Giacometti.
He was exposed to the Surrealist and Dada art movements, whose followers experimented with collage and used ready-made objects in sculpture.
The boy from the sweet shop never looked back. Returning to the UK in 1949, he fell in with like-minded young things – artists, architects and critics – who called themselves The Independent Group. Another of their number was Richard Hamilton who taught in the art department at what is now Newcastle University in the early 1960s.