MITZI to UMIST

A walk from the Cosmos to a sculptural wall via the sun.

Apart from the establishment of the now defunct AIR index of artists, recently revamped by the ACGB, both of which were ill-tended to help foster and promote private and public commissions, no moves have yet been made towards Percentage for Art legislation or even towards the creation of informal schemes.

Art Quest UK

We are taking a stroll through work commissioned in the main by Schools, Colleges and Universities.

We have of course been here before visiting Mitzi Cunliffe and her work – Cosmos.

American born, living in Didsbury, Cunliffe developed a technique for mass-producing abstract designs in relief in concrete, as architectural decoration, which she described as sculpture by the yard.

This example of modular fibre glass panels named Cosmos, is set in the wall of the student halls of residence in Owens Park – a BDP designed tower block.

Modelled by hand, they were manufactured in a Lancashire plastics factory.

Her Trellis concrete reliefs can be seen adorning WH Smiths in Macclesfield.

And the extension to Parklands Hotel in Collyhurst Manchester

Also this Slough example is visible in the opening title sequence of the BBCs hit TV show The Office.

Over the road to the Manchester High School For Girls where we find Mitzi Cunliffe’s carving in Portland Stone, entitled Threshold – unveiled September 30th 1953

Panel One – Britain’s Past

Panel Two – Companionship

Panel Three – Growth

The work embodied a sense of renewal, following the school’s travails of the 1940s.

Also reinforcing the continuing need for educational establishments to own and display living works of art, a need exemplified by the Pictures for Schools movement.

Returning to Wilmslow road a digression to a Concrete Totem by William Mitchell

Formed in clay then cast in concrete, one of four produced for Manchester Corporation.

Next stop Whitworth Park – a cornucopia of contemporary sculpture.

Hippocratic Tree 2015 – Christine Borland

A reproduction of the man-made steel skeleton of supports that now sustains Hippocrates’ tree on the Island of Kos – the tree beneath which Hippocrates first taught medicine.

Phalanx 1977 – Michael Lyons

The Whitworth Park Obelisk  2011 – Cyprien Galliard

The obelisk is made from the crushed brick and concrete of demolished housing in nearby Moss Side and Hulme.

Tree 2015 – Anya Gallaccio

Gallaccio’s new sculptural commission reinstates a missing tree in stainless steel, appearing as a ghostly negative form.

Bending 2017 – Raqs Media Collective

Bending distorts the form of European imperial sculpture, raises questions about commemoration and colonialism. The quotations on the three plaques are taken from George Orwell’s essay – Shooting the Elephant.

Coronation Park refers to a park on the outskirts of New Delhi that hosted mass rallies organised by the British Raj, celebrating the coronation of British monarchs as rulers of India and where Indian subjects were expected to demonstrate deference to their colonial oppressors. Britain withdrew from India in 1947, yet monuments to British rulers remained. In the 1960s, these were removed from New Delhi and relocated to Coronation Park. Today, they stand in disrepair and decay. Once symbolising an oppressive history, their power has been allowed to deteriorate.

Big Issue Leanne Green

Terminal and Untitled 1964 – Bernard Schottlander

At the Royal Northern College of Music there was once a wall hanging in the main auditorium, removed during the recent refurbishment.

This is the work of Elda Abramson, assisted by many local hands and a year in the making 1977.

I have been unable to ascertain wether it will be reinstated.

Up the road now to the Stopford Building 1972 – topped with an Anthony Holloway trim, formed from repeated cast concrete modular panels.

His work in Manchester is in the main the result of his relationship with architect Harry Fairhurst.

Working as a consultant designer with the architects’ division of the London County Council. He learned how to deal with architects and builders, and became adept at getting as much out of the money available – never enough – for his projects. He remained linked with what became the Greater London Council’s architects department until its closure in 1968.

Over the road the Ellen Wilkinson BuildingBDP 1964 covered with William Mitchell concrete panels.

Hiding behind the building a not so secret secret garden with a mysterious concrete sculpture – no attribution available.

Next to the Schuster Building 1967 – Harry Fairhurst and the recently restored and reinstated The Alchemist’s Elements 1967 by Hans Tisdall.

Formerly sited in the alcoves at the since demolished Faraday Building.

For a number of years stored outside on the UMIST site The Mosaic Restoration Company are to be applauded for their diligence and skill.

Across the way it’s Hans Tisdall again – a work always known to me as the Four Seasons 1964.

Four circular mixed media panels intersected by the café wall – built into the Chemistry Building another Fairhurst work.

This work he undertook for Edinburgh Weavers echoes these forms.

Were you to visit on a weekday you could view the mosaic tucked away inside the Schuster Building.

A Sixties photographer called John D Green was chosen by the architect – however it’s a mystery why he was commissioned.

It would seem John D Green was a man of many talents – he was also a regular racing driver at Brands Hatch, and author of the legendary book Birds of Britain, recently the subject of an exhibition at Snap Galleries in London.

High atop the lecture theatre an abstract sculpture by Michael Piper.

Back to Oxford Road and possibly my favourite local work of public art Manchester Sun 1963 – Lynn Chadwick.

He received Carborundum Company’s Sculpture Major and Minor Awards to produce circular sculpture in fibreglass, Manchester Sun for the University of Manchester’s Williamson Building.

Also available in an edition of two 24″ diameter fibre glass maquettes.

Walking toward town and we encounter the Anamorphic Mirrors 1989 – Andrew Crompton, regionally sited outside MOSI Lowe Byron Street. They were intense to reflect the images of John Dalton, James Joule, Henry Rutherford and Bernard Lovell formed in paving slabs by concrete artists Richard and Jack Doyle.

This context is now lost.

Leaving Oxford Road and heading for the former UMIST site we pass under the Mancunian Way – with its 1968 Concrete Society Award.

Around the corner and the towering Faraday Building 1967 tower, towers over us – HS Fairhust & Son clad in Anthony Holloway cast concrete panels.

Complemented by his concrete banding on the adjacent building.

Inside the lobby of the Renold BuildingVictor Pasmore’s 1968 Metamorphosis.

Of note is Pasmore’s work at Peterlee where he worked alongside architects on the housing scheme also designed his renowned Apollo Pavillion.

Which finds an almost near relative in Antony Holloway’s 1968 Concrete Wall – the only listed element on the whole darned campus site.

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