Shit Statues: Campus Edition

Peter Bath takes another look at Newcastle's Shit Statues, this time on our very own university campus.

Peter Bath
29th September 2021
Credit: @gerardpatrick

Campus can be a pretty bleak place when you’re trudging to a 9 A.M. lecture, and from piles of rust to giant heads, the uni has made some *interesting* attempts to spruce things up. The Courier has its say on the best and worst…

Generation

Credit: Newcastle University on Instagram

The three colossal heads which sit at the heart of the main campus are pretty cool, actually. Created by Newcastle alumnus Joseph Hollier, each represents a different age of industry, with an angular bronze sculpture, then a realistic steel head, followed by a stainless steel web-like one. A lot of the abstract stuff can just blend in with the other junk on campus, but these are pretty hard to miss. There is something creepy about the way the giant eyes stare out at you while you’re off to a seminar, though.

The Clasp

NCL Dental School on Twitter: "Dental Sciences on tour of the campus this  morning, taking in The Clasp #AntonyGormley new work down by the NUSU. Love  it! #MyNCLPics… https://t.co/A8RcV2TFPt"

Credit: NCL Dental School via Twitter

It’s pretty impressive that Newcastle has a piece by Angel of the North sculptor Antony Gormley on campus, and it’s given pride of place in front of the Students’ Union. But this heap of rusty metal doesn’t exactly liven up the place. It’s got all the rust of the Angel of the North and none of the angel. Like a cast iron game of Tetris got left out in the rain. Sorry, Tony.

Spiral Nebula

Credit: Maud Webster

Sculptor Geoffrey Clarke built this spiky grey thing to go along with the Herschel Building when it was put up in 1962. To be fair, it was probably very edgy in the 60s. A letter to the Courier at the time described it as a “repulsive object”, and expressed regret that it isn’t “combustible”. Today though, the sculpture has lost its edge but none of its repulsiveness. The story goes that the piece originally had a shiny aluminium coat, but it was upstaging the new Herschel building and so the architect had it painted grey, which might explain why it’s like that.

Three Mosaic Murals

Another piece of abstract art from around the time the uni was expanding and breaking off from Durham, Dorothy Annan’s murals on the wall above the Courtyard restaurant in the Old Library Building are actually decent. They depict figures which are supposed to symbolise space travel, architecture and mining, for some reason. Unlike Geoffrey Clarke’s effort at that post-war futurist look, these are neither an eyesore nor outdated. Naturally, then, they’re tucked away, too high up to get a proper look at, and they blend into the brickwork, to ensure they don’t brighten anyone’s day on campus.

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