Jayne Freer
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Welding underway

June 22, 2018

Plymouth’s giant bronze sculpture is beginning to take shape with the casting and welding of both legs almost complete.

New images show two sections of the sculpture’s right leg being held in an upright position ready to be welded together.

Although not yet patinated to give its final colour and finish, these pictures give a hint as to the true scale of what will be a unique piece of public art for the city.

Standing seven-metres (23ft) tall, nine-metres (30ft) wide and weighing in at more than eight tonnes, the sculpture will be a third of the height of Smeaton’s Tower, wider than a tennis court and heavier than an African bull elephant.

In designing her, Cornish-born artist Joseph Hillier had a vision to create a piece of public art that depicts the dynamism and power of the female form.

The bronze figure will take up residence outside the Theatre Royal Plymouth this winter and aims to put Plymouth firmly on the cultural map.

Chris Butler is managing director of Castle Fine Arts Foundry Ltd in Wales where the sculpture is being cast and fabricated.

He said: “We have cast around 150 individual panels in bronze in a process called lost wax casting.
“We are currently working on the sculpture’s right leg, which is being held upright with an elastic lifting strap while the two sections are fabricated together.

“We will then work on the metal seams to ensure it is all blended together so in the end it looks as though it has been made in one piece.

“We always say about our work that if you have done a good job you shouldn’t be able to see where it is joined together.”

The fabrication progress was scheduled for summer so that parts can be done outside, as she will soon become too big to fit inside the foundry workshop in one piece.

Chris added: “I am really pleased with her. It is the biggest piece of work we have done by far and I think she is going to be up there as one of the biggest bronze sculptures in the UK.”

Artist Joseph, who recently visited the Welsh foundry to see for himself how work was progressing, said: “The process is going well and we are still on track for installation this winter.

“The left lower leg has been put together but is yet to be patinated and finished. Two sections of her right leg are currently being prepared for fabrication. A stainless steel ‘skeleton’ will also need to be constructed inside the sculpture to ensure she is very robust.

“The scale of it is really quite surprising. Three people can actually crawl inside her lower left leg quite happily.

“It is fantastic to see her coming together at last, especially when you have spent so long with the designs on the table.”

Planning permission to install the towering figure was granted by Plymouth City Council in February 2017.

The theatre hopes that, once in position, the sculpture will have a transformational impact on the city as a whole, will strengthen its cultural offering and become and eye-catching landmark to rival other cities around the UK.

Adrian Vinken OBE, Chief Executive of the Theatre Royal Plymouth, said: “Creating a modern piece of contemporary work for the city will make a statement to the wider world about the kind of place that Plymouth now is. The city is in the process of transforming itself in all sorts of ways and its cultural and creative sector is burgeoning.

“The Angel of The North made a big statement about Gateshead and about the aspirations of that community and, in doing so, became a totem for that part of the world.

“In demonstrating its support for this new, controversial piece of contemporary art, Plymouth is showing the world a new, forward looking and dynamic civic personality. It’s clearly a place with a vibrant, creative and cultural lifestyle where people will want to come to enjoy living, working and learning. A fabulous modern city with a natural environmental edge.”

The sculpture is inspired by a pose performed by one of the actors rehearsing Frantic Assembly’s explosive adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.

Welding is underway to piece together 150 different bronze sections of Plymouth's new sculpture