Artist Holly Hendry has been commissioned by Birmingham City University to create a new public artwork to celebrate Birmingham as a place of innovation and to mark the latest phase in the £70m regeneration of the historic Belmont Works building that will be the new home of the University’s STEAMhouse project at Eastside Locks, designed by Aukett Swanke.
Made from steel, aluminium, plastic and Jesmonite, the 10-foot tall sculpture has been designed to reflect the key principles of STEAMhouse – exploration, collaboration, conversation, openness, and newness. The sculpture’s looped form and design details nod to the industrial vernacular of jacquard looms, analogue assembly lines and printing presses that have been features of Birmingham’s industrial past.
The surface design of the artwork features bodily shapes co-developed with pupils from Chandos Primary School in Highgate, Birmingham and Birmingham City University students through a series of ‘exquisite corpse’ drawing and collage workshops.
The sculpture will be produced through a variety of artistic and industrial techniques ranging from welding, laser cutting and painting. By transforming mild steel so it appears fluid and in tension, like a rubber belt, Hendry hopes to play with audiences’ expectations of the material properties of metal, presenting its malleability usually only glimpsed during the fabrication process.