Thwaites Brewery Tower. Not just bricks and mortar? Part two: a concept

**Please note, this is a direct follow on from Thwaites Brewery Tower: Not just bricks and mortar?  Part one: Research**

”Thwaites tower, not just bricks and mortar, but a beacon of working class culture, consciousness and reflection”.  The thought on my mind when I realised through my many visits to the demolition site that I had the answer to my project at my fingertips…Bricks!  The large mound of rubble and bricks had been steadily growing over the months as the tower disappeared from the towns skyline.  I already had part one of a narrative established, but this project was too important to myself and the many memories of the people of Blackburn to not explore every opportunity.

During a recent visit to the MOMA in New York, I had been drawn to the works of Rudy Burckhardt ‘An Afternoon In Astoria’ (1940). Curated as if the pages were torn directly from a scrap book or photo album, and put in the studio space frameless to add to the raw quality of the images taken.  Burckhardt’s album had a feeling of a leisurely ramble, with the attractions being empty lots and forlorn gas stations of the Queens borough, beyond the lights and bustle of downtown Manhattan.  The pictures emulate the feeling of a cinematographic montage from the unassuming geometry of structures and objects found upon the artists journey.  Burckhardt took inspiration from the poet Edwin Denby who described clear afternoons in Astoria, and photographed this small part of New York with a clear view, without distortions.


At this point I hadn’t really got a concrete Idea of what I might do with the bricks, but I knew that I needed to have them!  Bricks from the original demolished tower, each one holding years of history deserved to be used in an installation.  I contacted the contractor company P.P O’Connor via email explaining why I wanted some bricks and if this would be a possibility.

The contracts manager was extremely helpful and arranged for me to deal with the direct site manager, and after a series of telephone conversations I had 36 heavy, well weathered bricks taking over my dining room!

I researched brick installation art and found an interesting piece by Australian artist Tom Nicholson held at the TarraWarra Museum of art (Australia) from 2013.  Nicholson had collected 3,520 bricks in total from citizens living in and around Healesville, Victoria.  The installation was nod to Melbourne’s heritage and a controversial, historical treaty signed in 1835 between John Batman, a grazier, explorer and entrepreneur, and the local Aboriginal people to acquire their land.  Batman is the founder of Melbourne and the acquisition of the land has remained an event of great historical and controversial debate amongst the people of Victoria.  Nicholson’s installation represents Melbourne’s first chimney built for batman by William Buckley, and comprises the exact number of bricks required to construct the obelisk – like free standing structure.  This is an evolving piece of public art with the bricks symbolising the complicated meanings of this history.  One of the things that really struck me about the piece was the versatility for it to manifest itself into many different forms for this narrative.  Nicholson describes it as ”a piece that can be speculated upon in the gallery space, and be collectively constructed within a public domain” (Sourced from The Sydney Morning Herald 2019).

I loved the whole concept of Nicolson’s ideas and the history and heritage behind it and it was something I was definitely taking inspiration from for my own Blackburn heritage and personal led instillation.  I procrastinated a lot during the early days and had many ideas including building the bricks up with cement and adding my own poetry in the form of graffiti, or even painting a mural of the tower onto the bricks as they stood.

I decided however, that I wanted to keep the bricks as organic as possible, untouched and untampered with.  Their history belonged to them and the people that had passed through those walls and worked within the brewery since the late 1960’s.   I also liked the idea of continuing to explore projection as I had experimented with a projection of abstract poetry onto my own skin during year 2 and was intrigued by the works of Yayoi Kusama, Jenny Holzer and Jennifer Steinkamp.  Each artist approaching projection in a totally different way, showing how the adage of a projected image or text as an installation can be such a versatile and malleable approach to art.

Examples of my own experimentation with projected abstract poetry in year 2.


**Please see part 3 for the continuation of this project: Thwaites Brewery Tower.  Not just bricks and mortar?  Part Three: experimenting with instillation.

Published by paulajaneart

A 43 year old mature student currently studying fine art at degree level. Registered nurse for 18 years and continue to work for the NHS whilst studying. Mother to a teenager which is a job in itself!!

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