With the recent interest shown towards public art in Sheffield, the hijau gallery presents an exhibition of 'virtual' public art in the city of Sheffield by the artist and architect Cedric Green.
These montages were first exhibited at the Mappin Art Gallery in 1977 as part of a group exhibition. Originally these pictures were displayed on panels as large black and white montaged photographs of parts of Sheffield and its surroundings. The main interest in these images lies in their content and meaningfulness as a group recording what was and wasn't public art in Sheffield at that time and exploring the relationship between public art and architecture.
Many of the objects used are household objects like a tap and a cheese-grater, blown-up to fantastic sizes, some are more exotic items like musical instruments and some are photographs of sculptures and maquettes by Cedric Green himself; all used to create a Surreal but almost feasible city. This project allowed the artist to undertake a megalamaniac 'virtual' city-wide monumental project of epic proportions worthy of a Stalinist dictator.
This exhibition can be described as virtual in three senses:
There is an intentionally playfull and irreverent feel which runs through these images sometimes parodying the public art and architecture which existed in Sheffield at that time. Some of the images are pure fantasy, but others play with the edges of perception and memory, inferring genuin-ness where none exists and challenging the viewer to ask of the views presented: Does that exist now, did it exist then and did it ever exist at all?
So, as well as being a record of what wasn't there at that time in the 1970s, it is also a record of what really did exist. By looking at these images twenty years on, new meanings are created. We can now revisit a familiar and yet surreal city through these montages which, when first exhibited, had a contemporary significance and vision. However, we can also take a nostalgic view of the nature of Sheffield's public spaces in the 1970s and compare how these spaces could have developed in relation to how these spaces actually have changed in reality. Interestingly, some of the locations presented (like Fargate) now do have sculptures in place although the form of the sculptures differs from that presented in these montages.
This is a kind of a visual lie, an architectural and sculptural vision of a city which never existed in the form in which it is presented and yet for those of us who know Sheffield, it has a resonance with the past. The choice of black and white photography was a pragmatic one at the time in order to facilitate the realistic juxtaposition of objects and environments. However, in this new context, it helps to articulate the sense of nostalgia and change which now characterises these montages and augments this new layer of meaning which has been added with the passage of time.
I hope you enjoy this exhibition and find it interesting to revisit Sheffield's virtual past.