Category Archives: Section 2

A touch of Romanticism

Ozymandias and furnace core

Needed to get this one off my chest. One of the feelings I get as I wander around these sites, even the ones which are built over, is “What was it all for?”

This is scarcely original – ruins have been used as a salutary reminder of out short time in the light for a good couple of hundred years, if not more, and the idea of combining this particular bit of romantic poetry with the remains of a blast furnace core is so obvious I need to work it through, if only to prove to myself that I’ve done it and rejected it.

The basic technique however is worth considering. The text colour is similar to an oil paint produced with ore from the Cumbrian iron ore mines, and the supersition onto the original image points , I think, to the absent referent, the iron and steel industry which is no longer there.

After worrying these ideas around in my head for a couple of months, and plenty of research into picturing absence I think I’m beginning to make proper progress.

Conrad Atkinson

Went to Tullie House in Carlisle at the weekend to see “Cumbrian Art: Picturing Places” which featured primarily landscape paintings, and a few photos, from the museums collection, with the emphasis on Cumbrian artists.

In reality I went because my wife had heard there was a large scale painting of the Workington iron and steelworks on display. It turned out to be this one by Conrad Atkinson, an artist I’d not come across before but is apparently quite influential.

What to say about the picture – well first off the online version does not do it justice. It’s too bright and light – the real version is very large and the colours are much heavier, so that the overall effect is quite sombre and overpowering. It’s quite an early example of Atkinson’s work – later works feature words and photos and various differing materials – whereas this is a straight painting. The grasses in the foreground hint at a theme which pops up in some of his later work…the relationship between man and nature in an area known for natural beauty, but in reality heavily industrial in parts.

My interest piqued, I’ve done some internet research and the Tate has another of his pieces which I find more than a little fascinating – For Wordsworth, For West Cumbria – a mixed media piece containing painting, photos, quotes from Wordsworth and iron ore and coal.

This raises a number of questions in my head about how I present my photos, and how I work them to explain why I’m so interested in ex-ironworks sites. Could I, for example, introduce antique postcards of the sites (yes…they exist), incorporate iron ore into the final pieces e.g. by using  Egremont Red pigment in some way or mix the work with quotes from the time about the longevity of the sites or the products.

At last I think some ideas are crystallising.


Anon. (n.d.). Pigment/. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 17 March 2016].

Atkinson, C. (1980). For Wordsworth; for west Cumbria. Tate. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 17 March 2016].

Atkinson, C. (1940). Workington Steelworks. ARTUK. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 17 March 2016].

Tullie House, (2016). Cumbrian art: Picturing places. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 17 March 2016].