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Joseph Hillier: the artist behind Spalding's sculptures

Fresh from the excitement of trying out the new Holbeach Discovery Trail a few weeks ago, Dougie and I decided we really should hunt out all the miniature sculptures which form part of the Market Art Project in Spalding, writes TRISH BURGESS.

Artist Joseph Hillier was commissioned by Transported and the Spalding and District Civic Society in 2016 to create the artwork, Portrait of a Town: Spalding, which resulted in 14 bronze sculptures of local people which are now dotted about the town centre.

Before embarking on the trail, I wanted to find out a little more about the artist and was delighted to find that, although born in Cornwall, he had studied at Newcastle University and is now based in the North East.

In Our Image by Joseph Hillier (17067338)
In Our Image by Joseph Hillier (17067338)

On a recent trip up to my home city, we took a short detour off the A1 in County Durham to see a Hillier creation which is on a completely different scale to the tiny Spalding works. In Our Image is a 16.7m galvanised steel construction that sits at the entrance to the Aycliffe Business Park.

Taking about a year to complete, the gigantic head and shoulders now peep out over the treetops, watching over the town of Newton Aycliffe. It was designed to pay homage to the blood, sweat and tears of workers and the industrial heritage of the region.

Figures scaling the sculpture are based on the some of the engineers who welded the piece together, to Hillier's exacting specifications, in partnership with local firm, Aycliffe Fabrications.

Keen to discover more of Hillier's art, I did some research to discover where his public works are located. I hadn't realised he was the artist who constructed the impressive heads forming the work, Generation, in the student forum at Newcastle University. He's also had work on display in the sculpture garden of Burghley House near Stamford and the Broomhill Sculpture Garden we visited a few years ago in Devon.

I'm tempted to do a complete Hillier UK trail from Gateshead to Hull, Sheffield to Chelmsford, hunting out his fantastic creations. It would currently end in Plymouth where this year his work, Messenger, was unveiled. Depicting a young, powerful woman crouching in preparation to run onstage, this huge installation can be found outside the Theatre Royal. Commissioned for the city’s 2020 celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing to America, it is, at 7m tall and 9m wide, the UK’s largest ever cast bronze sculpture.

But I'll start in Spalding and have a closer look at the much smaller bronzes that Joseph Hillier has created for our community.

In next week's column I'll take you around the town and show you where these little gems are hiding.

You can read Trish's blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk

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