06.09.2010

Icelandic Sculpture Takes Pride of Place at the Entrance to New Greenham Park

'Changes' - the winning design of Greenham Common Trust's international sculpture competition - has taken pride of place at the entrance to New Greenham Park.

After buying Greenham Common and creating a business park on the former military and nuclear airbase, the Trust commissioned the Royal British Society of Sculptors to hold an international competition in 1998 to create three pieces of public artwork.

Icelandic artist Gudrun Nielsen's design was chosen from over 150 international entries to create the site specific piece of artwork at the entrance to the park.

The first piece of artwork, commissioned as part of the same competition, was Michael Kenney's 'Broken Symmetry', which was unveiled at the entrance to the Enterprise Centre at New Greenham Park in December 1999 by Beatles drummer Ringo Star.

Now after 12 years of overcoming design, planning and site issues 'Changes' is finally in place.

The piece symbolises the successful transition of Greenham Common, which celebrated its 10th anniversary of reopening this year. The military buildings on the former airbase are now a business park which, thanks to the Trust, has generated over £13m in grant aid to the local community.

The 'Changes' sculpture comprises nine individually folded cor-ten steel pieces representing the creation and dismantling of a fighter plane. Each piece is set on a concrete plinth, which includes recycled concrete and reinforcement taken from the longest runway in Europe after it was dug up to restore the common.

The nine part 2x24 metre-long weathered steel sculpture is set on the grassed area at the main entrance to the business park off the A339 and is easily visible from the surrounding area.

Gudrun, who has had sculptures exhibited in the Design Museum in London and the Millennium Dome as well as a site-specific water sculpture commissioned by University College London, said she was relieved and elated that 'Changes' was finally finished.

"It has been an exciting journey for me and I am grateful for the support of Stuart Tagg and Paul Craggs from Greenham Common Trust. I would also like to thank my husband who has always been at my side and Barry Goillau and his team from Benson-Sedgwick Engineering in Dagenham, who has done a fantastic job fabricating my work," she said.

"I like to do site-specific work and this is probably the ideal place to do this with the history of the common and the airbase. When I do site-specific sculptures I usually relate it to the surrounding architecture and sometimes landscape. But in this case it was the military history which formed the inspiration for the piece. In my original proposal I also wanted to use recycled material from the old airfield in the plinths and for me it makes all the difference."

Gudrun, who lives in Kópavogur, a suburb of Reykjavík, with her husband Vilmundur Gudnason, added: "Both the form and name 'Changes' reflects the history of Greenham Common Airbase, like a simple origami paper fold. It expresses the folding and unfolding of the past. At one end of the nine-part steel sculpture, the form is like unfolded paper, that then folds further step by step on the concrete plinths into a fighter plane and unfolds again - an echo of the history of the former military base."

Gudrun, who also has her work included in public and private art collections in England, Denmark and Iceland, chose cor-ten steel because of its rich texture and colour. "It will not need to be treated in the future because it takes care of itself. It also has a rustic colour with a hint of purple and with time the purple colour will get stronger."

The sculpture is designed to stand strong in its own landscape and its geometrical forms compliment the curved soft form of the security gatehouse to the north of the sculpture.

Greenham Common Trust chief executive Stuart Tagg said: "'Changes' serves as a reminder to the public of the huge restoration and transformation of a former military and nuclear airbase back to common land and the creation of a business park which not only boosts the local economy but benefits the local community. It is a very simple but poignant piece of work."

Director of Benson-Sedgwick Engineering Ltd Barry Goillau, who has been involved in the project since the beginning, said he was delighted to see the work finally erected. "'Changes' is one of the first jobs I started working on 12 years ago so it has been a personal journey for me too," said Barry.

"We work with artists all of the time and we have worked with Gudrun on a number of projects so it is very familiar process. It is symbolic of the ending of the first phase of the Trust. The design is based on folded sheets of paper, a bit like origami. The interesting concept is whether the sculpture depicts the creation of a plane or the dismantling of a plane? It is important in public art to have an immediate and obvious meaning but also to have layers to it. Gudrun has achieved this incredibly well with 'Changes'."

Barry said he was very pleased with the finished sculpture. "It was a very interesting job to work on. We have created some new techniques in constructing the piece which are not immediately obvious. Cor-ten steel is a practical material for sculpture. It does not corrode because the oxide on the top protects the metal underneath. Each plate weathers differently so you create different colours and textures. 'Changes' will last a lifetime at least," he added.

The Trust will be having a formal ceremony soon to celebrate the work, along with Johannes von Stumm's sculpture, 'The Welcome Figure', which greets visitors and staff at The Slater Centre on the business park.

For more information contact:

Julian May on 01635 817444 or email: 

julian@greenham-common-trust.co.uk.





Inspired by Iceland