Conference papers

Why is there a mountain in my metro station?






Farley, R. (2014) ‘Why is there a mountain in my metro station? Investigating Keith Grant’s mosaic triptych Noctural Landscape, Night and Day, commissioned by Nexus’ ‘Art on Transport’, Moving Mountains: Studies in Place, Society and Cultural Representation, University of Edinburgh, 18-20 June 2014.


British landscape artist Keith Grant (b. 1930) has long been inspired by mountain landscapes. Influenced early on by painters such as Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland, Grant has travelled all over the world in search of rugged natural landscapes, from Iceland, Greenland and Norway, down to Cameroon, Venezuela and the Antarctic. Working as a painter, illustrator and mosaicist, Grant’s work is represented in public collections in the UK, Iceland and Australia.

Keith Grant’s three architectural-scale and rather supernatural mountain mosaics Noctural Landscape, Night and Day (1981-83) overlook the underground platforms and main circulation walkway at Gateshead Metro Station. They were among the very first artworks commissioned by Nexus (Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive) for its ‘Art on Transport’ programme. Built up over the last thirty years this collection now includes more than forty artworks installed in stations across the Tyne and Wear Metro system. Although now a substantial body of work, to date no in-depth research has been undertaken to explore the art historical significance of the collection or of individual artworks within it, or of Metro passengers’ responses to their everyday ‘audiencing’ of these artworks.

This paper goes some way to fill this gap, taking an object biography approach, borrowed from the museum sector but rarely used in discussions of public art, to investigate the story of Keith Grant’s Gateshead Metro mountain mosaics, from their original commissioning, installation and reception to their continuing lives as part of the backdrop of the daily Metro traveller experience. In doing so the paper explores how, and to what effect, Keith Grant’s magical mountain images have been incorporated into the architectural, visual, material and perceptual grain of everyday city space.

Click here for full conference details.



Connecting with a Collection









Farley, R. (2014) ‘Connecting with a Collection: Public Art Photo-sharing and Interpretive Co-construction in Newcastle-Gateshead’, Let Us Talk About Public Art, but Where Are the Publics? Geographies of Public Art Co-Production, RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014, Royal Geographic Society, 26-29 August 2014.


Antony Gormley’s ‘The Angel of the North’ (1998) may be the UK’s most famous public sculpture, but Newcastle-Gateshead is also home to more than 200 other permanent public artworks. Borrowing from work in the gallery, museum and heritage sector my current research study asks how interpretation theory and practice relates to the situated context of a contemporary (post 1960) public art collection. In doing so it sees ‘interpretation’ as a practice of co-construction, as mediated between audiences, public art objects, and their curators.

Accessing and understanding on-going audience responses to public artworks, especially those works that have become familiar within the everyday backdrop of the cityscape, has long been an issue for curators and researchers working in the public art sector. Social media is now a crucial element of much museum and gallery visitor engagement and research activity and has recently been suggested as a potentially valuable new tool for investigating this illusive issue of audience reception of public art (Katherine Gressel, ‘Smart Public Art: Interactive Technology and Public Art Evaluation’, Createquity, 2013).

While institution-generated social media projects are, to date, and in the UK, far less common in relation to public art collections (Gressel’s article indicates that this is a more widespread practice in the USA), this does not mean that public artworks are not represented, more spontaneously, on social media. My paper therefore builds on Gressel’s suggestion, focusing on online photo-sharing platforms (such as Flickr, Instagram, or Geograph, for example) to ask whether this type of knowledge exchange can generate new understandings of interpretive co-construction around public artworks in Newcastle-Gateshead.

Click here for details of all the papers presented at this panel session.

PhD Titl








Farley, R (2015) ‘Public art in Newcastle-Gateshead – investigating the interpretive frame’, ICCHS Postgraduate Research Conference 2015, Newcastle University, 16 June 2015.


Antony Gormley’s ‘The Angel of the North’ (1998) may be the UK’s most famous public sculpture, but Newcastle-Gateshead is also home to more than 200 other permanent public artworks. Borrowing from theory and practice in the museum and gallery sector my PhD study, ‘Looking beyond The Angel’, considers how concepts of ‘collection’ and ‘interpretation’ might be applied to the situated context of public art. Using the post 1960 public art landscape of Newcastle-Gateshead as my main research site this qualitative research study employs a variety of data sources and methods, including interviews with curators and public art managers, audience walking interviews, artwork site visits, observation, and online and document based analysis. In this paper I focus on an element of my current data analysis work, presenting findings from an investigation of a selection of public art interpretive texts which are currently in circulation or on display in the city. In doing so I draw attention to the institutional interpretative frames and discourses through which Newcastle-Gateshead’s public art objects are currently presented. I conclude the discussion by considering whether, and to what degree, these texts reflect and perform concepts of ‘collection’.

Click here for a overview of all the papers presented at the 2015 ICCHS PGR Conference.


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