County Durham artwork inspires famous artist

TO locals it is a concrete monstrosity and a magnet for teenage drinkers which should have been blown up years ago.

Michele allen, peterlee pavillion

TO locals it is a concrete monstrosity and a magnet for teenage drinkers which should have been blown up years ago. But now the much-maligned Apollo Pavilion in Peterlee, County Durham, is the inspiration for two new exhibitions, one by a renowned artist and the other by a local photographer.

Kabir Hussain, whose previous bronze creations have been inspired by such diverse landscapes as Africa, India and Peru, has focused on the pavilion for his latest exhibition, Birds Eye View.

Bird’s Eye View is described by Durham County Council, which is hosting the exhibition at its DLI Museum and Art Gallery in Aykley Heads, as “a series of 24 bronze sculptures looking at themes of modernist architecture.”

The publicity blurb for the exhibition continues: “Inspired by Victor Pasmore’s Apollo Pavilion at Peterlee, he explores composition and geometry”.

The original Pavilion in the middle of a man-made lake in the centre Sunny Blunts housing estate in Peterlee has attracted strong and polarised emotions since it was built in the 1960s.

Local councillor Joan Maslin, who sits on both Easington district and Durham county councils, and who once invited the Army to blow up the pavilion, said: “It is still a monstrosity and a magnet for graffiti artists, teenage drinkers and vandals.

“People come up to me and jokingly offer to pull it down for me during the night. It is just an ugly slab of concrete.” Although diplomatically declining to comment on the art exhibition Coun Maslin said: “I was invited to a preview and I declined.”

The concrete structure is currently being restored as part of a £400,000 project funded by District of Easington Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The pavilion, named after the space mission, was designed by Victor Pasmore, who was master of painting at King’s College, now Newcastle University, and whose work is in Tate Britain, London’s Royal Academy of Arts and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

It was meant to symbolise “post-war simplicity and harmony”.

Meanwhile local photographer Michelle Allen is displaying While Reason Sleeps, described as “a new series of photographs looking at the visual relationship between Pasmore’s Pavilion and the surrounding housing.”

Durham County Council say: “The photographs deliberately reference abstract art as a way of relating to Pasmore’s involvement in the housing design of Peterlee.”

Mr Pasmore, who died in 1998, also worked on the development of Peterlee New Town in the early 1960s. While his flat-roofed designs were considered to be pioneering at the time, and were based on similar houses on the sun-kissed Mediterranean islands of Malta and Gozo, residents in the harsher east Durham climate soon complained of leaking roofs and damp, cold homes. The flat roofs on the homes were later replaced with traditional pitched ones.

Born in Pakistan, Mr Hussain came to Britain when he was seven and went on to study at the Chelsea School of Art.

He has exhibited in Britain and abroad and is a master bronze caster.

The DLI Museum and Art Gallery will host Kabir Hussain’s Bird’s Eye View, Michele Allen’s While Reason Sleeps, as well as another exhibition, Jo Ray’s My Spectacles, from this Saturday until Sunday, March 22.


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