RISING from the earth and gazing towards the clouds, an iconic and unique piece of artwork is slowly making its massive presence felt in the Northumberland landscape.
Fashioned from 1.5 million tonnes of soil and clay, the huge Northumberlandia earth sculpture will eventually be the world’s biggest-ever sculpted human form.
Almost 18 months after work started on the £2.5m creation, her features are gradually becoming more recognisable to passers-by.
Train passengers, motorists and walkers are now able to discern the sculpture’s emerging face and bodily form as the bulldozers and excavators continue their task of bringing her to life.
Northumberlandia – which has been dubbed the Goddess of the North – is a landform depicting a naked, reclining female. The sculpture is the brainchild of renowned American landscape architect and artist Charles Jencks, and is being created from materials excavated as part of the Shotton opencast coal mine at Shotton near Cramlington.
It is said to celebrate the earth’s natural power and the human ability to reshape landscape into a dramatic form.
The work, which started in April last year, is being carried out by site operator the Banks Group. Nestling among man-made lakes, Northumberlandia will be the centrepiece of a 14.5 hectare public park. The completed sculpture will be 400 metres long and taller than an eight-storey building at her highest point.
She will be up to 34 metres high, seven and a half times the size of the St James’s Park football pitch and it will take about 20 minutes to walk the 1,162 metre-long path around her.
Visitors will be able to walk up, down and along the sculpture’s head, breasts and legs on a network of zig-zagging footpaths. The park is due to open to the public next year but Northumberlandia is already catching the eye of a growing number of people as her form and features become more apparent to the naked eye.
One observer said: “You can definitely see it as a physical face now and the whole sculpture is becoming more and more discernible.”
Last October Mr Jencks visited the Shotton site to inspect progress on the scheme, and said he was extremely pleased with how it was taking shape.
He says he hopes Northumberlandia will become an icon for the region, and form part of a ‘destination art’ route for tourists along the eastern UK.
Mr Jencks said the opencast excavations presented a great opportunity to create a massive earth sculpture, framed by the Cheviot Hills in the background and the “big sky” of the area.
Seen from the air as a giant female form lying on the ground with arms outstretched, Northumberlandia is predicted to attract up to 200,000 visitors a year and help stimulate the local economy.
The Banks Group, which is digging millions of tonnes of coal from the Shotton site, has worked in partnership with landowner, the Blagdon Estate, on the project. Blagdon chief executive, Bob Downer, said: “We look forward to welcoming the public to the park in 2013 to enjoy a truly remarkable piece of art.”