Blaenavon Gateway Sculpture

Blaenavon Gateway Sculpture



Blaenavon and its wider industrial landscape was rewarded in December 2000 when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) inscribed the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape as a World Heritage Site under the 1972 World Heritage Convention for the protection of the World’s cultural and nature heritage. In its recommendation the UK Government outlined the significance of the area.

“The Blaenavon Industrial Landscape presents a large number of individual monuments of outstanding value within the context of a rich and continuous relict landscape, powerfully evocative of the Industrial Revolution. It is one of the prime areas in the world where the full social, economic and technological process of industrialisation through iron and coal production can be studied and understood.”

In January 2008 Celfwaith was appointed by Torfaen Borough Council to manage a public art design competition which would specifically seek craftspeople to develop proposals for public art in Blaenavon and for the Iron Trails. Eight craftspeople were selected to develop site-specific proposals which they presented to a large group of Blaenavon residents.

This exercise was intended to generate new ideas and approaches to public art by involving artists with great design and making skills but who perhaps had not had the opportunity to work at a larger scale or in the public realm before. It was also intended as preparatory design work for future years of Heads of the Valleys funding and to avoid the end of year scramble to spend allocated funding.

The Commission

Later in the year, Celfwaith was again appointed to help implement two public art projects in Blaenavon as part of the £1.7 million Blaenavon Town Centre Regeneration Scheme (2006-2009) which was funded by the Welsh Assembly Governments Physical Regeneration Fund and a Town Improvement Grant from the Department of Economy & Transportation.

Teucer Wilson and Matthew Tomalin were two of the eight craftspeople originally selected to develop public art proposals for various sites in and around Blaenavon. Their ideas had been well received and there was a desire for them to collaborate on a single commission, bringing Wilson's lettering expertise and Tomalin's metalwork craft together.

They designed a sculpture made of glass and corten steel, the overall shape of which represents a cross-section of a typical blast furnace. The two layers of glass include text designed by Wilson which is the town's motto. The glass also brings colour to the sculpture and has a red and orange glow, emphasising the reference to the blast furnace.