Richard Deacon's Once Upon a Time... relates to the architecture of the Tyne's bridges. It is built onto the surviving abutment wall of the demolished Redheugh Bridge.
The title, Once Upon a Time..., reflects the status of the abutment as a fragment of the past, and is also the traditional introduction to stories more notable for invention than truth.
The appearance of the 'fabricated' sculpture on the 'real' base of the abutment hints at how industrial history can be fictionalised.
Made from painted mild steel, the sculpture's flat palette shape supports a row of boldly projecting fins. It leans away from the abutment, detaching itself from the past and creating a 'credibility gap’, which expresses doubt about the truth of stories.
Richard Deacon won the prestigious Turner Prize in 1987 and is a leading figure in new wave British sculpture. His public works draw attention to issues raised by their particular context, and are provocative rather than pleasing. This one is no exception. Challenging and elusive, since its installation in 1990, it continues to invite speculation rather than slipping into comfortable familiarity.
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