Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fighter Jet's Legacy - Saved by the Bell; A BELL Made from a Melted Down Fighter Plane Is to Go on Show in Gateshead. DAVID WHETSTONE Talked to Its Creator, Artist Fiona Banner

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fighter Jet's Legacy - Saved by the Bell; A BELL Made from a Melted Down Fighter Plane Is to Go on Show in Gateshead. DAVID WHETSTONE Talked to Its Creator, Artist Fiona Banner

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WHETSTONE

AN artist with a fascination for fighter aircraft has just put two of them on show at Tate Britain in London. Experts will recognise them as a Sea Harrier and a Jaguar.

But the Tornado fighter plane which provided the raw material for another commission, in Gateshead, will not be recognisable as the speeding low flier you see here.

For the former dart-like war plane has been dismantled and melted down in order to be reconstituted as a large bell which is to be unveiled on July 24 at Hillgate Quay, near the Gateshead end of the Swing Bridge.

The plane reborn as a bell is to be a highlight of the Cultural Olympiad Open Weekend, from July 23-25. This is a national celebration of sporting and arts events forming part of the countdown to the London Olympics in 2012.

Fiona Banner, the artist who devised the Tornado project, was in Gateshead recently to finalise arrangements and to reflect on her interest in the twin elements of the work.

First she talked about bells and recalled a conversation in the belfry with the vicar of her local church in Shoreditch, London, which boasts a splendid set of 12 bells.

"I wanted to see what a really vast bell looked like and felt like," said the artist.

"I said, 'Can you (Fiona smiled at the memory) dong one of these bells?' "He laughed and said, 'Why do you think bell towers are so tall? If one of these was rung it would probably render you partially unconscious.' "They are all about making massive sounds, church bells. When you sit in a church while they are ringing above you, you don't really hear them. But they can be heard outside for miles around.

"I was thinking of what was the most simple form of communication and this idea of a bell as an instrument that doesn't require a knowledge of music in order to make it work ... and also the shape of it. As an instrument it does look a bit like an ear."

A clear memory came back to her of her grandfather's flat in Birkenhead, near Liverpool, and "this fabulous bell in one of the rooms.

"I'd climb up on his chair and ring the bell and it just felt so powerful but so startling.

"It startled me every time I did it and the object transformed itself into this terrific sound but it was something I had done.

"It was an oddly transformative experience and I wonder now if it was my first sculptural engagement - with this object which seemed to exist outside of itself.

"Later I found out that the bell came from a warship so this extraordinary sculptural thing had this association with war."

Fiona, who came to the fore in the 1990s along with artists such as Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Steve McQueen, is also known for her text-based artworks but this is not the departure from the norm that you might expect. …

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