There’s a humongous Bowhead whale in Princes Quay

Published: Tuesday 8th August 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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Elephant in the Room is a brand new art installation in Princes Quay Shopping Centre.

The piece is part of the Hull UK City of Culture 2017 Look Up programme. We spoke to artist Claire Morgan to find out more.

“The installation hangs in the main atrium of the shopping centre,” Claire tells us. “It is made from thousands of torn fragments of paper that are suspended on threads, which takes the form of a 14-metre-long Northern Right Whale.”

The Northern Right Whale is the historical name for the Bowhead Whale, which has already been immortalised early on this year at the Hull Maritime Museum’s lifelike audio-visual installation. The piece could be viewed at the Queen Victoria Square venue until March 2017.

The inspiration behind Claire’s art was her desire to make something that connected with the history of the location:

“The shopping centre sits on stilts in the water of the original Princes Dock. There is a lot of romanticism about fishing and maritime history, but actually an important part of the history of Hull was the whaling industry. This is obviously a less palatable aspect of that heritage,” she tells us.

Nevertheless, whilst Claire is pleased that this feature of our past is behind us, she recognises that whales are still threatened by mankind.

“Our culture has moved on and commercial whaling ceased a long time ago, but new problems emerge,” the artist informs us. “ In the last couple of years, whales have been washing up on beaches in Britain and Europe with stomachs totally full of plastic waste, a direct result of our current culture of wasteful consumption.”

“I think it’s important to acknowledge these things. It seems like it’s only by doing so that our culture might hopefully continue to develop in ways that are less destructive.”

The title, Elephant in the Room, relates to this.

“The installation is a little bit camouflaged in the space, but once you’ve looked at it, you realise it’s the other type of huge grey mammal.”

The massive model has been constructed over the past week, but Claire originally made a scale model of the whale in her studio. She then took measurements from the drawing and painstakingly transferred it onto layers of tracing paper.

“The plan was then used to scale up the shape. The form of the whale was made in several hundred individual sections of threads holding the pieces of paper,” Claire explains.

“These were all connected together for the first time on-site. The threads were then hoisted up to the ceiling of the atrium. It was a very slow and laborious process.”

After 14 years of specialising in suspended installations, Claire has a lot of experience. However, the Elephant in the Room has been one of her biggest, and the only one to take the shape of a creature. Usually, her work is more geometric in style and includes taxidermy animals.

“It’s great to have the chance to work on such a very large scale. Obviously there are limited spaces where such an installation would fit,” she chuckles.

In October, Claire will display a solo show of her new suspended sculptures, paintings and drawings. This takes place in Galerie Karsten Greve in Paris.

You can see Claire’s Elephant in the Room at Princes Quay Shopping Centre until 15 October. For more information about the artist and her upcoming shows, please visit Claire Morgan’s website.

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Published: Tuesday 8th August 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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