Public art serves many purposes, from helping beautify and breathe new life into communal spaces, and giving members of the public new ways to engage with their communities and each other, to providing comment on an area’s past, present and future.
Checking all the boxes, Corner Brook artist Robert Hengeveld’s bright yellow steel sculpture titled “Altogether Knotty” also ties together some of the history, themes and stories of the historic Quidi Vidi Village in a unique and creative new way. Unveiled as one of five pieces of the Quidi Vidi Art Search, the sculpture consists of three knots – a simple design at first glance but upon closer inspection, reveals much about the importance of knot making within community’s craft and fishing industries. (Click here to learn more about Robert and the sculpture).
Fittingly, the sculpture is placed just outside the Quidi Vidi Village Artisan Studios (the community partner for the piece), an incubator that supports emerging local artisans and craftspeople by providing them with professional development opportunities, as well as a space to create and sell their work.
“The Quidi Vidi Village Artisan Studios were very excited when we learned about Business & Arts NL’s proposal for the Quidi Vidi Art Search. It presented an opportunity to bring art outside of the Artisan Studios and into the community where everyone could enjoy it. Over the last couple of years, we installed several temporary textile art pieces in the area that have been well received by the community. We knew this collection of permanent pieces would add to the creative culture in the neighborhood and attract visitors to the area with an appreciation for art,” says Melissa Tarrant, Manager and Business Mentor with the Anna Templeton Centre for Craft, Art & Design (ATC) and the ATC’s Quidi Vidi Village Artisan Studios.
Hengeveld’s bright and welcoming piece, she adds, also helps bring people to the Artisan Studios’ doors.
“As a craft-based business incubator, it is always a pleasure to hear tourists and locals talking about the artworks as they come into the building. The project has generated a great starting point for conversations about art and culture. Robert imagined the twirling yellow forms as the yarn, netting or ropes that contribute to the livelihood of so many who work off the Quidi Vidi wharf. This connects not only to the traditional activities of Quidi Vidi as a fishing village but also to the elaborate textiles and fine craft found within the Artisan Studios.”
We caught up with Robert to untangle some of the theme’s behind the piece and dive deeper into how it all came together.
Business & Arts NL: Can you tell us about how the idea for your piece “Altogether Knotty” came to you, and a bit more about what it represents?
Robert Hengeveld: There are a lot of different considerations that influenced the concept for Altogether Knotty. Many of these are conscious considerations related to the specific site, its current use and its historical use, but there is also an imaginative and intuitive side to the creative process that is more difficult to pin point. I was interested in creating something that responded to the rich history of knot making within the community of Quidi Vidi, particularly in relation to both fishing and craft. The work speaks to the rich knowledge of knot making that has been passed on from generation to generation. The knot can be a simple thing but it has had – and continues to have – such an important impact on the livelihoods of many within the local community.
Business & Arts NL: Can you walk us through and give us a bit of insight into the creative process?
RH: With these ideas in mind, different versions of the project were drawn out taking into consideration the specific site, durability and public safety. Other considerations of course include how it can be fabricated, transported and installed. There were many draft versions which included different knots, scales and colours. In the end three bright yellow knots were chosen. A scale model was then created which helped to determine the curves and lengths required. Pipe was bent by a local fabricator, cut into smaller sections and welded together into two intertwined lengths. After a whole lot of grinding, sanding and preparation the twisted steel pipe was temporarily welded onto a wheeled cart and sent off for painting.
Business & Arts NL: Considering what it signifies, the placement for your piece is spot on. What do you hope it’ll contribute to the experience of those who visit Quidi Vidi Artisan Studios?
RH: Art in the public realm can have such a meaningful impact and it’s exciting to see the different artworks recently installed in Quidi Vidi. Everyone who encounters Altogether Knotty will respond to it differently. To some, it’s a bright addition to the surrounding. Others might recognize the various knots incorporated into the artwork. It appears that kids are seeing some new play equipment. This is the wonderful thing about artwork. Everyone brings something different to it and that can also change. It may be experienced differently one day to the next.
Business & Arts NL: What was the most rewarding part of this project for you?
RH: Simply finishing this work was the initial reward as the project proved to be rather complex. That said, it has also been fantastic and rewarding to see how others have been responding to the project now that it is installed.
Stay tuned to Spotlight on Partnerships as we highlight other Quidi Vidi Art Search artists and community partners in the months to come. (Check out our previous posts on artists Ian Gillies and Marc Fiset, and Julie Lewis.)