Tales from Terracottapolis

Paul Eastwood, Antony Gormley, Lesley James, Lydia Meehan, Renee So and Liam Stokes-Massey.

Wrexham’s considerable contribution to the story of brick, tile and terracotta manufacture forms the foundation for this exhibition.

Welcome to Terracottapolis…

From mid-19th Century up to as late as 2008, Wrexham was known world-wide for its manufacture and international distribution of bricks, tiles and terracotta products. Nicknamed ‘Terracottapolis’, Wrexham produced distinctively red bricks and decorative tiles that have been used extensively in some of the grandest buildings across the British Isles.

The exhibition utilises artefacts from Wrexham Museum’s collection. These items will be accompanied and complemented by contemporary works of art from local practitioners.

The Brick Man comes to Wrexham

A highlight from the exhibition is The Brick Man by Antony Gormley, creator of the Angel of the North sculpture in Gateshead.

The Brick Man is a 6ft model for a proposed 120ft tall sculpture that was selected from a competition for an inner-city site at the Holbeck Triangle near Leeds City Station in the late 1980s. The full-scale sculpture was never realised after it ran into objections from city planners. The model and archive for the project in the collection of Leeds Museums and Galleries are now all that remains.

Accompanying the model is archive material from the planning stages of the sculpture. This includes letters and press cuttings that offer a fascinating insight into the public reaction and conversations that took place around the original proposals.

The loan of The Brick Man from Leeds Museums & Galleries is supported by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund. Created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund, the Weston Loan Programme is the first ever UK-wide funding scheme to enable smaller and local authority museums to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections.

Renee So

Renee So is a Hong Kong born artist, currently based in London.

Renee’s visual language is inspired by a range of references from archaeology and anthropology to military portraits. Her ceramic works often blur our perception of time – a juxtaposed temporality existing in the space between futurism and antiquity.

The artist’s recent tile relief works are informed by certain tile designs that our found on the London Underground network – many of these tiles were produced in Wrexham by Dennis Ruabon.

Lesley James

Lesley James is a Corwen-based artist with a long-term connection to Wrexham. Following a career in photography, she now uses more nascent materials, such as paper and graphite, to create large physical pieces that tread a fine line between drawing and sculpture.

She was the Winner of the Judge’s Prize at Wrexham Open 2018, and has also had work shown in London, Bristol, Liverpool and Caernarvon.

Paul Eastwood

Paul Eastwood is a Wrexham-based artist who treats art as a form of material storytelling. He creates imagined histories and futures to investigate how spaces, artefacts, and memory communicate identities.

Eastwood works in many media: video and performance, print and drawing, textile, clay. In this exhibition, he shows his collection of pottery shards as well as a choice of his own ceramic production over the last seven years.

The shards, gathered by Eastwood from local riverbeds during the Covid lockdowns, present the area’s industrial history alongside a speculative narrative: how did these objects get there?

Who used them, and for what? What was their original appearance before they were broken and softened by the water? In turn, the ceramics created by Eastwood bestow a fragile permanence upon fleeting moments and detritus. A clay mesh laced with rings preserves only the outline of shapes; an overflowing ashtray hints at long conversations. In both groups of exhibits, Eastwood invites us to imagine what is missing, how things may have been and what they might become.

Lydia Meehan

Lydia Meehan was commissioned for the 2020 edition of Tŷ Pawb’s annual billboard commission, Wal Pawb (Everybody’s Wall).

Her focus is on Wrexham’s heritage relating to craft, manufacture and trade. Lydia engaged with asylum seekers who have been re-housed in Wrexham, her hope was that the act of sharing knowledge of this heritage can create a more welcoming town and community.

Liam Stokes-Massey

Liam Stokes-Massey is a Wrexham-based artist who utilises pencil, watercolour, acrylics and digital media to create detail-rich artwork. While he specialises in commissioned pencil portrait pieces, in recent years he taken an interest in Wrexham town centre’s deep history and architecture. In particular, he enjoys finding and sometimes depicting small architectural details that are seldom noticed.

For this exhibition, Liam was asked to create a series of illustrations depicting some interesting architectural details around town. Among these pieces were a selection of redbrick tiles from an old Dennis of Ruabon catalogue, The Old Three Tuns’ decorative relief (now the Railway Sports and Social Club) and the beautifully crafted sign of The Talbot, among others. Some of these designs were also used to create wrapping paper to be given to and used by Tŷ Pawb’s traders.

Plan your visit

  • Tales from Terracottapolis will be on show from 19th March – 4th June.
  • Gallery opening times: 10am-4pm, Monday-Saturday (closed Good Friday & Easter Monday).

Tales From Terracottapolis is a partnership project between Tŷ Pawb and Wrexham Museum and Archives.

The exhibition is supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Wrexham County Borough Council, Leeds Museums and Galleries, Henry Moore Institute’s Archive of Sculptors Papers, the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund.

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