Stumble Across: The Sculptures of Ross Wilson
Part of the joy of public art is that it sits all around us every day. Sometimes like a picture hung to disguise the bareness of a wall, we stop noticing it. We walk past things that we barely register. There are many pieces of art around Belfast, placed in many of the thoroughfares, which we are unaware of. The pieces, like the ship masts that decorate Royal Avenue, or the functional penny barriers in the Cathedral Quarter seem to be on the periphery of public awareness.
Belfast artist Ross Wilson is the sculptor of many of the key pieces of public art throughout the city of Belfast. The pieces of realistic bronze sculpture can be found all over the city, his figures evoke the industrial, economical and literary history of Belfast. They create their own glimpses of the past in each of the works. They reflect skill and success, from humanitarian works and personal sacrifice to literary greatness.
One of the most well known pieces is The Searcher which resides at Holywood Arches outside the library. It seems only apt as the sculpture was unveiled in 1998 to commemorate the centenary of C.S Lewis’ birth. The sculpture depicts the Chronicles of Narnia author as Narnia’s narrator Digory Kirke stepping inside the wardrobe. The piece is unusual and wonderful in its oddity - large bronze wardrobes are not commonly found. At the library keen visitors will see a large lion peering at the sculpture out of the windows, decorated by the children who use the facilities there. It seems only fitting that Aslan gets his place too.
The Ulster Brewer
At the Waterfront Hall you’ll find The Ulster Brewer, a cooper, commissioned by Bass to celebrate their 100 years of brewing in Belfast. He sits on a barrel staring out to the Lagan illustrating the importance of the people of Belfast in the ongoing brewing success.
Those visiting the City Hospital will also most likely be familiar with the Ella Pirrie sculpture which stands outside the hospital. Pirrie was the first Head Nurse of The Belfast Infirmary in 1883 and was trained under Florence Nightingale. She stands in the grounds clutching a glowing letter from Florence Nightingale to her, two years after she took up the post.
‘You must be the nucleus of hope for a goodly future of trained nursing staff at Belfast Infirmary which needs you and of perhaps a future training school for nurses.’
Image copyright of Ross
The theme of healing is at the fore again in Wilson’s West Belfast sculpture of St Luke which resides in the Celebration of Life Garden at St Lukes Twinbrook, West Belfast. A garden designed to celebrate the lives of those young people in the area who have lost their lives in tragic circumstances. Wilson worked with local school children and bereaved families to come up with an idea for what St Luke the Healer would look like today. Decked in a heart emblazoned coat and stethoscope St Luke is a life-size doctor from the present designed with the community in mind.
St Luke image copyright of Emma Toner
It is well worth seeking out the sculptures, not only to physically feel the crafting of the bronze but also to marvel at the skill Wilson displays. They are beautiful pieces, illustrating a rich diverse history.
Header image copyright of Emma Toner
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Dawn is a drama lecturer and Chief Executive of a Shakespeare charity in Belfast. She’s worked in the arts for longer than she cares to remember, her focus is on youth drama and opportunities for young people in the creative arts. As editor of Inanity and the Girl she spends her free time writing about vintage living on the retro inspired blog where she discusses vintage styling, baking and tips on period design. She also investigates the social history of recipe books. She consequently can be found most weekends delving into the vintage stores of Belfast in search of the perfect atomic leg and, like The White Queen has often believed in, six impossible things before breakfast.