The emerging artist's latest installation uses traces of Barrow's mining past to stand for the secrecy that surrounds its present-day nuclear industry
Barrow-in-Furness is a small British town with a big reputation. The country’s largest centre for iron mining in the country in the industrial revolution, it turned to the nuclear industry after the Second World War and is now known as “the town that holds the UK’s nuclear submarines”, says the artist Felicity Hammond.
“They build these submarines there,” she continues, “and somehow everyone in the town seems connected to the nuclear industries.”
A successful emerging artist, who graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2014, and went on to win the single image category in BJP‘s International Photography Award and a place in FOAM magazine’s Talents issue in 2016, she makes richly-coloured and installation-based work. Even so, her pieces engage with economic issues. Restore to Factory Settings (2014) looked at a post-industrial landscape in London, for example, and Public Protection, Private Collection (2016) at so-called luxury developments.
Commissioned to make new work in Barrow by Signal Film & Media, she created a huge photo-collage installed on a four-metre light box, titled In Defence of Industry. In it, she’s emphasised the importance of the nuclear industry in the town. “I wanted to communicate the physical presence of the huge sheds where the submarines are built,” she says. “They dominate the town, almost towering over it.”
The nuclear industry is key to the local economy and BAE Systems the major employer, but despite its importance, doubts remain. There have been protests about the storage of nuclear waste in the Cumbrian landscape, says Hammond, and there’s the question of what’s not said about Barrow’s nuclear work, for political or security reasons.
She’s used the last traces of Barrow’s industrial past to hint at these ellipses, using historical relics and traces to stand for what may be contemporary half-truths. “It’s a metaphor for what might be hidden politically…around the military there,” she explains. “I used the metaphor of the history of mining for the future.”
In Defence of Industry will be exhibited from 12-26 May at Cooke Studios in Barrow-in-Furness www.felicityhammond.com