‘Origin’, is a 6-metre high raindrop on a 5-metre pole, adding up to an 11-metre high piece of public art overlooking the city of Belfast, on Squire’s Hill in Cavehill Country Park, placed on 16 September 2016, to coincide with Culture Night 2016.
Sadly, ‘Origin’ is a really poor example of a ‘piece of public art’. The conceptual description of the work by makers Solas Creative is a crass example of legacy sculpture as art logo attempting to represent the combined symbolic interests of the ‘life force’ of a river, and the industries and communities of Belfast, and retain identity as a sculpture. The local press, on a quiet afternoon at the Belfast Evening Telegraph, are having fun at the sculpture’s expense, likening it to a gas company logo, and renaming it the Giant Tulip, Drop at the Top, the Spill on the Hill, Napoleon’s Tear, the Farce at the Farset and Drippy McDripface. Whatever droll moniker sticks to the teardrop structure, as a sculpture it is a dull administrative art statement concerned with inclusivity, devised by a command and control art executive that requires a quantifiable art output. It may tick the box for the art apparatchiks as an inspiring placemaking beacon allowing the patronised public access to art, but it is a conceptually and fundamentally bad ‘piece of public art’.
Tracey McVerry from Solas Creative explains the sculptural concept: “The importance of the Farset River, and the life force which it gives to the people of Belfast is portrayed in the form of a granite ‘ripple’ at the sculpture’s base. Everything radiates out from the centre, just as a drop hits the water surface. The ripples represent the linen industry, foundries, the hard working communities that built and shaped Belfast.
“The six metre tall raindrop, made from polished stainless steel arcs, appears to hover six metres above the ground on a brushed stainless steel plinth and represents the elegant flow of water. Then, nestled inside the raindrop, is a fin of Narima glass, giving an ethereal quality and animating the external structure with elements of spectral colour, movement, texture, reflection and refraction which continuously shifts with the changing light and creates an arc of energy reflected back to the viewer”.
The sculpture cost £100,000 as part of a £900,000 commissioning programme by Creative Belfast, a partnership between Belfast City Council and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Conceived by Solas Creative team of artists Patricia Crossey, Tracey McVerry, blacksmith, Gerard Loughran, and Niall Loughran with input from local communities, ‘Origin’ formed a key part of the Farset Project. This cross-community partnership between Cultúrlann and the Spectrum Centre celebrated the river that gave rise to the city of Belfast.