Of these, one is an original work by Stephen Chambers, on permanent display in the Gallery, the other is taken from work by Julian Bell and used decoratively in all three cinema screens.
Stephen Chambers’ The Big Country
Created by artist Stephen Chambers RA in 2012, it is now on display in the Gallery and an important permanent feature of the Depot.
The substantial artwork consists of a series of screenprints with images of figures and landscapes interconnecting across the 78 prints, forming an epic artwork; part map, part narrative. Text gives the names of ports from around the world, places that emphasise a sense of travel, suitably enough for a place called the Depot, where post was once stored before distribution via the adjacent railway.
Figures recline, converse, travel on horseback, and even fall from horseback, amid an environment of trees and buildings, the wilderness meeting the influence of “civilisation”, people travelling, working, cultivating, building, taking. Chambers calls it “a map of migration” – of Europeans exploring, and exploiting, the Wild West. Indeed, its title comes from a 1958 epic Western directed by William Wyler, our cinematic connection.
Imagery of dancing figures found in the three auditoriums is a legacy of a mural that once existed here. Harvey’s Brewery bought the postoffice depot in 1997 and provided a studio for Artist Julian Bell, the company’s artist-in-residence. For over ten years Julian occupied a small back room, which is now Screen 3 and the adjacent plant room.
In 2012, he created the mural for his sixtieth birthday party, painting images of dancing figures in acrylic and red emulsion. The dancers live on in the form of prints utilised decoratively in the auditoria wall panels, echoing one of the venue’s former incarnations.