Sheffield has undergone a great change since the industrial heartland of the past. Where once scissors, flatware and cast iron and steel were wrought, bars restaurants and unique art spaces take their place. Is art overtaking the place of industry and if so, how best do we celebrate and immortalise the heritage of our past?
Phlegm is an artist whose works adorn many streets within Sheffield. His monochromatic whimsical images seem to be dancing towards a subtextual narrative known only to the artist. Scenes of decay and ruin seem elevated.
Since his early self published comic works Phlegm has drawn inspiration from varying sources and influences while keeping true to his graphic naive style. His 2013 interpretation of a character from “The triumph of David” for the Dulwich outdoor gallery shows a playful reverence for the classics.
In Phlegm’s latest work Mausoleum of the Giants large sculptures are placed reverentially in a former cutlery works in the heart of Sheffield. Walking into the space and being met with a towering figure in a foetal position moved me almost to tears.
My father worked in the Steel industry, he used the waste product in order to make road surfacing. My grandfather on my mothers side worked for Steelo’s the arc furnace at Templeborough. Steel meant skilled work and a community of working class people supporting each other. My initial thought in this confined space, surrounded by these monoliths was of deep sadness.
Exploring the space, the intricacy and detail of the figures was astonishing. The uneven floors and long abandoned machinery lend a sense of place. Where previous works felt imprinted these giants feel totemic, a realisation of the artists desire to work with the decay and not to supplant it.
Phlegms work creates a fantastical in memoriam. Far from being a twee tableau of the people and their work I was left to experience the passing of a great and powerful force of nature. Earth fire air and water brought to dust and ash. In this the Giants do more than show death, but a new way to remember.