18/ CHERUB/SKULL

18/ CHERUB/SKULL
18/ CHERUB/SKULL

Tron Theatre, Chisholm St. and Parnie Street, 1997/8, Kenny Hunter

This two-part work by sculptor Kenny Hunter was commissioned by Visual Arts Projects (VAP) as part of the refurbishment of the celebrated Tron Theatre by the architects RMJM. Further commissions were carried out in the interior of the Tron by artists Richard Wright, Tracy McKenna, Andy Miller and Daphne Wright.

The Tron is a complex arrangement of buildings, comprising a Georgian church, a 16th century steeple, an ornate 19th century screen wall and the new extensions of the recent refurbishment. Hunter’s two related sculptures bracket or bookend the building. On the corner of the building facing on to Trongate, the Cherub steps confidently forward from an already existing ornate niche in the screen wall, as if about to fly or jump into the bustle below. Cherubs were a traditional part of the decorative scheme of both churches and theatres, and have become, as critic John Calcutt has pointed out, synonomous with a kind of sentimental kitsch which can be seen as a reference to the sometimes tawdry commerce that surround it. Like other public works by Hunter it manages a delicate balance – both literally and figuratively. In its realism it references traditional sculpture, but its post-modern, almost plastic smoothness and non-classical features are recognisably contemporary.

The second part of the work can be seen at the back of the theatre on Parnie Street, installed in a new extension of the building. In a specially constructed square niche sits a colossal human skull of a dull gold colour. Like the cherub it is an image associated with theatre, specifically Hamlet, but more generally with the questioning of human existence as a memento mori, or a reminder of human mortality. Hunter tells of how, as he was about to present the concept of this skull to those in charge of the theatre development, word came through of a skeleton having been excavated on site. Like the Tontine Lane Canoe sign (no. 15, this work also reflects the history that hides beneath the city.

Conceptually, the two sculptures refer to the span between childhood and death, to spirit and mortality, suggesting that all human endeavour is reflected and addressed inside these walls.

They were modelled by Hunter in his Maryhill studio and cast in bronze at Powderhall Bronze, Edinburgh, then powdercoated with metallic gold.

Kenny Hunter (b. 1962)

Born in Edinburgh, Hunter studied Fine Art and Sculpture at the Glasgow School of Art during the mid 80s. He has exhibited extensively in the UK and abroad and is represented in many collections. His public work for Glasgow includes 'Citizen Firefighter' (2001) outside Glasgow's Central Station and ‘The Calf’ (1999) Graham Square, Dennistoun. Kenny Hunter continues to live and work in Glasgow.

Sources: Kenny Hunter, John Calcutt, ‘Public Sculpture of Glasgow’, Ray McKenzie, Liverpool University Press 2002