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15 July 2008 PR 08/111

Loughborough artist’s sculpture unveiled in Beijing’s Olympic Park

A sculpture by Loughborough artist John Atkin has been unveiled in Beijing as part of the celebrations for the forthcoming Olympic Games.

John’s sculpture is one of 25 artworks that were commissioned by the Beijing Municipal Government to form a major public exhibition in Olympic Park – the heart of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

John was the only British artist to be selected from a worldwide field of 2,600 applicants to create a sculpture that reflects the 2008 Olympic theme of ‘One World, One Dream’. His artwork has been inspired by the Wilfred Owen poem ‘Strange Meeting’, which recounts a dramatic encounter, perhaps in a dream, between a soldier and the enemy he had killed the day before; the soldiers, who had fought on opposing sides, are no longer enemies and find it possible to see beyond conflict and hatred in a shared awareness of ‘the truth untold’.

Carved from granite and marble, John's sculpture consists of two identical shapes, echoing the human figure and derived from garment templates. One form is positioned upright, the other lying down. The space between the two sections frames views of the surrounding spaces and architectural achievements bordering Olympic Park.

The artwork – which measures 3.5 metres in height, width and depth and weighs 27 tons – was brought to reality in a stone yard in China.

“The experience of the voluminous yard was truly breathtaking in terms of scale and atmosphere, and there was a constant aura of ‘work’ generated by footfall activity, dust and the noise of factory machinery,” explains John, who is a Reader in Fine Art in the University’s School of Art and Design. “Mr Chen, the stone yard owner, helped me to locate the right scale of stone for the project, which turned out to be a beautifully veined, flesh-like marble that had qualities evocative of the human presence.”

John continues: “The Chinese work force was wonderfully organised and diligent in their interpretation of my directions. There were numerous exchanges, either via translator or through sketches, to direct the development of the artwork but often hands-on methods were the best way to direct progress. Working with the Chinese on this project proved to be a stimulating period for me personally, as I had never worked in stone before and had certainly never been able to orchestrate such a massive project.

“In the end my sculpture won an ‘Outstanding Award’. I’m grateful to all those involved in the realisation of this project, which from start to finish took two years!”
The artwork is now sited across the road from the main National ‘Bird’s Nest’ Stadium and close to the National Aquatics Centre.

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Notes for editors:

  1. About John Atkin
    John Atkin studied painting at Leicester Polytechnic before being personally invited by Henry Moore to visit his studios at Much Hadam. Moore was impressed by Atkin’s work and funded his postgraduate study at the Royal College of Art.

    Atkin has exhibited extensively in England, Europe, Australia and the United States, including at the Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne (formerly Heide Park and Art Gallery), The Kouros Gallery in New York, and The Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice. He has received awards from the British Council and Australian Councils and is currently the recipient of a Rootstein Hopkins Award for Drawing.

    Atkin has also been invited to complete several high profile public commissions throughout the UK and worldwide. As well as public art commissions, he has in depth experience of working with architects and urban designers on major urban regeneration projects, such as the Breaking Boundaries project – winner of the Landscape Institute Award 2007 – for Kent County Council in Ashford.

    Further details of John Atkin’s work can be found at http://www.johnatkin.net

  2. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry and unrivalled sporting achievement.

    It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

    Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

    In the 2007 National Student Survey, the University was voted fourth in the UK, with 23 out of 29 of Loughborough’s subject areas being ranked in the top ten for overall satisfaction. Loughborough is also ranked in the top fifteen of UK universities in national league tables. It was named winner of the 2006 and 2007 Times Higher award for the UK’s Best Student Experience and winner of the 2007 award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other university.

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