When Charlie Hadcock’s latest sculpture Passacaglia was crane-lifted into place on Brighton Beach earlier this summer, one journalist dismissed it as looking ‘like a heap of rusting tunnel parts’. But this massive 20 tonne piece of public art, with its two great curved, skyward-reaching cast-iron arms, has won the public heart and has received almost unqualified praise from locals and visitors alike.
The artist describes the work as ‘a man-made geological shift risen up out of the beach in a wave’. However, the critic’s description was closer to the truth than he might have imagined. Some of Hadcock’s greatest heroes are Victorian engineers like Brunel. ‘I love grand engineering and my work takes a great deal of inspiration from heavy engineering, construction detailing and manufacturing processes,’ he says.
Not surprisingly, Hadcock comes from an engineering background and worked as an engineer before becoming a full-time artist.
His passion for industrial craft and aesthetics is mingled with a fascination for archaeology, architecture and mathematics to produce often-monumental pieces composed of huge repeated segments welded and bolted together. The works are great, rugged structures which have a brooding presence.
Another recently completed commission is the great 4.5 tonne mass of knotted iron called Couplet, which sits on the Chiswick towpath outside Fuller’s brewery (the sculpture is also partly sponsored by Fuller’s). ‘This refers to the days when the river was used as an industrial waterway and takes ideas from the huge barges that plied up and down the route.’
In addition to producing public art, Hadcock has worked alongside architects and designers. There have been competition collaborations with Proctor Matthews, developing landscaping schemes such as vast bolt-together, cast-iron pavements, but these ideas have yet to reach fruition. However, work with architect Mac has been completed and includes the cast-aluminium doorway created for a refurbished office block in London’s Jermyn Street. ‘The architect and developer wanted to mark out the building at street level, and wanted more than a door. They wanted to make a substantial entrance. I produced a pair of doors which are 10ft tall and have an alluring, contoured surface reminiscent of a 3D map. There’s a panel inset into the ceiling above them so that when open, they make an entranceway to the new building,’ says Hadcock. On a smaller scale, he is working on another architectural intervention – ‘a mixture of panel and painting’ in the form of a mural for a Clerkenwell loft apartment.