The fifth and final permanent artwork to be realised for Eddington (the North West Cambridge Development), Ripple-Marked Radiance (after Hertha Ayrton), was installed in 2019. Yelena Popova’s tapestry for the Storey’s Field Community Centre is the final chapter in the first phase of public art commissions for the North West Cambridge Development. In 2012 when Eddington was a masterplan, and the site still bore the traces of its history as the University of Cambridge’s farm, the Contemporary Art Society and InSite Arts began working on developing the public art strategy for the development. At the heart of the strategy is a focus on building a vibrant community and sense of place through the work of artists – bringing creative energy to this emerging new urban centre and charting change through an imaginative lens.
Yelena’s artwork celebrates human invention, exemplified through a reading of the work of pioneering scientist Hertha Ayrton.
‘A single ripple, existing alone, in otherwise smooth sand, initiates a ripple on either side of it, that each of these ripples produces another on its farther side-these in turn originate on their farther sides, and so on, till the whole sand is ripple-marked.’ – Hertha Ayrton, The Origin and Growth of Ripple-mark, 1904
The energy of the ripple, light waves and electrons that were Ayrton’s tools of work form a powerful metaphor for the energy of a new community at Eddington – home to many of the staff and researchers contributing to the production of knowledge at the University. As does Ayrton herself, whose courage in pursuing scientific research in a largely male-dominated field provides inspiration for young women to think of science as a career for them. This seems an entirely fitting response for Eddington’s central gathering place – a place of inspiration, community and collaboration.
The artist residency programme has been pivotal, inviting artists to collaborate with University research departments and developing temporary public artworks that reflect perceptions of the University’s identity in the context of its place in the community. From Somewhere’s extraordinary scaled model of the masterplan built entirely in cob – a kind of future archaeology – to Ruth Ewan’s interpretation of Linnaeus’s flower clock as a meadow, the flow of time, pace of change and transition have emerged as central themes within the programme. As the streets, parks and buildings of Eddington have taken shape, artists were also working on permanent interventions into the landscapes and urban fabric of this place. Circling the cloister of the University Primary School, Ruth Proctor’s We are all Under the Same Sky is a photographic journey around the globe that inspires children about their place in the world. Winter and Hoerbelt’s landmark Fata Morgana Teahouse and Pixel Wall in the Brook Leys parkland provide a mediated perspective on the natural landscape and in the urban centre David Batchelor’s ROYGBIV functions as a town clock ranging through the colour spectrum rather than the minutes of the day.
Read more about North West Cambridge Public Art Strategy