Let Sleeping Giants Lie

A giant lain to rest in its industrial tomb.
A giant lain to rest in its industrial tomb.

Surreal scenes from inside a former cutlery factory in the once beating industrial heartlands of Sheffield, South Yorkshire — these monochrome colossi form part of an art installation titled ‘Mausoleum of the Giants’ by the local illustrator and muralist Phlegm, and are so alien to the space, as to look almost like CG images composited onto the real world. The actuality is decidedly low-tech: Papier-mâché, paint, and presumably wood for the underlying superstructure; but take it from me the effect is suitably awe-inspiring in person, particularly with the light of the afternoon sun cascading onto their sleeping forms through the factory’s immense skylights.

Despite how out-of-place they seem at first, once I’d walked around and got a good look at them, it also seems totally right for them to be here — everything just fits and they all sit wholly naturally within the interior architecture, making artistic use of existing alcoves and fixtures, limbs twisting around the room’s interior geography — almost as if they’ve come in of their own accord and settled in the most appropriate spots. In a way they have, the creatures were all purpose-built specifically for the space with the larger ones being constructed completely on-site over the course of around 3 months.

The exhibition's gatekeeper, frozen in a state of rigor mortis.
The exhibition's gatekeeper, frozen in a state of rigor mortis.
The huge skylights illuminating one of the immense sculptures
The huge skylights illuminating one of the immense sculptures

I’ve haven’t really encountered much of Phlegm’s work before, but apparently the beasts depicted are part of a large cast of characters that inhabit his varied pieces; much of them adorned in feathers and seemingly avian-inspired, often inhabiting whimsical steampunk-esque industrial landscapes that put me in mind of Shaun Tan’s work and that of the Amanita Design game studio.

Fireplaces gathered around a Yellow pole
Fireplaces gathered around a Yellow pole
Owl-like heads overseen by a bird-like creature
Owl-like heads overseen by a bird-like creature
Sculptural strangeness in one of the main room's adjoining alcoves
Sculptural strangeness in one of the main room's adjoining alcoves
A Shakespearean scene in the old Quality Control section
A Shakespearean scene in the old Quality Control section
There's no room to stand in this place
There's no room to stand in this place

Once the exhibition has run its course, a few of the sculptures (almost certainly of the smaller varieties) have apparently been snagged by various local art galleries, but the giants themselves will be systematically dismantled and discarded to make way for the apartments that their resting place will become.

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