Tesco - Spirit of the Valley

Spirit of the Valley

Spirit of the Valley (Tesco Metro Rowlands Gill)
The five-year Northern Kites Project (with which I had enjoyed a good relationship, both work and otherwise) came to an end in the summer of 2009, and as a parting gesture the PM (Keith Bowey) negotiated with Tesco in Rowlands Gill village to have an artwork featured on a set of panels along the store front to commemorate the completion and success of the project for the whole community.

Being a passionate follower of the project I was delighted to be asked to produce this work, again using my signature technique of combining paintings and photography with computer graphics. The completed work would be printed out on hardwearing weatherproof vinyl and attached to the six blank panels, covering a length of almost twenty metres.
A big task, and made even bigger by the fact we only had two months to put it all together!

My brief was to cover the area of the lower Derwent valley using the river as a constant feature, a red kite as the guide from end to end and to somehow show the changes in the season. There was also a survey among the locals whereby everyone could choose which features they would like to see represented in the frieze, but the results of this wouldn‘t be known until a couple of weeks before the deadline, so luckily, being a local myself, I could guess most of the landmarks and features which would prove most popular.
It took about a fortnight to come up with the winning formula, I decided to use a generic tree at either end of each panel to represent the changing seasons, beginning bare in the winter, sprouting buds, blossom, leaves, fruit and eventually shedding in the autumn to finish bare again on the last panel.
For the representation of the red kites I decided that rather than have just random kites pictured in each panel , I would also show a year in the life of the red kite, so we begin with a communal roost in the winter, then spreading out, pairing up and displaying, nest-building, breeding, raising chicks, fledging, soaring and eventually gathering for the winter roost again.
Luckily my first draft submission met with approval and I was able to crack on at a good speed, with just minor tweaks here and there as suggestions came in. I even had time to place around 60 small pictures of valley wildlife in the panels for the eagle-eyed , which can only be made out from close inspection.
So here are the six completed panels, reading from left to right along the storefront (click on image to see larger version) :

1. Swalwell Roundabout to Hagg Hill

2. Winlaton Mill to Thornlay Woods

3. Gibside

4. Rowlands Gill (north)

5. Rowlands Gill (south)

6. Lintzford to Chopwell Woods)

The day of the unveiling was one of my most nerve-racking days ever, thankfully the artwork was very well received, and with local TV and press covering the event I even made the lunchtime news on the BBC.
Today the Spirit of the Valley is at the focal point of the village high street, as a reminder to all that despite the official ending of the NKP, the red kites still have a major role to play in the essence of the village and its surroundings, and as a source of immense pride to the locals.

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