Skip to main content

“Past and Present” by Peter Ronald Coates

I was born and brought up in East Hull and have always enjoyed painting and drawing. After attending a number of part-time art courses, I enrolled as a mature student on the BA Contemporary Fine Art degree at Hull School of Art and Design and graduated with First class honours in 2010.

Since then I have been making art work for local businesses, collaborating with Studio Eleven and contributing to festivals in Hull.

My practice involves working in three dimensions with found materials. I also produce figurative paintings including landscape-based work. I have been brought up with a ‘mend it rather than buy it’ approach to life; this has influenced my style and approach to making. If it fits on my bike or in my rucksack, I gather it up so that one day it may take on a new life. When I create from materials some consider as ‘past it’, it gives others the opportunity to look at the new life the object is now living. I just like making.

Creativity is a long learning curve. When you feel you know it all, something new arrives. Thus far my creative journey has taken me from the traditional realm of painting and drawing, through a degree course that taught me that anything can be art, to my current experience of transforming disused industrial objects into public sculpture.

My sculpture began with the ideas and possibilities suggested by the two 1960s grabs that I encountered on a site visit. The dock history is locked away in these old abandoned mechanical objects which will become anthropomorphic sculptures linking the past and future of the site.

The bottom grab will be closed with its chains and industrial internal mechanism welded shut; keeping its history intact. The second grab, once a symbol of industry, will now represent the dock’s future. This second grab will be upturned and secured in place, its internal workings will be removed and its arms will be outstretched and no longer rusted shut. The limbs will unfurl from the base like the petals of a flower, as it opens to absorb nature.

I’m learning how to work alongside other artists, engineers and outside companies. We’ve been given a wonderful opportunity, as artists and students, to contribute to the transformation of the site. I am learning about the complexities of working on a large scale public art project. My hope is to give these disused objects a new lease of life as sculpture on the Trans Pennine Trail. I imagine these industrial icons greeting the public.