Edinburgh’s famous ‘North Bridge’ in the heart of the city centre – connecting Princes street and the Old Town – required extensive restoration. An agreement was made between Edinburgh City Council and Jack Arts that during this restoration the structure would be covered with a design by Patricia McGrath echoing elements of the bridges design features, with large areas along the length of the bridge left for Public Art. Martin Gray was selected as the initial featured artist and developed a photographic installation, working with McGrath on layouts, to ensure the work was sympathetic to the whole effect. Each panel is an impressive two metres high and the work, which is still in place, has been widely admired by the public and praised by critics.

ARTIST’S STATEMENT:
The main concept behind my North Bridge photographic/arts project, is playing with the notion of modern multicultural Scottishness and community, through images documenting shared spaces in Edinburgh and the lives being lived there. This project celebrates the rituals of work and play, like waiting for a bus, a daily stroll, meeting up in a cafe, sneaking a snog, bracing the elements, or cheering on our National team, even if they lose again

Some of these seem almost larger than life to the viewer, when seen against a magnificent backdrop, steeped in ancient history.New histories are being made all the time however. New hopes, dreams, joys and stoic fights against adversity, which usually includes cheering on our national team! If ever that felt like a worry we’d love to have again.

Countless generations of people have seen a millennia of challenges come and go. The backdrop reminds us. The people remind us that the worlds greatest and most beautiful cities are as much about community as anywhere else.

Last year, when I put this body of work together, for the North Bridge Installation, almost seems like another era now. I hope the work reminds us to stay strong, be good to each other and work towards our local and global communities being open and safer again. Never to take for granted the ordinary interactions of daily life.

Maybe readdress who and what we’ve chosen to celebrate. This very recent era is showing us more than ever the importance of public service and humble acts of kindness and loyalty, not to mention the enormous bravery of some of our citizens. All to get us back to sharing this city, as reflected in the north Bridge work.

“I discovered Martin Gray’s photographic installation on ‘North Bridge’ as part of my research for the cultural strategy at Edinburgh Park. I was struck by the way it was engaging local people and tourist visitors through a blend of architectural and human character – it was a creative contrast to site a thoughtful arts project in the midst of such a bustling city centre space – i feel its important that artists have opportunities to show their projects in public spaces which are high profile, and that these interventions maintain a positive balance between advertising and corporate competition for space. For an international city such as Edinburgh these issues are even more critical to maintain local distinctiveness, and the unexpected ways in which visual artists can animate spaces and engage people are so important to sustain when the public realm is under great pressure”.

Matthew Jarratt, International curator, public arts consultant and Visiting Professor of practice at Newcastle University

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