The Weaver, The Miner and Ernie Wise
Article by: Dave Roberts - First Published: 22 March 2011
Melanie Wilks Biography:
M.A in Fine Art, B.A ( Hons. ) in Fine Art.
Born: Leeds / 3rd May 1962.
Schooling in Morley, Leeds.
Education: Cross Hall Junior school in Morley 1969 to 1973 (now Fountain Primary), then to Morley Grammar School, now the Morley Academy.
1984-1985 Foundation Course in Art and Design, Jacob Kramer College, Leeds. Now Leeds College of Art and Design.
1985-1988: B.A. (Hons.) Fine Art, Portsmouth University.
1990-1991: M.A. Fine Art, Manchester Metropolitan University.
As an Art Student Melanie believed that art should be accessible to the public, on display in public art galleries and public spaces, free to be enjoyed by everyone, rather than in private collections. These ideas have formed the type of work she produces, choosing to work in an accessible representational way.
Though Melanie's work is not modernist in style, she was heavily influenced by the 'Truth to Materials' ideas of sculptors like Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Jacob Epstein, Brancusi, Gaudia Brezka and their approach to the direct carving of stone sculpture. This is where the Artist hand carves their own sculpture from start to finish rather than using the indirect method, where the sculptor makes a model, then relies on the skills of a stone mason to produce a stone version of the Artist's model.
Choosing to work in a representational way, she has been drawn to the sculpture of Michelangelo, Rodin, the ancient sculpture of Egypt and Greece, Gislebertus the French medieval sculptor. As for drawing Melanie says she is inspired by Käthe Kollwitz and Goya.
Melanie told Leeds Art Gallery Online "Of course we live in a post modern age and my work reflects that, I work with many other materials not just stone, I mould and cast my sculpture, my next commission is for some mosaics in Woodkirk, these will occupy a site opposite Woodkirk Parish Church and depict the historical timeline of the area, dating from the Doomsday book to the present day."
As can be seen from Melanie's website, she has produced a number of sculptures sited in public spaces around Leeds / Bradford and the surrounding areas, all were carved by hand from one solid block of stone either on site, with the very large ones at the quarry, or in her studio space in Dewsbury.
The Weaver (2007) and The Miner (2007)
Outside the front of Morley Town Hall are two sandstone sculptures overlooking Queen Street (the main street through Morley) by Melanie Wilks, they are carved from stone donated by Woodkirk Quarry. They were commissioned by Morley Town Council, sponsors included the Rotary Club of Morley, with the concept coming from the Morley Murals Projects, which was set up in 2004 with the aim of creating an art trail to draw visitors into Morley.
The Weaver and The Miner depict Morley's industrial past, it is therefore fitting that they should be directly to the front of such a magnificent building, as it was through these two industries that Morley came to prosperity. A symbol of that prosperity was the building of the town hall which was completed in 1895.
Ernie Wise Memorial Statue
Completed 21 February 2010.
Only a short walk along Queen Street - heading with the town hall to your right, you will eventually come across the 7ft stone statue of Ernie Wise, carved by Melanie Wilks and unveiled by the widow of Ernie, Mrs Doreen Wiseman, 4 March 2010. Ernie is depicted by Melanie as he looked in the 1970s.
The Morley Observer quoting Melanie:
"The furled umbrella in one hand and the straw boater in the other hand is a reference to the comedy duo's trademark song Bring Me Sunshine - and he certainly did bring joy and sunshine whenever he performed.
"The umbrella also refers to the Singin' In The Rain dance sequence he performed on the Morecambe and Wise show and the battered hat is also a reference to his humble beginnings."
Melanie said she has depicted Ernie performing a turn and kick dance move, leaning over to the side to suggest the movement of a twirl.
"I have captured the spirit, the essence of the man, in my interpretation of Ernie Wise. As this is a stone carved sculpture, I believe I have pushed the material as far as it will go to convey the meaning I want to communicate."
Ernest Wiseman OBE
(27 November 1925 - 21 March 1999), known by his stage name Ernie Wise, was an English comedian, best known as one half of the comedy duo Morecambe and Wise, who became an institution on British television.
The eldest of five children, he attended Thorpe infant and junior school, and then East Ardsley Boys' School.
In 1936 he won a local talent competition in Morley then went on to meet Eric Morecambe and to form the duo which would see them become household names.
The fine art sculpture remembers Ernie Wise and celebrates Morley's most famous son and Morley's association with 'The Arts'.
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