Hydraulic Colony - in progress in the rednile studio

Hydraulic Colony @ Cragside

National Trust together with curator Judith King, commissioned rednile to create a new site responsive work at Cragside in Rothbury as part of Building Dreams: Artworks programme which marks the estate’s 150th anniversary.

Building Dreams: Artworks is open to public from Tuesday 11th June 2013 and is open throughout the Summer; other commissioned artists are Wolfgang Weileder, Jo Coupe and Irene Brown.

Hydraulic Colony takes inspiration from Lord and Lady Armstrong and their pioneering dreams for the house and estate when they first moved there in 1863. The sculpture comprises of over two thousand colourful construction toys arranged in columns to form a tree-like structure.

Using toys to reference play, which is how we believe Lord Armstrong made many of his discoveries, notions of contraction and expansion, success and failure are also explored to highlight the hydraulic process and engineering achievements of Lord Armstrong. The piece also references the achievements of Lady Armstrong who was pivotal in altering the landscape of Cragside by importing millions of North American Pines, prompting rednile to create their own alien species in the fantastical Pinetum.


rednile statement:

‘Our aim is to draw attention to the character, achievement and pioneering work of Lord and Lady Armstrong, looking in particular at the connections between research and play, creation and innovation. We want to prompt appreciation and reflection of the site and environment and encourage new exploration of the site.

We hope Hydraulic Colony activates the space, highlights the innovations and passions of Lord and Lady Armstrong and prompts the viewer to make connections between modern living and their achievements.

During our research we were amazed by Lord Armstrong’s entrepreneurial spirit, enquiring mind, innovative approach to engineering and his passion to grow. The piece explores the ideas of contraction and expansion, movement, success and failure referencing hydraulic processes, engineering and how these ideas develop, expand and grow.

Over two thousand toy cranes and trucks will be fixed to a framework to create a structure celebrating engineering and Lord Armstrong’s inventions within hydraulics which have gone on to be used in so many of today’s machines. The use of toys are to reference play which we believe is how Lord Armstrong made his discoveries and from playing the seeds of ideas can grow. We also wanted to inject colour to contrast the natural colours of the Pinetum and use man made materials to reference Armstrong’s influence in the industrial revolution.

We also thought it was an amazing feat, to change the  landscape from moorland to fantasy forest…striking, large trees somehow reference the importance of Cragside and its history – it prompted us to think of reaching for new heights and the idea of importing millions of foreign trees into an environment where they shouldn’t naturally be, made us think of recreating this action of bringing foreign objects into the site, on mass, to create something which is alien to the surrounding environment, something fantastical.  The concept of putting lots of similar objects together links to the idea of collections - a passion of Lord and Lady Armstrong. The shape of the sculpture could also be compared to a sapling and the idea of growth or the growth of an idea. ‘