Old king coal who is an artistic old soul

Posted on 1:46 PM by Sameer Shah

To the average householder, wondering how to keep the home fires burning this winter, it is a big pile of coal - enough indeed to fuel a whole street, let alone a single house.

To its creators Matthew Conford and David Cross, however, it is a work of art that is supposed to fuel the mind rather than the stove.

They spent two days carting the 15 tons of house coal from a newly reopened pit at Daw Mill Colliery, Arley, near Nuneaton, for the Lion and the Unicorn exhibition at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery in the West Midlands.

"It is a pile of coal, I am not claiming it to be transformed into something else," said Mr Cornford. "It is quite a big pile as well, but by displacing it into the gallery you can look at it differently.

“We hope it will trigger people to come in and debate the future of our energy needs.

"The starting point was thinking about the concept of Wolverhampton Art Gallery and the history of it being in the birthplace of the industrial revolution.

"The main driver of that was fossil fuel in the form of coal. This dirty black stuff and the availability of it in the region revolutionized not only us but the world."

But not everyone is enamoured by the “sea of coal” which has managed to leave its sooty traces on just about everything that comes into contact with it.

A museum spokesman said: "The room is dimly lit and we are thinking about ensuring that visitors can negotiate the space safely and can enjoy the exhibition. They are really large lumps of coal and some of the team who carried it in were quite small.

“Lots of the bags were bigger than they were. Everyone went home with little trails of coal dust on them. I suppose it was inevitable."

The museum says it has not introduced any special security measures to stop the £750-worth of coal from being stolen although the front of house manager and his staff are keeping a careful eye on it.

The spokesman said: "We did think about giving the coal away to people but were told we couldn't because it belonged to the artists. The gallery was founded by industrialists Philip Horseman and Sidney Cartwright and the region's economic and social development was built upon industry and production.

"The sea of coal is expected to have a sensory impact upon visitors and will draw out both the historic and contemporary significance of coal to the region. Returning coal to the gallery completes the cycle and acts as a reminder of the region's heritage."

The Daw Mill Colliery was swamped with inquiries for jobs after it announced a recruitment drive earlier this year in a bid by UK Coal to develop new reserves. It is the largest of the four mines operated by UK Coal and produces up to three million tons a year.

The Lion and the Unicorn exhibition is on until January 31.

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