Head, Hand and Tool (Middlesbrough, Lee Grandjean, 1983)

Lee Grandjean’s Head, Hand and Tool is a hidden gem of Middlesbrough’s public art.

Standing outside the Victoria Building of Teesside University, Grandjean’s 1983 work “celebrates the three essential elements in all creativity”. It was commissioned by Cleveland County Council at a cost of £3000.

Its stern, unforgiving face is made from York Stone and is based on fellow sculptor Glynn Williams (we’ll be covering his work soon) who Grandjean used as a sort of ‘Ur-sculptor’ – “a proud worker who shapes stuff by hand”.

Grandjean near the head, which was modelled on fellow sculptor Glynn Williams.

The artwork was Grandjean’s attempt to return to the essence of what he at the time believed sculpture was: “the basic transformation of material”, and sculpture as an “imaginative language”. He describes it as a “rather medieval sculpture” and there’s certainly an element of the medieval grotesque about it.

Grandjean worked on the piece in his studio at Moor Farm in Norfolk, in these images (which he kindly shared with me in 2020) we can see Lee with his assistant David Brampton, as well as Grandjean’s son Guy with the family cat Mav (Malevich). It was installed in Middlesbrough in 1983, and can be seen in the same area as Roy Kitchin’s Mechanical Arch and Solid State by John Maine.

Thank you to Lee for his time and materials, and to Peter Neal for the photographs at the top of the page.

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