Isambard Kingdom Brunel 1806 - 1859 was one of the greatest engineers of the Industrial Revolution. Born to French parents in Portsmouth England his designs revolutionised public transport and modern engineering As a young assistant engineer he helped his father with the building of the first tunnel under the Thames, a major feat of engineering at the time. He later developed the railway system in England, building the Great Western Railway from London to Bristol. He designed and built the first steam powered iron-hulled ships, the biggest and the most advanced being the Great Eastern in 1852. It was intended for voyages to India and Australia, but never really achieved its full ambitions or potential, being simply way ahead of the prevailing economic and industrial conditions of the time. The ship eventually found an important role in laying one of the first successful transatlantic telegraph cables from Europe to America.
Alas Brunel worn out from stress and hard work died before the Great Eastern made her maiden voyage to New York, he was only 53 years of age.
I built this figure as a homage to Brunel, half man half machine, the steel body representing one of his iron clad ocean going steam ships.
The piece was built in the mid 1990s in Carrigduff Bunclody Co Wexford Ireland. The body made from 3mm steel plate, the concrete legs a plaster cast copy of a big Englishman called Simon Tetley Large. The head and arms - mine.
The figure takes on a life of its own when gold fish swim around in its stomach and the bubbling sound of the airation pump can be heard.
Like one of Brunel,s ships, this piece of sculpture has travelled widely. It was first exhibited in a shop in Temple Bar Dublin residing there for a number of years. In 2006 it was transported to Leipzig Germany where it was on display at the Baumwollspinnerei during one of the regular Art Festivals or Rundgangs as they are called. In 2007 it was exhibited at the old Slaughter Yards in Dresden, notorious as a prisoner of war camp in the 2WW. Since then it has been shown in Berlin, currently residing in Friedrichshain near the city centre. Schöneweide in south east Berlin was once the seat of AEG the huge electrical company, cables were also manufactured there for the transatlantic telegraph business, so there are connections with Brunel even in Berlin.
Photo: Shop window Karl Heine Strasse Plagwitz Leipzig Germany.