The large multi-media sculpture is a response to the Preston Park Museum collections, highlighting Teesside’s maritime history, traditions and narratives. Key elements of the sculpture will directly reference aspects of the museum and its collections, artefacts and archives.
The sculpture will take the ethereal, ghostlike form of a ship, dramatically lit from within, making connections with the shipbuilding legacy of Robert Ropner, Teesside’s maritime trade and its associated industries, and Preston Park Museum’s collection of ship models.
Elements of the sculpture will draw upon the materials and processes of the museum’s Victorian Street, particularly Thos. Wilks’ drapers shop, with its delicate and translucent lace and silk fabrics, embroideries and garments, and the letterpress and block printing equipment in L. Thorman’s print shop.
The ship will commemorate and celebrate Robert Ropner’s prominent role in the history of Teesside. Ropner arrived as a penniless teenager in West Hartlepool in 1857, a stowaway on board the steamship Gitana, and went on to become one of the region’s most prominent and successful industrialists. This ‘rags to riches’ tale contains a strong social message, about opportunity, migration and tolerance. Ropner’s story might be viewed differently through the lens of current political events; today he might be considered an economic migrant at best, at worst an illegal immigrant.
The image of the Ghost Ship will appear within multiple layers of translucent textile panels, each suspended within a rigid steel/scaffolding structure. Each of the textile panels will represent one section through the hull of the ship.
These textile panels will be illuminated by an integral low voltage LED lighting system, so that the sculpture will emit an eerie glow from within. When these are viewed collectively the image of the ship will appear suspended within the structure.
The installation will also incorporate sound, to enhance its nautical ambience.