Brian Fell is one of the country’s leading artist metalworkers. Over the years he has developed remarkable technical ability and practical skill borne out of a familiarity with and a love for his material of choice - steel. Fell creates much of his work through the unusual technique of cold forging. This means that metal is not heated, but shaped by being cut and welded and then beaten with hammers or bent using levers and vices. There is a striking contrast between the intricate detailing within some of the pieces and the strenuous physical work that went into forming them.

Training

Graduating with an MA in Fine Art from Manchester Polytechnic, in 1980 he was awarded a Fellowship in Sculpture at Cheltenham Art College. In 1990 he held a Henry Moore Fellowship at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, part of a long association with the park where also worked closely with the Director, Peter Murray for over a decade, siting major exhibitions and working with leading international artists on the presentation of their work. Through this experience he developed a keen sense of how to place objects in a landscape alongside a high level of technical skill and problem solving which has contributed to the development and success of his own work. His academic knowledge of the history of sculpture alongside an encyclopaedic understanding of the industrial uses of steel and traditional metalwork techniques and designs enables him to work in a wide range of styles and contexts.

Public Art

His large-scale landmark public art works can be found in Manchester, Cardiff, Plymouth and Hull. An image of his Skyhooks sculpture in Trafford Park, Manchester is currently on the front cover of Manchester’s OS map. In Cardiff, work with the Cardiff Bay Arts Trust in the 1990’s includes the poignant Merchant Seaman’s Memorial next to the National Assembly for Wales and All Hands, depicting two massive hands clutching a rope standing above the culverted canal that runs to the city’s docks. Another project in the city is the trail Fell created around Mermaid Quay based on the poem Cargoes written by John Masefield (1878-1967).

His work features in a range of schemes in coastal towns and cities such as The Leviathan on The Barbican in Plymouth (known locally as the “Prawn on the Barbie), themed markers on the Promenade in Southport and as part of a team of artists led by Gordon Young on the Tern Project in Morecambe.

A programme of work with Jersey Heritage Trust, again with Gordon Young, resulted in pieces for the Maritime Museum and Mont Orgueil Castle. Other work with museums and galleries includes a pedestrian bridge across a haha for the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and a major commission creating flood defences for the Wilberforce House Museum in Hull.

In Flint, North Wales, Footplate  is situated outside the train station in the form of a gigantic foot with chains and cogwheels emerging from above the ankle, marking the Sustrans cycleway. Fell also recently completed a long-term project with Sheffield Cathedral to create a Nativity from steel, recognising the city’s long-term association with the steel industry.

In his hometown of Liverpool his work features in the Leisure and Culture Park Knowsley, in a series of installations inspired by the fantastical imagery in the nonsense rhymes of the poet Edward Lear, once again working in association with a team of artists led by Gordon Young. Further work on the same theme is underway in Kirkby where Fell has created a life size steel elephant standing in a Viking boat also inspired by Lear’s writings as part of a scheme led by Geoff Wood. Elsewhere in the city, the Kingfisher sited at the entrance to the Kingfisher industrial park in Bootle has become a well-loved landmark.

Private commissions

Alongside major public sculpture, he works to commission producing functional and decorative pieces for houses and gardens and has worked with leading interior and landscape designers such as Collet and Zarzycki.

For hands on experience of Fell’s distinctive techniques for working with metal, courses led by Fell and sculptor Owen Cunningham take place at Yorkshire Sculpture Park three times a year. 

Fell’s son, George currently works in partnership with him as his studio assistant.  

photo quentinbudworth.com

Artist Statement

I have spent the last 35 years working with steel. Getting to know its qualities and its limitations, cutting welding and literally beating it into shape has given me a high degree of mastery over my material of choice. I am one of only a few cold forgers of steel. I began my career as an abstract sculptor, following in the footsteps of Anthony Caro and David Smith. About 20 years ago I started to make objects rather than art and began to see myself more as a craftsman metalworker than an artist. I started to work to commission, making pieces for house interiors and gardens and figurative public art. Some of these works have become familiar and important symbols for the towns and cities that they are sited in and The Merchant Seaman’s memorial in Cardiff is the focus of an annual Remembrance Day service. Many photos of my works appear on flickr. This is important to me as it tells me that people enjoy and care about the objects that I have made.

I bring to any commission I undertake: 

  • a genuine interest in using my knowledge ideas and expertise to realise the commissioner’s ambitions
  • an intimate understanding of the qualities of my material combined with the physical ability and     technical skill to fashion it into anything I want
  • a fascination with large structures from boats to bridges 
  • an eye for the placing of objects outdoors honed by years of installing major exhibitions at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and siting my own work.  

Selected Works

1993/4 Southport Promenade

Markers along the seafront depicting wildlife and personalities from Southport.
Client: Partnership Arts

1994 Morecambe Bay Tern Project

Cormorants, gannets, coots, lapwings and other local birds in painted and galvanised steel. Part of a scheme led by Gordon Young.
Client: Lancaster City Council

1995 Skyhooks

Landmark sculptures of hooks and chains in painted steel in Trafford Park.
Client: Trafford Park Development Corporation

1996 Leviathan

Landmark sea monster in patinated steel on the Barbican in Plymouth. Part of a city wide scheme designed by Gordon Young.
Client: Plymouth City Council 

1996 Merchants Seamen’s Memorial

Riveted and painted steel head/boat in front of the Welsh Parliament.
Client: Cardiff Bay Arts Trust 

1999 Footplate

Marker at Flint railway station and the Sustrans route in the form of a giant foot with a mechanical skeleton.
Client: Artworks wales 

2000 Kingfisher

Landmark for the Kingfisher Business Park, Bootle, Liverpool
Client: P&O Properties

2000 Cargoes

Images from the John Masefield poem ‘Cargoes’ in galvanised steel on Mermaid Quay, Cardiff.
Client: Cardiff Bay Arts Trust 

2000 Mount Orgueil Castle

Wheel of Fortune and Royal family tree.Part of a scheme designed by Gordon Young.
Client: Jersey Heritage Trust 

2001 All Hands

Large galvanised steel hands holding rope.
Client: Cardiff Bay Arts Trust 

2006 HaHa bridge

Cut and painted steel spelling out HAHA.
Client: Yorkshire Sculpture Park 

2008/09 Wilberforce House Museum, Hull

Flood barrier in painted and galvanised steel illustrating objects from the museum collection.
Client: Hull City Council 

2009-12 The Sheffield Nativity

Nativity figures in cut, hammered and welded steel, completed over a three year period.
Client: Sheffield Cathedral 

2011 Nonsense Alphabet

Inspired by Edward Lear’s nonsense rhymes, supported by Studio Assistant George Fell . Part of a scheme led by Gordon Young
Client: Knowsley Borough Council

2014 Spear Fisherman

This motorised piece was formed by attaching together a vast array of individual, hand crafted steel sculptures depicting marine life in the English Channel. 
Client: Jersey Maritime Museum

2012/15 Edward's Elephant

Landmark for Kirkby Town Centre, inspired by Edward Lear’s writing, supported by Studio Assistant George Fell. Part of a scheme led by Geoff Wood.
Client: Knowsley Borough Council