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Artist Alex Chinneck ties post boxes in knots for latest public art

Alphabetti spaghetti - Alex Chinneck
Alphabetti spaghetti - Alex Chinneck

British artist Alex Chinneck returns with three identical new public artworks across the UK titled: ‘Alphabetti Spaghetti’. The sculptures which appeared overnight in London, Margate and Tinsley in Sheffield, resemble traditional red metal pillar post boxes which have been tied in knots.

The work continues Chinneck’s reputation for creating playful public artworks that transform the everyday into the extraordinary. In this new series of sculptures, which were all installed in one night, the artist turns these familiar every day functional items into works of art.

Red pillar post boxes are a cultural icon in the UK and there are more than 115,500 across the country as a whole. A Royal Mail post box stands within half a mile of more than 98 per cent of the population and their design and colour help create a quintessentially British landscape. No variation to their design is allowed, except in very exceptional circumstances.

Each of the three places chosen for the sculptures has a connection to the artist. Chinneck made his first public artwork in East London in 2012, installing 312 identically-smashed windows in a derelict warehouse. His second project was in Margate, in 2013, where he created a sliding house with curving bricks, windows and doors on a residential street. He is currently working in Tinsley, in the north-east of Sheffield, preparing to create a major new public art trail of sculptural red brick chimneys, inspired by the city’s industrial heritage and called Onwards and Upwards.

Detailed design for the first chimney in the series - a 30-metre tall cracked chimney, illuminated from within - has commenced. The location of the chimney has also been confirmed as the Victorian pump house on the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal, by the entrance from Meadowhall South / Tinsley tram stop. Local firm Henry Boot Construction has been appointed as principal contractor for the project - and is supporting the installation of the knotted postbox in Tinsley. Site investigations were successfully concluded over the summer.

While this complex project is under development, the artist has delivered a range of public events and community engagement activities. The installation of the knotted postbox in Tinsley was preceded by a peeling road, on the Old Sheffield Road, with a car hanging, upside down, from beneath it. The peeling road was visited by more than 5,000 people over six days in 2017, including the whole of Tinsley Meadows Primary Academy.

The appearance of ‘Alphabetti Spaghetti’ in Sheffield is additionally supported by Sheffield City Council and British Land.

Speaking on his latest installation, Alex Chinneck said: “I want as many people as possible to be able to see and hopefully enjoy my work. I’m excited to unveil this series in three places simultaneously which have a personal connection for me. We’re also looking forward to touring the knotted boxes to other locations across the UK.”

Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure at Sheffield City Council, said: “I am thrilled that Alex has chosen Tinsley as one of three locations for Alphabetti Spaghetti. As the thousands who saw his upside down car will testify, art can appear in the strangest places and conjure the strangest reactions.

“Tinsley may not be a place that people expect to see great art up close and personal – and that’s what makes this even more special.

“Tinsley has a rich industrial heritage and the people who live there are proud of their community.

“It’s also a sign of things to come for this area as work continues on the Onwards and Upwards project. This exciting project, working hand in hand with an acclaimed artist, is still very much part of our plans and will see a stunning canal-side trail that promotes healthy living, heritage and cultural engagement.”

Ian Gresser, Operations Manager at Henry Boot Construction, said: “It has been a pleasure to work alongside the world-renowned artist Alex over the last few months on his latest public artwork project. As a Sheffield-based contractor, the team was delighted to assist in the installation of the knotted postbox in Tinsley, giving people the opportunity to see iconic art in their local area.”

A limited edition print featuring an illustration of the knotted post box has been produced in collaboration with Telegramme Paper Co. and is available to purchase online and via Turner Contemporary in Margate.

Venue details:

Sheffield: Norborough Road, Tinsley

Temporary installation until 29 September.

Supported by British Land, Henry Boot Construction, Sheffield City Council.

For further information visit: Or visit the council’s Onwards and Upwards page

Margate: All Saints Avenue, CT9

Temporary installation coincides with the Turner Prize exhibition at Turner Contemporary and forming part of the Margate Now Festival: 27 September 2019 - 12 January 2020.

Supported by Kent County Council, Margate Now Festival, SEECADS.

London: Caxton Works, E16 1JL

Permanent installation supported by U+I plc

Instagram: @alexchinneck #alphabettispaghetti

Additional Info:

The Tinsley Art Project is a major public art project in the Tinsley Locks and Blackburn Meadows area of Sheffield – visible from the M1 viaduct it is the gateway to the city and region.

Following an open appointment process the studio of British artist Alex Chinneck was appointed by the Project Board in 2016 to create a significant public artwork inspired by the area's rich industrial history and natural beauty and supporting the wider regeneration of the Lower Don Valley.

Onwards and Upwards

In September 2017 Alex Chinneck unveiled a proposal for a series of four daring and playful sculptural ‘chimneys’ along the canal which celebrate the area’s industrial heritage and speak of advanced manufacturing and engineering.

The first of these sculptures is an illuminated ‘cracked’ chimney which rises from a redundant canal side pump house. We are currently looking at the detailed design and feasibility of this sculpture and will know the buildability and costs at the end of November.

Close to Meadowhall Shopping Centre and well served by tram and bus routes the sculpture will act as a focal point to draw people to enjoy and benefit from the heritage, greenspace and nature that can be found along the canal.