'It works here and it's believable': Sheffield reacts to upside-down car that has popped up on street

Alex Chinneck with the 'peeling road' - called Pick Yourself Up and Pull Yourself Together - on Sheffield Road, Tinsley. Picture by Andrew Roe
Alex Chinneck with the 'peeling road' - called Pick Yourself Up and Pull Yourself Together - on Sheffield Road, Tinsley. Picture by Andrew Roe

The sculptor tasked with designing Sheffield's biggest-ever piece of public art is getting a flavour of the city's reaction to his work.

In the shadow of the M1 viaduct near Meadowhall, Alex Chinneck's team has installed a sight designed to make passers-by stop for a puzzled moment - a red hatchback car suspended upside down on a ripped-up stretch of road.

Alex's work is on show until Sunday to whet the appetite for a £450,000 art project, the largest commission of its kind in Sheffield, which his studio is tasked with delivering to replace the demolished Tinsley cooling towers that once stood beside the motorway.

The first handful of onlookers to chance upon the gravity-defying car, displayed on a tucked-away segment of Sheffield Road in front of a row of shops, stopped briefly to chuckle and snap quick photos, and within the first hour yesterday scores of schoolchildren were brought to the site to take in the spectacle.

Alex was on hand, too, to explain his vision for the sculpture, called Pick Yourself Up and Pull Yourself Together.

"It works here and it's believable," he said, glancing towards the viaduct.

"The context is quite vehicular."

Every single child from Tinsley Meadows Primary Academy was expected to pay a visit, he added, and the ones that already had 'loved it'. Pupils were previously shown examples of Chinneck's work, and were most enthusiastic about the 'peeling road'.

"It was the one they liked best. They love it. It's art, but it's not over-conceptualised, so they get it. It's a magic trick, and a visual trick, essentially."

The ripped-up road consists of a rolled steel frame, clad in plywood. Alex's team took a cast of the road, then created panels that were stuck on and painted. The car is then bolted to the steel.

"But there's no engine or seats in the car, so it's as light as possible," said Alex.

"We dig up the road and drop it in, so it blends in, but looks like it's ripped up. It's quite cool how it comes and goes. It's a lot of work off-site, but then it's just a 24-hour install."

The artwork is being patrolled by burly security guards, lest anyone tries to get too close. The street is close to the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal, the location for the art project, led by the council and largely funded by energy supplier Eon. The concept will be inspired by the Lower Don Valley's industrial heritage and the towpath beside the waterway, a location rich in wildlife.

Alex's previous assignments include a house made of 7,500 melting wax bricks, and a 35-metre electricity pylon inverted on its tip.

The reaction to the suspended car was mixed on The Star's Facebook page, but reader Carl Bennett spoke for the city's drivers by joking: "That's just someone trying to get to work on one of our finely-kept roads."

Full details of the Tinsley Art Project's design will be discussed at a public presentation in Sheffield Town Hall next Thursday, September 21.