Four artists to create major new works for Tyne and Wear Metro trains

A new Metro train
20 April 2022

Four artists have each won a unique commission to create major works for the interior of the Tyne and Wear Metro’s £362m new train fleet.

Metro will be the first urban transit system in the world to feature permanent art inside trains when the new fleet enters service next year, thanks to a project led by operator Nexus and funded by Arts Council England through its National Lottery Project Grants programme.

Four artists have been chosen following an open call for submissions, and each one will go on to create a major new work to cover the full height and width of carriage end walls, right through the fleet of 46 trains being built for Metro by global train manufacturer Stadler.

Nexus is sharing a video introducing the artists and exploring more about the project.  Watch here:  Artists to create work for new Metro trains 

The four artists are:

•    Sofia Fox Barton, a multidisciplinary artist from Newcastle whose bright artwork is heavily influenced by nature and her Punjabi heritage. Inspired by feminism and history, her style often consists of vintage imagery, patterns as well as symbology.  She works across mediums such as print, painting and digital art, with her work exhibited at the Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art, Dockside Gallery, Pink Collar Gallery and Spilt Milk Gallery in Edinburgh.

Sofia’s work for Metro will explore hidden histories across North East England and celebrate figures from diverse and cultural backgrounds.
•    Sara Gibbeson is a freelance illustrator and lecturer based in North East England. Her work captures people, places, and everyday moments, using both digital and traditional tools to create lively, hand drawn imagery with a limited colour palette.

Sara’s aim is to capture a slice of life from around the region, bringing her sketches together to create an illustrated snapshot of the people and places she observes as she travels by Metro and visits the communities around it.
•    Hazel Oakes, working as Nocciola the Drawer, is an illustrator and mural artist from County Durham. She has a nomadic spirit and feels her sense of community with women anywhere in the world. She specializes in bright, bold, colourful artwork that combines female characters with lively patterns, all with the aim to uplift, inspire, empower and celebrate women. 

Hazel’s artwork will be inspired by the communities of women who wild sea swim along the North East coast. It will be a celebration of them enjoying the beautiful coastline that Metro serves. 
•    Bryony Simcox is an urbanist, optimist and maker who studied architecture at Newcastle University.  She works with hand-cut paper collage to draw together diverse imagery into playful and surreal scenarios referencing architecture, travel and the human form.  

Bryony will create a large-scale paper collage which distills the feelings and vibe of the places along the Metro. Combining photography gathered from the community with archive imagery and magazine and book cuttings, bold and colourful at the macro scale and rich with detail at the micro scale.

Huw Lewis, Customer Services Director at Nexus, the public body which owns Metro, said: “We are thrilled to be working with Sofia, Sara, Hazel and Bryony, four very different artists but each of them an amazing talent with a unique vision for Metro’s new trains.

“The Tyne and Wear Metro will, we believe, be the first urban transit system anywhere in the world to commission major new art works inside trains, the height and width of a train carriage, which will be seen by millions of people every year.

“Nexus has a proud history of commissioning public art over the 40 years of Metro, but it is a huge step forward for us to ask artists to work inside our £362m train fleet.  Metro is part of everyday life in North East England, and we look forward to seeing four exciting new works which reflect on our modern, diverse region and its heritage in strikingly different ways.

“We have involved our customers very heavily to shape the design of our new trains. People were keen to see art and incorporated into the train design, and we are grateful to Arts Council England for the National Lottery grant funding which has made this possible.”

Adrian Wetter, project manager at Stadler, said: “Trains built by Stadler are a fusion of our own expertise, drawing on the company’s 80-year history and the latest in technology and innovation, along with the specifications of the client, based on its operational requirements and the preferences of the local residents who will use them. 

“Incorporating such features as the permanent art display on board these trains is a great pleasure for Stadler and a testament to the meaningful passenger consultation exercise that Nexus presided over.”

Nexus and Stadler carried out award-winning engagement with Metro customers which has shaped a wide range of features within the £362m new train fleet including seat layout, handholds and the details of wheelchair and cycle/multi-use areas.

Customers said they wanted to see imagery on the end walls of each train, facing into the passenger area, which was relevant to their local communities.

Nexus received more than 120 submissions from around the world, in response to an open call for artists to respond to the theme of ‘place’ in North East England. The final four artists were chosen by a panel bringing Nexus employees from train operations and the fleet project with community arts professionals from the region. 

The artists will go on to complete their final works through immersion and engagement in the communities and places which Metro serves.

The four works the Metro artists create will be reproduced onto the train walls by Stadler as part of the manufacturing process at its factory in St Margrethen, Switzerland.   The first new Metro train is set to arrive in North East England at the end of this year and will enter service in autumn 2023 after rigorous testing.

Nexus has ordered 46 trains from Stadler which will transform reliability and the customer experience, cut Metro’s use of high voltage power by at least 30% and allow a higher frequency service across the system.

Two works of art will appear on each train, at each end of the open-plan layout of carriages, with each work appearing 23 times across the whole fleet as a result.


Artists to create works for new Metro train fleet

© 2022 Nexus Tyne and Wear - Public Transport and Local Information.