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Hercules Meets Galatea: The new sculpture at Cambridge North explained



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This is the new sculpture by artist Matthew Darbyshire that has been unveiled outside Cambridge North station.

Hercules Meets Galatea, the sculpture outside Cambridge North station by Matthew Darbyshire. Picture: Phil Mynott
Hercules Meets Galatea, the sculpture outside Cambridge North station by Matthew Darbyshire. Picture: Phil Mynott

It depicts Greco-Roman deities Hercules and Galatea and is intended to challenge traditional perceptions.

Galatea is shown as the “strong, dynamic and empowered figure challenging Hercules, who is sculpted to appear rigid and dated”.

The work, in Cambridge Square, is part of a series of art projects commissioned and supported by The Chesterton Partnership developing Cambridge North.

Hercules Meets Galatea, the sculpture outside Cambridge North station by Matthew Darbyshire. Picture: Phil Mynott
Hercules Meets Galatea, the sculpture outside Cambridge North station by Matthew Darbyshire. Picture: Phil Mynott

The artist said: “This work is about sculpture in the 21st century and asks which attributes elicit spirit, potency and charge - is it scale, symbol, surface, material, maker or manufacture?

“Hercules Meets Galatea uses new motifs, making methods and materials to celebrate the classical whilst also acknowledging the contemporary connotations of its immediate surroundings.”

The figures were sculpted in polystyrene before being cast in aluminium, but contrasting techniques were used.

Hercules has a shakier, hand-made form and is designed to be very rough. It was created by crudely cutting sheets of polystyrene with a bread knife.

As in traditional depictions, he is seen leaning on his club, which is draped with lion skin.

Galatea, produced digitally, conveys power and poise, reflecting the precision with which she was crafted using a CNC lathe, which gives here a smoother, more polished texture.

Hercules Meets Galatea, the sculpture outside Cambridge North station by Matthew Darbyshire. Picture: Phil Mynott
Hercules Meets Galatea, the sculpture outside Cambridge North station by Matthew Darbyshire. Picture: Phil Mynott

Unity is said to be achieved between the two figures by using the same material and the same sized plinth, while the juxtaposition is designed to create tension between the two approaches and technologies.

Matthew has previously sculpted the Farnese Hercules for the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, part of its exhibition ‘Following Hercules’. In this work, he continues to explore how the classics are pertinent to contemporary culture.

Designed to be accessible and interactive, visitors and the local community are invited to engage with the sculpture, which provides “a place for people to sit and enjoy the new landscaping and public areas being built at Cambridge North”.

Sven Topel, CEO of Brookgate, which is developing the area, said: “Hercules meets Galatea is an impressive and thought-provoking sculpture that will be a great addition to the area outside Cambridge North station.

“We’re committed to continuing to provide high quality public art by working with respected artists like Matthew and look forward to seeing the public enjoying the new sculpture.”

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