10.31.08 Sting tells city's story in art...


The singer Sting has made a rare return to his home city to tell its story on canvas rather than in music or lyrics.




The former frontman of the Police commissioned one of America's most sought-after artists to paint a portrait of Newcastle.

The 57 year-old grew up in Wallsend in the east of the city with its landscape dominated by ship building.

The painting is the story of Newcastle's regeneration from heavy industry to cultural hotspot.

Northern City Renaissance' is also the singer's story, with memories from his life in the city.

There are pictures of him as a young boy clad in the yellow and black jumper which gave him his name - Sting.

The painting hangs in Newcastle's Laing Gallery. At his first viewing he explained why he had commissioned the American landscape artist and Oscar winner Stephen Hannock to paint the city.

"I've known Steve for about 25 years. I had a hunch that if I brought him to Newcastle he would be inspired by my home town, by this landscape," he said.

"He surprised me because he really immersed himself in the local culture and the history of the mines and the shipyards, all that information is in the painting.

"I think he has captured the spirit of something I still consider my home, I still consider it the landscape of my imagination."

The painting is 12 feet by eight. It shows the glowing lights of pit villages in the distance and the more central ship yards which used to block out the sunshine around Sting's childhood home.

Among the more personal memories are images of Sting and his family visiting the city. In many ways the work is part diary, part biography.

"He's told our story in this painting," Sting said.

"He's really got the history of the place and why Newcastle became a wonderful successful town in the industrial revolution."

In amongst the historical references are more contemporary images - such as the Millennium bridge and the Baltic Art gallery which now dominate the city's quayside.

Newcastle is a city transformed in recent years, with a strong focus on cultural attractions. It is a change the musician approves of.

He recalled his early brushes with art at the Laing Gallery.

"I used to come here as a boy for two reasons, because it was free and because it was quiet. Of course the idea that a lad from Wallsend would one day commission a painting on one of these walls would be beyond the bounds of absurdity but my life has been equally fanciful as well as unlikely," he said.

The painting will hang at the gallery for the next three months. It will then be displayed in London.

Its long term future is not yet clear but it is likely to adorn the wall in one of Sting's homes.

© BBC News by Raymond Buchanan
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