Alan O’Cain - Durham University


Artist and John Jones client Alan O’Cain was commissioned to complete a frieze for Ustinov College at Durham University. Entitled ‘The Ariadne Frieze’, the piece toys with traditional notions of narrative and can be read from either left to right, progressing from birth and the birth of love through to abandonment and death, or from right to left, following the classical story of Ariadne, the path of the artist’s own life and the life of the North East region. This piece has been conceived to fit the space and also act as an extension of the window structure above:

‘On certain days the sun will beam through the window, making the scenario for the fall of Icarus complete. During late night social events, the frieze will be hanging in darkness, but still have a glowing presence due to a deliberate use in parts of titanium white.’

To complete the frieze, Alan commissioned our Artist Surfaces team to create three aluminium panels specially shaped and sized to the exact millimetre:

‘I wanted to use a modern material designed specially for large hangings, one that will never stretch or warp, and one that can be made to any size or shape. Aluminium is chemically inert and surprisingly light, ideal for artwork in a public place.’

Our technicians primed the surface of the panel for Alan, ensuring he received a smooth artwork support ready for painting. Each panel was fitted with specialist wooden batons for installation, creating the effect that the panels are floating 5cm from the wall without visible means of attachment.

The final artwork was unveiled at a special event on November 7th, 2013. Alan describes his practice as his ‘diary’, created to prove that he exists from encounters with people, places, stories and objects. We were delighted to collaborate with Alan on this exciting project which will be viewed and enjoyed by Durham students, alumni and staff for many years.

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Alan O’Cain - Durham University
Alan O’Cain - Durham University
Alan O’Cain - Durham University


Fisher House, Ustinov College, Durham University


Alan O'Cain - The Ariadne Frieze

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