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Combustion Theme: Boom & Bust

Artist: George GITTOES
Birth/Death: 1949

Title: Combustion

Credit Line: Collection of the Artist, George Gittoes

‘The men who work on the top of the coke ovens at the Newcastle and Wollongong steelworks are called lidsmen The heat of the ovens, over which they work, is so great they strap wooden soles onto their already thick industrial boots. The atmosphere above the ovens is thick with yellow sulphur fumes and columns of flame rise metres into the air, making it a hellish place to work in. One day at Newcastle a one-armed lidsman told me the horrific story of how his arm had been swallowed by one of the devices on the kiln. This led to other men joining in with even more horrific stories, including one in which a man was seen to vaporise. I began to reflect on the image of industry consuming those who work in it like the raw materials of coal and iron ore and finally arrived at the image of a lidsman being vaporised with only his boots, wooden soles and part of his jeans remaining, still smouldering.’
George Gittoes, c1992

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