Hidden Sunderland: Artist’s Mackem mural on display

Kathryn Robertson

Published on 06 May 2019

A University of Sunderland artist whose city-inspired work has gone global has unveiled her latest creation.

Artist Kathryn Robertson is already building a name for herself with her artworks, which are often informed by hidden corners of Sunderland.

Merchandise featuring her designs is sold in the gift shop at the Museum and Winter Gardens and features on the wall at the Holmeside Takeout coffee shop in High Street West.

The 24-year-old’s work also hit the headlines when a tea towel featuring one of her designs was photographed at exotic locations around the world by traveller Helen Wilson.

Now, the student has unveiled a Mackem mural in the University’s Priestman Building. Buildings in the city which often go unnoticed, such as the Elephant Tea Rooms, as well as lost buildings such as The Grand Hotel and Vaux, feature in the piece, alongside more well-known landmarks such as Wearmouth Buildings and the trio of distinctive high rise flats at The Bridges.

Kathryn, from Silksworth, who is studying a BA in graphic design, said: “The mural is part of my final major project at university, which is all about Sunderland and highlighting the good bits and lost bits in the city.

“I entered a similar illustration for a competition to design a beer label for the new Vaux Brewery and that was my starting point for this design.”

When Kathryn mentioned that she wanted to do a large-scale piece, the University offered her a wall in the University’s arts department corridor to craft her mural. She’s spent the past few weeks creating the piece free-hand, using paint and paint pens.

“I had a general idea of the buildings I wanted to feature but the rest I made up as I went along,” she said.

“People sometimes have a negative view of Sunderland and I wanted to show some of the beautiful buildings we walk past every day and maybe don’t notice. People have been walking past the mural as I’ve been drawing and seem really interested in it and suggest things they’d like adding in.”

As well as Sunderland buildings, the piece features the line The City Is Here For You To Use by Mackem musicians The Futureheads.

Once she graduates, Kathryn says she’d like to do more in her home city. “I’d love to do more large-scale pieces on the side of buildings. The kind of commissioned artworks you see a lot in places like Leeds.”