News release


Kenneth Armitage Fellowship winner announces new artwork for Yorkshire Dales


Lake Semerwater in the Yorkshire Dales will play host to a new public artwork designed by sculptor David Murphy, in association with Dales Countryside Museum, on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 October.

Part of the Meeting Point project by Arts&Hertiage, Spear recalls the outline form of Dales Countryside Museum’s prized bronze age spearhead, which was found on the shores of Lake Semerwater in 1937. Murphy’s intervention will allow visitors to fully explore the artwork by way of a floating pavilion installed temporarily on the Lake’s waters, connected to the shore by a long floating walkway.

In what is Murphy’s most ambitious project to date, visitors will be able to view both the artwork and the landscape from a unique position on Semerwater itself.

The artist David Murphy – who is the current recipient of the Kenneth Armitage Foundation fellowship – has been commissioned by Dales Countryside Museum as part of Meeting Point, a project directed by Arts&Heritage. Casswell Bank Architects have worked closely with David Murphy to devise a unique artwork inspired by an important bronze age spearhead to produce an extraordinary sensory experience for visitors. 

Murphy, who has strong family ties to the area, was inspired by the remote location and astonishing beauty of Semerwater as well as by the sheer number of artefacts that have been discovered on its shores over the last hundred years.

David Murphy said: “From the variety of items discovered at the lake, we know that Semerwater has seen human habitation through the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron ages, and many of these artefacts are now on permanent display at Dales Countryside Museum.”

Murphy continued: “The Semerwater Spear is a remarkably compelling object, and it had an appeal from the moment I first saw it.  Discovered in the lake by a schoolboy in 1937, it was likely a ceremonial item; a votive offering deposited in the lake in return for good luck or appeasement some 2500 years ago.”

According to a famous local legend, a great city once stood on the site of Lake Semerwater and this ‘Myth of Origin’ lends the site a further level of interest for the artist. The so-called ‘Sunken City of Semer’ – recounted in William Watson’s 1911 ‘Ballad of Semerwater’ tells the tale of a beggar, a curse and a deluge, resulting in the drowning of the great city with the exception of a single ‘hovel’ where the weary traveller was given refuge.

Murphy said: “My work deals a lot with surfaces, both physically and imaginatively, and what lies beneath, or out of sight has always been a rich source of storytelling and conjecture. 

“I feel this piece resonates with the site in a number of ways; it recalls the bronze age spearhead, relocates it on the site where it was discovered, celebrates and heightens awareness of the ever-changing landscape and acknowledges the fascinating legend.”

Spear takes both its form and its title from the famous Dales Countryside Museum artefact,  'relocating' it on the site where it was once discovered. The ambitious sculpture is constructed from a simple tubular system carried by a modular floating pontoon system of high-density polyethylene cubes. Rising just above the surface of the water the ‘spearhead’ is rendered with thousands of copper-plated steel rings, hand-riveted into an expanded chainmail that shimmers in the light and rustles in the wind.  Visitors will be able to explore the structure by walking almost directly on the water’s surface.  

Murphy said: “It’s effectively an open-weave copper mesh that defines the outline form of the spearhead, revealing and concealing parts of the landscape and reflecting and filtering the light. It’s really about a heightened emotional experience; walking on water, surrounded by amplified sounds and curious optical effects. I want visitors to have a visceral response to the landscape, where history and mythology rise simultaneously to the surface.”

“The 30m-long walkway that connects the sculpture to the lakeshore can be read as a surrogate for the lost shaft belonging to the spearhead.”

Alex Bank from Casswell Bank Architects said: “The collaboration with David focused on the piece succeeding as both sculpture and architectural space.  There was a shared objective to ensure the proposal communicated across the range of distances from which visitors will encounter the piece.

“From the surrounding hills to the water’s edge and then on to inhabiting the floating structure itself, the appearance will transform from an abstracted sculptural representation of a spearhead to a semi-enclosed room with an enigmatic transparency filtering views back once again to the landscape."

Spear is part of a wider project celebrating contemporary art installations in non-traditional art spaces. Entitled Meeting Point, the project by Arts&Heritage sees nine new contemporary art installations at four museums in the North East and five museums in Yorkshire during 2016. 

Lake Semerwater is located close to Hawes in Wensleydale, 30 miles east of Kendal and 40 miles South-West of Darlington.  Hawes is England's highest market town, set 850 feet above sea water. The name means a ‘pass between mountains' and it stands between the stunning Buttertubs and Fleet Moss.

Spear opens to the public on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 October. There will be a special evening event on Saturday 29 October featuring a new piece for solo voice by artist Siôn Parkinson, specialist drinks by cocktail company The Gimlet, food by 40 Maltby Street's Sam Lowry, along with poetry readings, fire and song.

The artwork and evening events are free to attend. No pre-booking is required. For more information visit

For more information about Meeting Point and Arts&Heritage, visit 




For more information, images or interview requests, please contact or call 07948 563 612.


About David Murphy

David Murphy (b.1983, Newcastle Upon Tyne) graduated from the Glasgow School of art in 2006. Known for his sculpture and works on paper, Murphy is the current recipient of the Kenneth Armitage Foundation Fellowship, London (2015-17), and has exhibited widely both Nationally and Internationally. Recent exhibitions include those at the New Art Centre, Salisbury, UK; Monica De Cardenas Galleria, Milan, Italy and at the British Council, Cairo, Egypt.  He is represented by Monica De Cardenas, Milan/Zuoz.


To coincide with the launch of Spear, Murphy has produced a limited-edition print in collaboration with fellow artist Samuel Little. The prints will be available at the Dales Countryside Museum, and through the dedicated project site 


About Casswell Bank Architects

Casswell Bank Architects began in 2015 after Alex Bank and Sam Casswell won an international design competition for emerging architects. The commission, for art gallery Hauser + Wirth, involved creating a new outhouse for artists in residence near to their gallery in Bruton, Somerset. Although modest in scale, the design establishes a tone and culture for the practice. Central to this is making generous architecture that brings delight and leaves an enduring, positive impression on a place.  They are based in London.


About Arts&Hertiage

Arts&Heritage is led by two Directors – Judith King and Timandra Nichols. Together they initiate and develop projects and work with a range of museum, heritage and non-arts organisations, developing contemporary art projects and commissions that resonate with context and history.

Their approach is to address and challenge audience expectations and preconceptions by producing contemporary projects that are imaginative, engaging and encourage further investigation into context and history.