5 A bridge...so far (painting and drawings by Shaun Smyth) Shaun Smyth is an artist who has created an astonishing series of paintings and drawing documenting the building of the incredible engineering achievement that is known as the Mersey Gateway Bridge. I’d first caught a glimpse of this work on line and decided that a personal visit to his Studio in St Helen’s was needed to view the work ‘in the flesh’ so to speak. My visit, in March 2018, coincided with some freak freezing cold easterly winds, accompanied by snow drifts in parts of the North West of England. Despite my familiarity with very cold weather, living as I do in Sweden, I was not prepared for the ‘panic’ that the public train system in the UK seems to experience every time there is an unexpected cold snap. Train connections cancelled and little information to help passengers reach their destinations seems to be the norm, as the unexpected bad weather always happens on a Sunday when the staff are at less than at half strength and the information desks are all closed. Despite the cancellations and delays, Shaun and I managed to re-arrange a new meeting place, which was several miles away from the original railway Station to a small railway station at Wigan, one I was able to get to from Manchester. From the Wigan station Shaun took me to take a look at the bridge itself, which even from a distance of a few miles, is pretty impressive. The Halton Borough Council had acquired two of Shaun’s paintings of the Bridge before and were quick to purchase yet another painting, which was installed at their Council Building reception. Shaun had arranged for me to view that too, even though it did mean a Council official having to ‘open the doors’ especially for us, as it was Sunday and subsequently the building was closed. My immediate reaction to the work was how Shaun had composed the work. The bridge seemed insignificant in relationship to the vast open sky, which in turn reminds the viewer that humankind may well be able to construct these immense structures, but nature and the cosmos is and will always be, the greatest ‘builder’ of all. This particular painting celebrates that as a reality and at the same time does not detract away from the bridge itself. Just the opposite in fact, as the bridge shown in this work encourages the viewer to get closer to it and find out just how it was built by human-hand. The reason for the bridge to be constructed in the first place was clearly outlined in the ‘project’ details from the very onset of the project in 2006... ...”A second road crossing over the Mersey has been a long held aspiration of Halton Borough Council and its neighbouring local authorities. In 2006 the Mersey Gateway Project, a major scheme to build a new six-lane toll bridge over the River Mersey between the towns of Runcorn and Widnes, was agreed. The new bridge will relieve the congested and ageing Silver Jubilee Bridge.” Clearly, those concerned for the project felt that the huge costs (estimated at well over £600 million) of building the Bridge, would be justified, albeit over a period of time and generate jobs and revenue for the district, as it had also been decided that bridge should carry a ‘Toll’. Shaun on the other hand, saw an opportunity to record not only it’s construction, but viewed it, with some justification, as an historical documentation and a possible fantastic series paintings, ones that deserved his total commitment.