Iron Ore is a collaged work on 10 panels (remaining from an original 13) which documents the daily life of Billy Hunter, an iron-ore miner from Cleator Moor, Cumbria.

Hunter had been a miner for 25 years when Conrad Atkinson made this work and he was suffering from chest diseases as a result of his job. Atkinson was born into a mining family in Cleator Moor and later studied at Liverpool College of Art and the Royal Academy Schools in London. His experience of growing up in a mining community has shaped his politics and practice. Iron Ore incorporates photographs, drawings, photocopies, gouache and fragments of iron ore to highlight the plight of Hunter. While coal miners working in the same shaft as Hunter were eligible for compensation for their illnesses, iron-ore miners were not. Atkinson hoped to draw public attention to such injustices through his work. When Iron Ore was exhibited at the Serpentine Gallery in 1978, Atkinson brought government ministers to see it. mima’s collection comprises art and craft from the mid-1800s onwards, with current emphasis on collecting socially-engaged art. Issues raised by this work are relevant to the area, where iron ore was also mined.


The artist.

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