Back in January 2013 I responded to a call for artists to propose ideas for a mural in the bar area of the Institute of Education’s Student Union in London. Little did I know it would turn into a more than a year long project, grow to 4 murals and inspire the new branding of the Student’s Union.
I had many ideas and the brief said that any of walls would be acceptable. But luckily before deciding on the proposal I was going to go for, I dropped by to see the space – and that’s a lesson learned right here. If you’re going to propose a site specific work, make sure you acquaint yourself with the site first.
One of the walls, the most problematic one and therefore the one where the mural was going to make the biggest difference (so obviously the one I was going to go for), had a 12m2 weird (6x2m), darkish, recessed space, which had replaced a number of windows. It featured 3 fairly low radiators leaving a lot of space for improvement on the rest of the wall, and a few tables were placed in very close proximity.
Now, I love a challenge but painting a mural wasn’t really going to cut it for this one. So, I suddenly had my lightbulb moment and realised that the best option for it was a broken tiles mosaic. It was perfect! The pieces of mosaic would reflect some light, the texture would distract from the weirdness of the space, and on a practical level it was going to be easy to wipe clean, the heat from the radiators wasn’t going to ruin it, and coffee/coke/ketchup stains weren’t going to be a problem (I’m practical like this. I do like to make sure my work last for more than a year of intense usage).
As I didn’t have much time left anymore, I made a colour pencil drawing of the central area of the composition, featuring the text IOE (above) with the possibility to include more or different texts and some greenery and birds, which were to be developed further if the proposal was selected, backed up by a mood board, including images of other mosaics, textures and colour combinations and sent the whole package over.
I was thrilled when a month later I heard that my proposal had been chosen and I received an invitation to a meeting to discuss it further. As it turns out, everyone was so excited about the mosaic idea, I was asked to consider developing it as a community project with a team of PhD students from the institute!
More lessons learned? Including elements which make the artwork more personal to the person/organisation commissions it (such as text in this case), and leaving some space for further development to take their feedback into consideration is a good thing.