Ah public art. Everyone has an opinion, and I have inserted myself into that scene with eyes somewhat open, knowing what I might find there, but hopeful that the experience would be overall good.
Linked Internal Space II, another of my works which is part of Art in Public Places, is situated on a fairly main thoroughfare for parents with kids on their way to the park, commuters on their way to the train station and those out for a little local shopping. Another artwork for a previous project had occupied the wall up until a week or two before I installed – underneath was blank coffee-coloured brick wall with black graffiti tags spray painted all over. My first job was to paint the bricks grey, my desired background colour. Most passers-by seemed to think I was just painting out the graffiti – what a good citizen. Sorry ladies and gentlemen, I had ulterior motives.
The grey covered the sprayed scrawl beautifully, only one coat of paint. But soon it was getting dark and rainy. So I had to pack up and head for home. That night, I had dreams of someone coming and tagging my beautiful, mint condition grey wall, but I was happy to find it in perfect shape the next day. So I set to work rolling/sketching what I wanted with a roller on an extension. It felt like using a really long pencil, in a way. It looked ridiculous though – I had the most narrow roller available, about two or three inches wide on an extension pole about a metre and a half long. It did the job though, marking out my gestures, ready for me to fill in with more certainty.
This install was broken up by spending time on Linked Internal Space I at the Substation, so it sat half done for a couple of days. But finally when I got back to it, I was well and truly in the grove.
I wanted to use some perspectival illusion to create a slight shift in the space. So I ‘folded’ out my gestural and hard edged forms across the wall and headed for the asphalt. As this is a temporary work, I was not allowed to use permanent paint on the ground, but was able to source some chalk paint, rather sturdy stuff, to do the job.
The work is approximately 2m x 3m x 2m, fairly compact for the site – I suppose I was more affected by onlookers than I thought, or I would have spread out further into the site, maybe across the path. I felt very conspicuous painting in a public place with people stopping regularly to talk and ask what I was doing. Some shared with me their opinions of the purpose of public art, their hatred of graffiti and one commented “good to see you’re using a brush”, which I can only assume meant he equated spray cans with vandals. In response to such as these, I guess I kept the artwork on the smaller size. Still, when I say small, it’s still miles bigger than you or me – must keep things in proportion.
I have pretty limited experience with spray paint (which I used on the asphalt), I’ve only used it a few times and I usually underestimate how much overspray there will be and the effect of the breeze. It was a calm afternoon when I came to do the chalk spray though, so I didn’t end up with too much overspray, and I masked off generously.
I’m pleased with the finished product, and the chalk paint has stood up to a few downpours since I completed the work too. The colours and forms in the work echo those used in Linked Internal Space I at the Substation.
Art in Public Places runs from 5th April – 5th May, with lots of art-things happening. Come down and check it out.