John Ruskin Mural
Joy For Ever WHITWORTH ART GALLERY
As our group proposal (TSAP) was sent to the Whitworth to gain connections and make them aware of our existence, as well as Jackie working previously with someone working there and our old neighbours from Upping It connections, we were asked if any local artist would be interested in making a mural around Ruskin Avenue related to the exhibition Joy For Ever, the budget was unclear but the idea of making a mural looked interesting, then I thought I asked my boyfriend if he was happy to make it together as my knowledge of murals was none and he is a good painter.. And we went for it. Time to start research about John Ruskin… Till the first meeting at the Whitworth were we will know more about the project. The idea was to create a festive event in the street bringing a band and having food in the street while we are making the murals collaborating with the neighbours, and it sounded fantastic, some members of Upping It lives in that street and we were close friends, so it looked like a great idea to collaborate again.
But during the development of this project the fail of getting permission to close the streets and the clashing of a religious event on the same date force the event to be reduced in the mural making and the possibility of making workshops at the learning studio at the Whitworth as well as a tour with the curator around the exhibition and a visit to the murals to meet the artist.
My thoughts of making a mural were not painting a mural, and making something that it will last in time and weather conditions, coming to the conclusion that mosaic was my best options, recycling tiles to make a collaborative mosaic. In a way of integrating collaborative practice to the mosaic, we were collecting used tiles and plates around the neighbourhood and used them to create the piece.
Our inspiration starting visiting the exhibition Joy For Ever, to try to develop some ideas around Ruskin and his view of collaborative art. We realised a lot of architectural influence in his practice as well as a link to community garden and transformation of the urban spaces, and some tiles and ceramic inspiration.
We went around the neighbourhood taking pictures of the streets nearby Ruskin Avenue and Moss Side looking for a connection with Ruskin if would it be any.
We found some mosaic art made in Rusholme/Moss Side.
Ruskin drawings inspiration
Some more inspiration of the streets around Ruskin Avenue.
Finding the ideal wall. Localisation
We discussed the available places with the local neighbours and the team at the Whitworth and visited some locations around Ruskin Avenue, the idea was to make 3 pieces around A3 size so we did not need a lot of space, but still needed to ask permissions to the owners of the walls. We were really lucky that some of our team members were part of the community and knew exactly where to ask and help us to resolve this issue. While looking for spaces a couple of officers were patrolling around and we inform them of our event and the mural.
We started asking our neighbours for tiles and collecting our palette of colours, luckily one of our neighbours had nice set of colourful tiles as most of the donated tiles were white or light tones, and they were not appealing . We managed to get some more from a shop and buy some dark green ones for creating contrast. The main problem of using recycled materials is that most of the tiles have cement/plaster on the back and to be able to create a mosaic you need to have a clean, flat surface to attach it to the mesh, so we spent quite a bit of time cleaning the back of the tiles to be able to use them.
While cleaning tiles we had some discussions about what theme we wanted to represent in the mosaics. In one of the chats with the neighbours looking for an available alley to place the mosaics, she mentioned she will love something connected with Venice and architecture, and her grandad was Italian. That had a link with Ruskin and his observation of buildings in Venice and his architectural studies. So I started drawing a little Venice in Moss Side, with some of the houses that I took pictures of around Ruskin avenue and including the alley and the plats pots, as a commemoration of the beautiful public garden created by the community in the alley where it will be placed. Incorporating some street view with an arch inspired by Ruskin’s draw.
The theme of the second mosaic was inspired from a piece of carved wood with botanical motives at Joy For Ever exhibition and the importance of nature around the neighbourhood making it a better-looking place, as one of the walls chose to place the mosaic was really close to a house where every summer sunflowers grow and everything bloomed, one of the nicest front house gardens in the street, where “Ben the gardener “ lives, a lovely men who is been in the area for over 50 years, we decided to honour him and his flowers.
The third mosaic was looking into the landscape of a picture from the exhibition, that seemed interesting and we decided to adapt this landscape to a moss side landscape. Using as a reference a picture I took when studying the bin situation around the area, and mixing elements from the picture making an ideal landscape with a bin and a factory on the back as the representation of the area.
These are the result of a 2-week making process and very intense sessions of shaping the pieces.
This was one of the harder projects that I been part of, I was completely unaware of how difficult could be to create this tree pieces with a low budget an in a short period of time, starting from collecting the tiles, cleaning them and shaping them to fit within the design, with sandpaper, realising that you don't have a place to work, managing rough material and cuts, we started working in our small back yard but the rain was constant and we have to move the workshop into our dining room where everything as cover with dust for the next two weeks or more, we have to work all weekend to be able to make it, even make a spare mosaic for our yard and to be able to try the process of transpassing the mosaic to the wall( and making sure it doesn't collapse) with a great result.
I was pleased with the result of the mosaic and the feedback of the neighbours and felt happy to be able to complete it with a successful installation.
Now my neighbours are insisting us to make more pieces in different areas, so they are looking for funding, as well they are interested in us leading a workshop to create a collaborative mosaic for the alley, which I hope we can be part of around summer.
I am proud to have public artwork in the alleys of my neighbourhood and grateful for my community to let me be part of this.