Tate Collective and Better Bankside commissioned me and four other artists to create a piece of public art, responding to a brief which questioned how people would experience the city after Lockdown, how that will impact work/life balance and encouraging people to see art in new ways. My fellow artists are
Zeinab Saleh, Megan Visser, Koby Martin and Blkmoodyboi, have a look at their incredible work in Beyond Boundaries below or click their names to go to Instagram.
One of the most amazing parts of this project was having the opportunity to be mentored, and have 3 group zoom meetings to develop our ideas with artists who have experience making public art.
Sharon Walters, Victor Ehikhamenor, Julia Vogl, Dreph and Lesley Asare were the mentors who gave us guidance throughout. It was strange for all of us working through zoom, but this space became such a beautiful community and support to me. Peju Oshin(Tate curator) would start our sessions by asking us to set our intentions, or share something we’re grateful for, and Lesley would lead breathing exercises to ground us all too. It was just so refreshing and nourishing to be part of a group of artists after such isolation. I remember Victor reassuring me that even after many public artworks and exhibitions, he still gets nervous about new audiences.
Hannah Hill – He(art) is Everywhere
Location: Great Suffolk Street
Full address: 158 Great Suffolk St, London SE1 1PE & 199 Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 0ED
Tate and Better Bankside had Absolutely Studio and FM Conway installing the walls and floors respectively. It was absolutely mind blowing for me to see my art translated in real life. The material on the floor is the same paint that is used on roads by highway maintenance which was heat-sealed to the ground. Darren and Nick at Absolutely Studio did an amazing job and Im just so grateful they were able to really respect my hand written style to perfection over two days of gruesome rain. Design Process
My first step was to highlight certain words/themes that stood out on the brief, which aligned most with my own beliefs and approach to art. Connection, discover, work/life balance etc. London history is a passion of mine so I knew I would be using this as a basis for the whole work, and I was paired up with a local who is passionate about art and history as well. Austin from Terry’s Cafewas the person who requested the wall opposite his business to get a makeover, and he was valuable with giving me local history and insight. Below I have detailed the history connected to Great Suffolk Street specifically and SE1 more widely. -Keep in Touch phone/Share and connect phone are my modern interpretation/reference to the Cable and Wireless PLC 1869 which was based opposite where the Vodaphone building currently stands. -A Red Umbrella is the global symbol for sex workers and so I wanted a way to represent the local areas history of prostitution as well as candles to memorialise them. -The crossbones reference The Crossbones Graveyard where many unnamed prostitutes and paupers which is now a memorial garden. -I created the Winchester Music Hall poster by tracing different elements of an original advertisement from 1880 which I found online on the british library archive and reworked onto a new poster. -Tommy Johnson was the last Pearly King of Bankside, Austin told me about him and his love of DJing so I combined his interests in this classic pearly jacket, combining this working class tradition and music -Happy House and Disco-ball celebrate the underground music that evolved from the warehouses of Southwark. This included Siouxsie Sioux, who’s iconic eye make up I have paired with the words Look Around. -A candle and rose is a memorial to Ronnie Price, who was a local man who tragically passed away after going into hospital for a curable illness. -A Charles Dickens tribute is subtly placed on top Of the Past, Present, Future Books in the form of an ink pot with his initials and a quill. He lived for a short time on Lant Street, and his father was in the nearby debtors prison which would later inspire parts of Little Dorrit. -I have combined my Hanecdote skull with the famous Shakespeare scene from Hamlet to reference the history of the Globe Theatre next to Tate Modern. -A bottle of London Brewed Beer is a nod to the breweries of Southwark, old and new. -The Have Fun in SE1 full english breakfast is inspired by the connection to Austin at Terry’s Cafe. His dad owned the cafe since 1982, and you can tell Austin proudly carries on that legacy with his Cafe and Deli. The insight he gave me into the local area was invaluable. He said the surrounding areas have been redeveloped and this part of Great Suffolk Street had been forgotten about, so I really wanted to highlight some of the things which make this London road special.
Here are some of the first pics I took from the first site meeting with Tate, Better Bankside, Austin from Terry’s Cafe, me and the building owners. After the meeting I stuck around and got to know Austin, I mentioned this introduction in my March newsletter but will go into more detail throughout this one as everything was embargoed till May 26th. I was quite overwhelmed when I actually saw the walls because my embroideries are so small and intricate and I almost couldnt fathom my art being blown up to such a scale.
After the words, I started creating motifs to match up with them. Some of these motifs have been used throughout my artistic career, while others where specifically made for this project, informed by the history of the area and the brief which had been set out. This was a point I really struggled as I wasnt sure how to bring all the individual motifs together, but the idea of work/life balance remained in my mind and that is eventually how I was able make it all work. Then I was faced with two challenging walls and wondered how I would work my design concept to actually fit the space. The mentors told me to trust my instincts and listen to the wall. Once I took a step back and really took in the wall space, I saw that the largest area was on the Southwark Street side, and so it made sense for that to be the centre. This is where I put my hand holding balancing scales which shows a laptop (Work) and a suitcase (Life) evenly balanced, with explosions of energy and colour bursting from both. I wanted the brighter more vibrant side to explode from the Life section, but added interest to the Work side with ribbons and measuring tape to reflect the local history or textiles near by. Then it was a matter of placing the motifs on this composition, some of the motifs relate to each other (Winchester Musical Hall poster and the microphone) and others are positioned harmoniously around to emphasise the importance of a healthy work/life balance. The bright side had to match the colour palette which was provided by Conway, so I went for my iconic bright red/yellow/orange gradient and I love the way it spills into the street inviting people to wander over.
Better Bankside © Mickey Lee
Better Bankside © Mickey Lee