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Local people to help design major new public artwork in Newham

By Nick Mann

Local people to help design major new public artwork in Newham

A major new public artwork, to be produced with input from the local community and almost unprecedented in length, will be installed along the Elizabeth line trackside wall in Newham, it has been announced today.

Three internationally-renowned artists with significant ties to Newham and east London have been shortlisted to work with local people to deliver concepts for the boundary wall artwork, which will run through Custom House, Silvertown and North Woolwich.

At more than a mile long, it is believed that the artwork will be one of the longest ever commissioned in the UK.

The artists - Sonia Boyce, Oscar Murillo and Amalia Pica – all have experience of working with communities to shape their artistic and socially-engaged works of art that not only have significant visual impact but also create meaning for local people.

They will now have three months to engage with the local community as part of the artistic process before presenting their proposals to a Steering Group that includes community representatives from the local area and councillors from the London Borough of Newham.

Julian Robinson, Head of Architecture at Crossrail, said: “We have always intended to apply some kind of a finish to the trackside wall and understand the need to involve the community fully in the process. By asking the artists to engage with local people, our aim is to commission a large-scale, inspiring piece of public art that will genuinely feel a part of the local community for many years to come. I’m really looking forward to seeing the proposals in three months’ time.”

Emma Underhill, Director at UP Projects, curators of the artwork, said: “We believe that art can empower communities and enrich public spaces, so we are delighted to be working on such an ambitious project that has the local community at its heart. The shortlisted artists are of incredibly high calibre and each brings an understanding and commitment to working with people from the local area. We look forward to seeing what they will develop with the help of the Newham community.”

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Notes to Editors

Biographies of the artists are included below:

Sonia Boyce: Over her 30-year career Sonia Boyce has emerged as one of the leading figures in the British art scene. Her work began with drawings that reflect her personal experiences to more recent works in which she uses diverse media such as photography, video, sound and testimonies to depict contemporary life. Boyce's recent interests explore art as a social practice and the critical and contextual debates that arise from this area of study. With an emphasis on collaborative work, she has been working closely with other people since 1990, often involving improvisation and spontaneous performative actions on the part of her collaborators.

Oscar Murillo: Oscar Murillo’s multi-faceted practice comprises painting, installation, video and performance. In addition to his studio practice, Murillo spends much of his time and personal resources on a project to facilitate creativity in classrooms across the world through his long-term project Frequencies, in which canvases are temporarily affixed to classroom desks in selected schools across the globe, encouraging students aged ten to sixteen to create any kind of mark making—drawing, writing, doodling. In 2015, Murillo debuted the project with a large-scale installation of canvases as part of the 56th Venice Biennale: All the World's Futures.

Amalia Pica: London-based Argentine artist Amalia Pica uses sculpture, performance art, photography, installation, slide projections, and drawing to create works that explore forms of communication, metaphor, and social engagement, with a particular interest in communication across cultures, translation and language. In 2017, Pica had solo exhibitions at The Power Plant, Toronto; the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; and NC Arte, Bogotá to name just a few. In 2016 Pica took part in the Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju and The Space Between at MASS MoCA, Massachusetts and has been featured in many other international solo and group shows.

The Steering Panel consists of people representing the communities of Custom House, North Woolwich and Silvertown, plus an expert in contemporary public artwork.

Chair: Michael Cassidy CBE, Chair (Non-Exec Director, Crossrail)

Members include:

  • Cllr Pat Murphy (Newham Councillor, Royal Docks)
  • Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz (Newham Councillor, Custom House)
  • Jo Baxendale (Fourth Plinth, GLA)
  • Emma Underhill (Director, UP Projects)
  • Julian Robinson (Head of Architecture, Crossrail)
  • Joy-Caron Canter (Director, RDLAC)
  • Ebenezer Ayerh (Youth Engagement Officer, Fight for Peace)
  • Emma-Jane Crace (North Woolwich / Silvertown representative)
  • Jashwin Anthony (Custom House representative)
  • Thelma Rose Odoi (Custom House young person representative)