Now in its tenth year, the Big Walls and Windows Project, supported by Liquitex and Cass Art, creates a unique opportunity for Camberwell College of Arts students to propose and realise a temporary large-scale, site-specific artwork displayed within the college.
For the 2023 Big Walls and Windows Project, Emily Jackson has created a graphic mural inviting the public to step into a black-and-white abstract world. Using flat colours and black lines, Emily’s winning proposal immerses the viewer in a muted space with each side of the wall containing a corridor which seemingly leads to the same doorway. Inspired by low-budget video games and their graphic nature, the mural creates a liminal space contrasting the surroundings of a busy art college with a greyscale to create a moment of stillness.
We caught up with Emily to find out more about her experience and how she approached the project.
Hi Emily! Congratulations again on being selected for the 2023 Big Walls and Windows Project at Camberwell College of Arts. Can you tell us about your proposal and what made you apply for the Big Walls & Windows project? What appealed to you about working on such a large scale?
Hi! Thanks again, I’ve applied for the BWW Project twice now because the opportunity to work on such a large scale is one I couldn’t give up. My work this year really relies on it, as it consists of two life-sized hallways to create the feeling that you could almost walk into them. The other thing is that the wall is in view of everyone, right by reception. I’m interested in how an audience reacts to art, and so this project is the perfect opportunity to see that relationship up close.
Now you’ve completed the mural, how did you find the experience and were there any big challenges?
The overall experience was really rewarding, being able to see the progress on the wall every day and have people coming up asking questions really builds confidence. My main challenge was timescale, figuring out how to transform my drawings onto the wall was difficult, I spent three weeks on the front of the wall and a couple of days on the other side, because once everything was tried and tested the process became a lot simpler.
The piece is inspired by liminal space and old video games. Tell us more about why these subjects interest you and what these themes bring to the space at Camberwell.
Some of my favourite video games were made on some form of RPG maker, the graphics are very simplistic, but they still add to the experience. As the graphics aren't very descriptive the player is made to fill in the blanks. I wanted to incorporate this simplicity into my work, to make the audience ask its own questions. Many horror games use liminal space to employ the fear of the unknown, as anything could be lurking around the corner in-between rooms. This is also a question in a way. I found myself distracted by these spaces and wanted to bring this into real life. In relation to Camberwell, I wanted there to be this contrast, Camberwell is very lively and colourful, and the mural is still and quiet. Artists ask questions all the time and so I hoped the mural would get people thinking about where the hallways lead.
How did you find working with Liquitex paints and mediums, did you find the materials shaped the artwork in a new way for you?
The materials definitely shaped the way I worked; I was using soft body paints for the mural which allowed things to be a lot more even than I’m used to. I was able to only do a couple of layers before the paint was completely smooth. This is what allowed me to use the tape without the black paint looking physically behind the rest of the wall. I also used matte varnish; this really made the hallway look like a real place rather than a painting which allowed me to create the portal effect I really wanted.
Can you tell us how you tackled the project step by step?
Okay, so initially I drew my proposal drawings on my phone, to transfer them to the wall I highlighted all my lines in pink and projected them on the wall. The wall was painted black so I could tape over those lines and have them stay black while I painted in my colours. I then mixed all my colours together, so they stayed similar to each other, and essentially painted by numbers, filling in all the empty space. I then removed the tape and fixed any mistakes or patches before varnishing the wall matte.
How do you hope the passing public will respond to the work?
I hope people will be intrigued by the wall and see it as a portal to someplace else. I really want people to ask questions to themselves about this piece, wonder where the portal leads to and where the hallways themselves lead. I’m also hoping that even the passers-by, turn to see the wall even if they’re in a rush. I’d really like to see if the wall is as eye-catching as I imagined.
What are your final thoughts on the project? Has it helped you to develop as an artist and do you feel you’d like to work on more site-specific artwork installations in the future?
I’m happy with how the project has gone, it’s really inspired me to work on a larger scale and think about how I want to display my work in relation to a space. This project has really helped me identify what I'm interested in and work on new goals. I’m hoping in the future I can work on similar installations where I can be influenced by the audience in a space.
And finally, what’s next for you?
Right now, I’m hoping to develop my practice and work towards my own installation in the future. I already have an idea I'm investigating which will hopefully be fully realised soon. In the meantime, I’m still making work related to liminal space audience and narrative, which can be seen @emmie.j.arts. I’m really looking forward to what's next!
See Emily’s Big Walls and Windows installation is on display at Camberwell College of Arts , 45 - 65 Peckham Road, London SE5 8UF until 28th May 2023. Admission is free.
Image credits: Images 2 & 3 by Peter Cattrell (photos) @petercattrellphotography. All other images © Angela Tozzi.
Timelapse: Footage from Emily Jackson and video edited by Angela Tozzi. Music: “To Pass Time” by Godmode.