The Big White Wall Project at Central Saint Martins, now in its third year, gives CSM students and staff the opportunity to work on an unprecedented scale, by covering a 7m x 30m wall in the heart of the campus. The initiative was devised by the Dean of Academic Programmes, Mark Dunhill, and is fully supported by Cass Art and Liquitex.
Students and staff from the courses BA Textile Design and MA Culture, Criticism and Curation have been announced as this year’s winners of the Big White Wall Competition. Their Eduardo Paolozzi inspired artwork, which interrogates the intersection of traditional analogue and contemporary digital print processes, impressed the judges and they were given the opportunity to bring their vision to life in UAL’s impressive Central Saint Martins building.
Watch the installation of the winning artwork below.
We went along to see the wall in progress and talk to Big White Wall artists, Vivien Reinhart and Lucy Macdonald, about the project.
Can you tell us about your design and its inspiration?
Vivien: Our Big White Wall artwork is paying tribute to the late Eduardo Paolozzi- each individual shape represents one stylistic period in his life. During the project, we were looking at his work and his inspirations. Our goal was to record the essence of all his different creative phases and combine them in one coherent mural that tells his story.
Lucy: Our design was very much inspired by Paolozzi’s mono prints and the monochromatic way of working that we had seen across a lot of his work. We were particularly focussed on his collage and the very layered nature of much of his work, so this became a significant focus for our Big White Wall installation. Obviously Paolozzi’s fascination with communication technology was a theme that we were eager to work with, as it was such a fundamental pillar in the work that he did across his very varied career! Using this old technology was interesting as it was a way of up-cycling technology that no longer served a functional purpose, and bringing it back to life through design.
How are you finding working to such a large scale?
Vivien: At first it was extremely intimidating. I thought there would be no way that we would be able to fill the wall within the given time, but as I began to print I experienced it to be very liberating. It makes you less fussy about small mistakes, because they won't have any effect on the end result. That takes a lot of pressure off you.
Lucy: Working to such a large scale was certainly daunting to begin with. We knew that it would be a real challenge to cover a wall of that size, however we discovered that it was manageable. Because it was a collaborative project, and all of the technology and mediums we were working with became part of a shared economy, there was no sense of individual ownership over the work. I that we were less precious about each individual outcome, as the project was about the broader artwork that belonged to us as a collective.
There are a number of people involved in the project. How did you find working as part of a team?
Vivien: I usually prefer working on my own. With group work there is always the danger that you either, won't get along with the other involved people, or that your tastes are just too different. However, this time everything just worked. I think I am lucky to be in a print group where the overall atmosphere is just right. Everybody was working hand in hand and made adjustments in order to achieve our overall end result. I think that this is why it worked so well, because we were all following the same goal and were grateful for the opportunity of creating this mural that is going to be seen by so many people. Everybody was working hard because we wanted to leave something special.
Lucy: Working as part of a team was very exciting. We are always working alongside one another in the studio, however the majority of the projects that we have done so far have been created individually. What was so exciting about working as part of a team was the opportunity to bring a variety of different strengths and diverse working styles together in the form of one large installation. It’s very cool to have so many different creative brains working alongside one another to make something that represents all of us.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Vivien: Personally, scaling up my work, since I usually work in small scale. In regard to working as a group, the biggest challenge was making our work look organised. We had to come together and define, as a group, what it is that makes Eduardo Paolozzi’s work his work. When almost 30 people work on one project it can be quite difficult to make it look coherent. Therefore, I think organisation and communication were the biggest struggles we started off with. However, as the project proceeded we all kind of tuned into the same channel and everybody knew what they had to do.
Lucy: The biggest challenge with this project was bringing all of the different elements and mark making together and making sure that there was a clear sense of fluidity and cohesiveness to the overall atmosphere of the installation. It was easy to make the work itself but then marrying it all together and creating something that made sense of what Paolozzi did and what we had done as a group was slightly challenging, particularly given the large scale of the installation and the large number of individual prints that we had to produce for the wall.
What materials are you using to create the artwork?
Vivien: For my piece I was working with the Liquitex Heavy Body black paint, the Winsor & Newton Galeria Matte Medium, the Winsor & Newton Thickening Gel and the Winsor & Newton Galeria Black Lava Texture Gel- to give my mono prints some texture.
Lucy: This project actually had a slightly less conventional process of making in comparison to what our other print projects usually entail. The majority of the prints were done using mono printing techniques – so virtually no paintbrushes were used in this process. The project began with each individual student sourcing old, out-dated communications technology from markets, charity shops or our own homes – stereos, mobile phones, computers, fax machines. We completely deconstructed and dismantled all of our findings, and used all of the individual components of each piece of technology to monoprint with. The internal anatomy of these pieces was so beautiful and intricate and when painted and mono printed, they produced really interesting shapes and silhouettes. We predominantly used Liquitex coloured paint, Liquitex black and white inks, Galeria Black Lava Texture Gel, Liquitex spray paint and some really interesting Galeria gel mediums. All of our prints were made on used newsprint from the print workshop.
What other work do you create?
Vivien: Normally my work is more small scale and very illustrative.
Lucy: Over the course of this project, we did a stitch and projection workshop with Amy Dickson. We used found film footage in combination with a new film strip to make a short film that was an amalgamation of each individual working on the Big White Wall Project. We stitched onto the film and drew and collaged onto it so this will be a slightly separate element of the exhibition, but something that we feel is still relevant in the context of Paolozzi’s artistic legacy. As far as the work that we have done for projects previous to this one, we do a lot of screen-printing. We also use the heat press to generate a lot of our outcomes, as well as digital embroidery and laser and vinyl cutting. The heat press is exciting as it allows us to do lots of interesting things such as embossing, flocking and foiling.
Would you do it again?
Vivien: At any time! This project, even though it was comparably short, taught me a lot about my own working process as well as working in a group with other people. I created a lot of work in a fairly short period of time, I learned to adjust in order to fit into the work of a team and to scale up my work. Furthermore it feels like this project made us all come together closer as a group. It was also really interesting to kind of forget about your own personal design-style and almost adapt the one of another artist. Paradoxically, this aspect was both, very liberating and fun because it gave you a rest from your own aesthetics, and on the other side it put pressure on you because you feel like you have a responsibility to represent Paolozzi’s work.
Lucy: Yes! We would most certainly love to do it again. It was a wonderful experience and a very valuable learning curve. There are so many layers of process that take place in pulling together an installation of this sort, so it was interesting for us to experience the trajectory of something like this. Not only that, but being able to create something that pays homage to such a fascinating and talented artist that we formerly did not know that much about was very exciting and a great opportunity.
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Read more about The Big White Wall Project and its previous winners on the Cass Art Blog.
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