I know I'm not the only artist to be seduced by the powerfully instinctive artwork often made by young kids so I was really delighted to be offered the opportunity to collaborate with primary school kids to create sculptural reliefs for a subway near their school.
I was invited by artist Louise Shenstone to work together on the project. Louise came up with the concept and created the paintings behind my reliefs. She did workshops with the kids of Springwood Primary, Llanederyn (Cardiff) getting them to make drawings, collages and plaster reliefs based on their observations of the local architecture. This is predominantly 1960s so all their work had a definite Modernist vibe - right up my street - which lends itself perfectly to a fairly abstract 'cut-out' style of imagery
I made 6 different reliefs, referencing the kid's plaster casts.
These are some of their fantastic collages based on local architecture. Louise did a brilliant job running the workshops and got them to produce wonderful work. She then designed her wall painting taking elements of their collages.
And these are some of the plaster reliefs which they designed from their collages. When I saw the photos I said to Louise - wow, you don't need me! Looking at them had quite an impact on my approach to my work actually - i.e. don't overthink it and don't get hung up on neatness! Their reliefs have so much immediacy and simplicity.
I tried to keep the flavour of their sculptures in mine and worked in exactly the same way i.e. casting from all kinds of scrap materials with lots of different textures. Each of my reliefs references some elements of theirs.
The best thing about the project was how very close the finished mural was to the kids' work. They could totally have done the whole commission themselves (if they'd been a bit older and bigger!).
I really loved a collage one kid did with a TV aerial - they really summed up TV aerials and I tried to copy their version.
When Louise first described the project to me I was slightly concerned that the difference in scale between my sculptures and her painting might be problematic, but in the event, I think the juxtaposition of large painted shapes and more intricate relief sculpture works very well.
After making plaster casts from my initial scrap collages I then had to take a silicone mould to give to my fabricator to make a final cast in a hard concrete-based material for the subway wall.
Casting from random low-key and scrap materials is exactly what I do when making my plaster busts so that process was completely in my zone, except it was nice to work on a larger scale - and an awfully lot easier doing it flat than three-dimensionally.
I made 2 casts of each design so each appears against a different background. I absolutely loved the colours Louise used.
I've always wanted to cast from bubble wrap and Louise had done that with the kids so here was my chance to try it out! Love it!
When I make the headgear for my plaster busts I quite often use cardboard box packaging because they're often great abstract shapes. When I flattened out this box it seemed to suggest a very cool Modernist building - actually, I wouldn't mind a house like that myself.
Yes, well done young artist! You really nailed it!
It was interesting working with negative relief again as in my two large public sculptures - also in Wales:
Thanks to the artists at Springwood Primary - it was great working with you guys!