Public Art pt4 – Realisation

My original intention was to have a completed piece of Public Art on McColl’s window for the beginning of August, the start of the 2 month long Culture Show.

Unfortunately the project was marred by delays. Firstly the relationship with Bidford youth club needed more time to develop and so next week was given here, then, the time needed to install the public art was far greater than originally anticipated. I had naively imagined that a couple of days work outside on the space would have got everything finished, sealed and looking good. A day was booked in the Arts Centre in early August with the intention of laying out all the images in their respective window frames end then installing them in place. I decided to use Scotch Photomount spray glue to stick the 3×4″ prints in place, despite its high price, because it allowed for a little repositioning but was a permanent glue, and it was tried and tested by me in the past. A couple of volunteers, who had participated on BBC workshops in the past, Stuart and Shirley Stickler helped with this process. However after a whole days work only half of one panel was complete and this needed to be varnished straightaway to protected from the weather.

The weather was another important factor in the delay of installing the artwork. August 2015 proved to be very wet in Southwest England. It was rare for a day to go by without a shower of rain. This rain played havoc with my outdoor work which needed extremely dry conditions until it became protected from the rain. Confounding this situation with wetness, when it wasn’t raining it was often very sunny, the sun shining directly onto the windows and making them very hot indeed. The black-and-white A4 card that had been pasted onto the window has shrunk slightly around the edges. Some of them had also started to peel from at the edges from the flat surface, and I needed to add stronger glue to hold them in place.

Another issue, which caused delay, was the varnish. I had spent a lot of time researching varnish, needing something that would give UV protection and protect the work from the rain outdoors. The yacht varnish that I bought was supposed to be clear, but when applied and dried it gave a yellow skin to the work making the images seem faded, like an old photograph. My experience of using varnish indoors on similar work in the past had been very very successful. The varnish from my previous experience had completely sealed the photographs, like a lacquer or resin might have done. I decided to remove the worst offenders of the yellowed pictures and replace them with new ones. I also ordered a clear spray on varnish that seemed to have very good reviews on the Internet being designed specifically for artwork. However this spray on varnish didn’t seal the images as I had hoped and I found that with bright warm direct sunshine often the corners of individual pictures curled upwards.

My cycle of work was that every time there was to be a dry day I would spend the whole day working on the panels. Gluing down any corners that may have curled up, spraying pictures in place and then, by the end of the day stopping only for lack of sunshine, I sprayed the whole lot with clear varnish to seal.

As the artwork started to evolve in the very public space I would often and sometimes continually get members of the public coming up and asking what it was, or commenting on how they liked it, or questioning what it was for? This was a thrilling, but unexpected part of making art work in the public realm. A part of making public art which I recognise as very important but had not factored in the time needed to talk to people who were interested in what I was doing. Having the public’s enthusiasm for what I was doing made the arts practice very rewarding. I was fascinated by the fact that so many people came over looking at the work but could only see small pictures on the window some on their side, some upside down, but they could not see the big picture. It was only when they walked away, viewing it from a distance, that they saw it as a photo mosaic of Bideford Longbridge. When questioned what the image was supposed to be I would often show them how it looked through the wide angle lens of my iPhone and they would instantly see the bridge.

Once all three panels were complete I waited for a very dry day when I knew that everything was absolutely bone dry and then sealed the whole lot under clear sticky back plastic. The clear plastic film was then trimmed all the way around the edge and sealed with exterior white sealant.

The completed Photomosaic on Jubilee Square in Bideford.