Artist in Residence on the South Kilburn Estate for Brent Council
My recent work has documented the regeneration of the South Kilburn Estate, a process that is four years into a fifteen-year masterplan. The site’s original housing – in Brent, London was developed throughout the 60s in the utilitarian, modernist fashion common at the time but now seen as a failure. As a long-time resident of the area I saw the works as an opportunity to create a body of artwork. I did so informally at first, considering it an interesting extension of my earlier work: the ‘undoing’ of buildings as I have often done in a purely abstract and graphical way.
Taking an interest in my work, the council invited me to become the official Artist in Residence with a mandate to record the monumental changes to landscapes and lives. I am inspired and honoured by the opportunity to record, through artistic means, the regeneration of my own community and urban landscape. The central challenge to the exercise is to balance the forward-thinking quality and benefits of the regeneration whilst paying respect to the lives and histories that have existed in these vacated and soon-to-be-gone spaces.
By using images of the interiors as reference, for example, I have tried to give nuance to the lives lived within these spaces and pay reverence to lived experience within these properties. And it has been crucial to engage the remaining communities to give them a vehicle to express what the project means to them, as well as to further my understanding of the social significance of these changes and reflect them in my work.
South Kilburn Estate
Where my earlier work placed a strong emphasis on form, and was consciously non-figurative, my latest work has examined the interface between architecture and its inhabitants, with particular reference to the regeneration of the South Kilburn Estate.
I have approached the task by capturing a range of striking compositions of rigid, deserted, architectural exteriors and interiors, paying particular focus to shapes and textures, punctured by signs of previous life.
In exploring the stripped-out blocks throughout the project, I have tried to capture the lost community by looking for fragments of past lives. In these empty interiors I focused on details that hinted at the former glory of the rooms, imagining them once full of life. The pictures depict the stillness felt in these deserted spaces and emphasizes the departure of life. By depicting the blocks at their worst, in the midst of their decay and destruction, I beg the question of what our current living arrangements mean for us by showing what can become of them.
While there is a sense of ‘an end of an era’ in these images, and a critical examination of the failure of an older model of social housing (e.g. ‘streets in the sky’), my practice also looks forward to replacement of these buildings. By engaging with former residents through workshops to understand their feelings and attitudes, and through portraiture, I have sought to stress the human dimension to the project.