My art explores the line between construction, regeneration and overdevelopment, the removal/covering up of history and landmarks, the displacement of people and the effect new buildings have on an environment and local communities. In my wall painting the upheaval and damage caused by the construction work of the new Technical College in 1956 (now the University of Westminster building that houses the art studios) and the effect that it has had on the area, its residents and population is investigated.

Embedding the construction history of the building into the wall of the University

The piece depicts the construction of the university building with St Mary’s church on Harrow Hill in the background. The construction site with its crane and scaffolding fade into the current building in the foreground.

It’s location on a wall within the actual building and the construction materials used to create it challenges its boundaries, blurring where the art finishes and the building and it’s history begins.

Images courtesy of Westminster University Archives

The original construction of the building was met with mixed responses from the community, its location on a green field site was not well received. There was no displacement of people but the effect on the landscape and locals was clear. This is in contrast to how it is viewed today. The building houses the art wing of the University and is a thriving, vibrant place of learning for art, photography, fashion, design and music students.

Local press from 1960 after the construction was completed

The Aims & Ambitions project utilises elements from site specificity, painting, archives and fresco based art practices. The location, materials, subject and concept were all carefully considered and developed using information provided by the university archivist and independent research. The development of the piece came from archive imagery, local press cuttings, documents and articles from the time along with a series of my own photos and sketches of the interior and exterior of the building as it is today.

Location and sketch visuals and test pieces

Production of the piece started with the removal of the existing plaster back to the wall. once this removal stage was complete the rebuilding started. For this builders' plaster was used to cover over the bare wall and give a textured base onto which the new plaster 'painting' could be applied.

Initial stages of plaster removal
Removal stage complete

By removing the plaster on the wall and replacing it with conventional building materials my aim was for the work to become part of the building, grafted it to its location. Mirroring the way new buildings bond themselves to the land they occupy and become permanent additions to the location, By applying the materials with painters pallet knives and artists brushes it is constructed as a painting but it is also a physical part of the building.

Application of the first details onto the base layer

As each of the layers dried, new ones were added, gradually building up the image and leveling the surrounding plaster to match to the unaffected wall areas. Once all the plaster was applied it had to be left for over a week to allow it to dry enough so that the painting of the surrounding areas could begin.

Repetition of the layering and drying stages

When the plaster was dry the area around the image was painted in white emulsion to match the rest of the wall.

Painting in stages, gradually building them up.

The final piece was finished at the end of 2016. Fading the paint towards the edge gives the impression of a portal through which the viewer is able to see the building's fabric and at the same time have a glimpse into it's history.

Aims and Ambitions. Wall painting installation at Westminster University by Andy Finlay 2016
Created By
Andy Finlay

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