The hoardings are finally beginning to come down at the Olympic Park. They’ve been up there a while to cover the ongoing development work but also at the same time inadvertently covering up an elaborate wooden mosaic from artist Mark McClure which was completed midway through 2014.
Now you can, at least, see the artwork from the canalside as you walk between Old Ford Lock and Hackney Wick. Although getting up close is still tricky. The mosaic is based on a hoarding covering up another area of the parks development. Access to it is still restricted on account of its proximity to a temporary access road.
McClure’s work is part of the grand ‘living walls’ project to bring public art into the Olympic Park. It joins other large scale works also created onto the hoardings by artists Ben Eine, Jo Peel and David Shillinglaw. The work from Eine, a large scale series of stylised words describing the park, is something we’ve featured before on Inspiring City
Unlike his Living Walls contemporaries Mark is not usually cast in the ‘street art’ category. This may be obvious given he makes mosaics out of wood. Although, “things are blurring and merging” he told Moniker Projects. “It’s that whole thing, what is street art? Is it public art, is it a mural, is that street art? It’s crossing over.”
I first met McClure at the Moniker Art Fair in October last year. His stand, a joint installation with fellow Olympic Park artist Jo Peel was typically immersive with a wooden floor made in his unique style. It was an impressive venture but not quite as impressive as standing in front of a full 200 metre stretch with the the Olympic Stadium in the background.
The work itself is made up of ten key pieces, all originally designed on a computer and then scaled up so that Mark could begin the process of finding the wood and putting it all together. It was a process that would take the best part of a year. Working with a small team of people to help him, He based himself out of a warehouse on Blackhorse Road. There he cut and assembled all the pieces together.
Marks work could be described as abstract but he says “abstract usually suggests it’s inaccessible”. Instead it is full of big, bright shapes. “People don’t feel alienated by it, whether they get it or not. People just like it… there’s colour, it’s big, bold, friendly and quite playful”. The fact that it’s wooden also gives the work an added dimension, it’s meant to be interacted with, to be felt. It lends itself to semi-permanence.
The wood for the key sections of the mural all came from the area of the Olympic Park itself. All reclaimed it adds a link to the past to this very present piece of art. Now playing a very different role to what it might have been used for during the industrial heyday prior to the parks redevelopment. “There’s a history behind the recycled wood” McClure told me. “Its been used for something before. Even if it’s not a definite obvious story then it’s still contained in the pieces.”
We were only able to visit a small section of the work. Access to it is restricted by a security gate which guards the entrance to an access road. After a little bit of negotiation we were able to get a bit closer. It would be the first time since July 2014 that Mark had been able to feel the wood and despite being waterproofed it’s still changed. “I like the idea of the wood changing over time and maybe reflecting some of that industrial history” he tells me.
And it’s really that sense of renewal that this and the other art related projects around this area seem to be about. As we walked from Hackney Wick, criss-crossing the Lea Navigation, looking into coffee shops and meandering around the grounds of the Olympic Park. The change couldn’t be any more stark. This is an area utterly transformed. An area which has received the most remarkable of facelifts.
Mark McClure was interviewed on 24 January 2015 at the Olympic Park in Stratford. The Living Walls project is part of a large scale project to bring public art into the area during the period of it’s redevelopment.