I’m sitting on the 3rd story of a scaffold hugging a house in the leafy suburbs of West London. Around me mosaic artists from around the World are busy at work cutting and attaching fragments of multi-coloured tile to the outside. Other houses on the street have pebble dash but not this one, Carrie Reichardt’s house is an artwork in its own right.
We’ve covered the work of Carrie before, most recently in 2015 when her mosaic covered taxi travelled around the country raising awareness of the plight of Kenny ‘Zulu’ Whitmore, an American man incarcerated for years on dubious charges and someone who is still behind bars now. Carrie calls herself a craftivist, using her art to talk about issues such as the American penal system with the result that she often brings it front and centre into peoples consciousness.
Completing the Mosaic House
That project was ambitious but this is even more so, the end result will be the front and back of the house being completely covered in intricate mosaic. Already somewhat of an artistic landmark for the area, the works happening over the past week are designed to finish off the project, something that has been a labour of love for Carrie over the years.
But, back to me and I’m sitting on the 3rd story cutting my first tile, it’s an eye which will eventually be erected alongside another eye to make the shape of a butterfly. I’m learning by doing that the life of a mosaic artist is a pretty tough one although I’m fortunate in that I’ve stumbled upon a few renowned mosaic artists to show me the ropes, Melanie Watts and Stephanie Roberts. Just a couple of go’s with the tile cutters and I’m already bemoaning the fact that I can feel the strain on the back of my hand. The wider assemblage of mosaic experts nod in understanding, they are well used to this side effect of their trade.
From Chile to Chiswick
Foremost amongst the assembled international talent contributing to the mosaic is Isidora Paz Lopez, from Chile via Germany and one of South America’s best mosaic artists who has flown over especially to spend a week putting her mark on the building. It’s like an exchange trip with many of the contributing artists having also worked with Isidora on a mass project in Chile three years ago. Her scarab beatle, symbolising rebirth and renewal, will eventually shimmer in the centre of the building.
It was the impending visit of Isidora that prompted Carrie to put a call out for others who might be interested in joining her and the result was a deluge of interest from around the World and the UK. The opportunity of bringing some of the World’s best together being too good to turn down for many.
Collaborations from across the World
Joining her, the likes of Phillipe Vignal from France whose ‘spacebugs’ have become a common sight in the East End, Se Van Weert from the Netherlands and Nevanka Pavic from Chile via Barcelona. Local artists such as my soon to be teachers Stephanie Roberts from Wales and Melanie Watts from Milton Keynes were joined with Tamara Froud from Catford and Joanna Dudzinska from Ealing amongst others who also descended upon the West London suburb to contribute to the ever growing mass collaboration. Other artists, unable to make the journey, are sending works ready made to go up on the walls, Carrie has requested that these be in the form of pre-made ‘flying eyeballs’
Of course these were just a few of the artists contributing. Closer to home friends of this blog, the likes of Karen Francesca, ATM Street Art, Sian Wonnish and Philly K Bhambi aka Weardoe are regular collaborators with Reichardt most notably on the Zulu Freedom Taxi mentioned earlier in the post.
It’s tough to see just how the assembled mosaic is taking shape. Look from across the road and there is a hive of activity. On the ground floor outside the house, mosaic is being assembled on mesh ready to be placed onto the wall. These are the most intricate elements and they require precision. The rest of the activity is taking place on the two landings of the scaffolding with artists working both alone on their sections but then collaboratively in order to ensure that they join up and merge with each other.
On the landings Isidora is working her huge scarab whilst Phillipe Vignal installs yet more of his spacebugs. Elsewhere a grinning cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland has been put together by Tamara Froud whilst ATM tries to install a skull which is actually a commemorative piece to political prisoner Herman Wallace and Stephanie Roberts is creating what looks to be a fairy with 3D bee like wings
A Landmark in West London
The work is constant with breaks for food and cups of tea being minimal. Even the call for the impressive buffet is met with acknowledgement but no rush to the kitchen. These are artists in the zone and they are staying there. I feel somewhat bad on account of the fact that I’ve just arrived and I’m already being ushered in immediately following the call for dinner to feast on a freshly cooked chicken banquet.
Already a landmark in itself in West London, I ask Carrie what the neighbours think about it and she comments that although there may have been concerns at the beginning, the house is now a unique part of the street and of the area although she thinks they’d be pleased to see the back of the scaffolding which has been there a bit longer than intended.
The Treatment Rooms
Where other houses have tiles and pebble dash this one has mosaic of which each part tells a story and there is probably another whole other book on decoding the messages contained on and within these walls. There’s even a blue plaque, albeit courtesy of the ‘English Hedonists’, another of the Reichardt brands, which says:
‘The Treatment Rooms 2002 – Now’ – Lot’s of people lived here and partied hard’
Well, yes they certainly did and to be honest they probably still do in this unique little house in middle of leafy suburban London
The house in Chiswick, West London can be found on Fairlawn Grove a short walk from South Acton overground station. It was visited on 18 March 2017 with all photographs and interviews taking place on the same day.
Carrie Reichardt talks to Inspiring City about the work going on at her house
Isidora Paz Lopez, Karen Wilder, Nevanka Pavic, Stephanie Roberts, Tamara Froud and ATM talk about their work on the house
The Treatment Rooms Gallery
For other posts featuring artists of the Treatment Rooms collective have a look at: