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Architecture & Design, Art & Public Space, Art Projects, Commissions & Projects, Competitions, Installation, Urban Design

Art in Urban Space – Arts Foundation Award 2016

Art in Urban Space is part of a series of awards by the Arts Foundation. The £10,000 prize is supported by the Yoma Sasburg Estate, for artists who create objects, installations or interventions that ‘enrich the texture and visual experience of our urban spaces’.

Four artists have been shortlisted for the 2016 Arts Foundation Award: Art in Urban Space: Henry Coleman, Ruth Ewan, Bobby Niven and Aaron Williamson.


Henry Coleman, Scrape. Royal Academy façade, London

Henry Coleman

The artist attempts to push into the edges of design, which he describes as ‘the outcropping of the prevailing conditions that determine the way we travel through the world’. This invariably brings him to create works that respond to the urban space where architecture and the built environment lead him to propose surreal interjections such as his sculptural installation ‘Scrape’ (referencing the original “anti-scrape” nickname for William Morris’s Society for the Protection of Ancient Building SPAB). In this piece Coleman re-made a set of iconic 1960s signs recently removed from the front of the French Railways House on Piccadilly and re-sited them across the façade of the Royal Academy nearby. This ‘geographical slippage’ as Coleman calls it formed a viscerally surreal appeal to a spatial and architectural memory while the confusion of design and architecture created by the move highlighted the signs’ permanent absence from Piccadilly. In 2015 Coleman staged The Greater Order an exhibition at the Royal Academy where he recently completed his MA. The exhibition involved temporarily blocking the Cast Corridor, the private arterial heart and the iconic image of the Schools, which was absorbed into and cloaked by the marketing materials of the wider Academy; Inhabiting the metaphors of the curtain, the banner and the flag to talk about issues of visibility as a route to commodification and the rights to space. Coleman’s interest in adapting to changed and changing contexts has led to several projects in Latin America, particularly Mexico City where his interest in the late Mexican architect Juan O’Gorman has spearheaded past and future projects.

Ruth Ewan. How To Make Archway Tower Disappear, 2012

Ruth Ewan. How To Make Archway Tower Disappear,2012

Ruth Ewan

”Much of what I do is a learning process for myself as much as it is for others” describes the artist’s methodical way of researching projects which often involves others in a shared journey of discovery. Over the last five years her work has deeply engaged with layered histories, people and places we overlook. “Often these histories are revealed to be latent with ideas with potential to alter perceptions of our place and time” she says. Since her move to East London in 2003 the accelerated tide of urban change has fuelled critical thinking of the city as a place to work, live and be inspired. Several projects have engaged specifically with East London: Dreadnoughts a series of public walking tours commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery focusing of key aspects of East London past and possible future; A LOCK IS A GATE a concept album devised with Hackney’s Laburnum Boat Club’s young people distributed via Art on the Underground; Liberties of the Savoy in which 200 teenagers from East London took over The Savoy hotel’s exclusive Lancaster Ballroom, absorbing social history, from the riots of 2011 to the Peasants Revolt of 1381 along the way. Following on from her installation ‘Back to the Fields’ this year at Camden Arts Centre where the Republican Calendar (briefly introduced in post-revolutionary France) was brought to life, she is currently developing the idea of a botanical clock where through collaboration with nature, an alternative time zone is created and the tyranny of the mechanical and digital clock is momentarily escaped.

Bobby Niven, Iain MacLeod. Pig Rock Bothy

Bobby Niven, Iain MacLeod. Pig Rock Bothy, 2014

Bobby Niven, Iain McLeod. Pig Rock Bothy

Bobby Niven, Iain McLeod. Pig Rock Bothy, 2014

Bobby Niven

From his experiences in mountain bothies across Europe, Fife based artist Bobby Niven began The Bothy Project in 2011, a network of small-scale, off-grid art residency spaces in distinct and diverse locations around Scotland and beyond. HIs objective was to collaborate with a lead artist and create platforms for artists to journey and explore the peculiarities of the history, mythology, landscape and people in the areas surrounding each bothy. In 2012 the project involved turning a vacant space by the canal in Glasgow into a wildflower garden with a shipping container bothy creating an alternative outdoor performance and events space. The following year the garden hosted 157 Days of Sunshine, an exhibition of work by Nicolas Party, Laura Aldridge & Kathryn Elkin, Bobby Niven, Michael Stumpf and Guillaume Gattier. In 2014 Pig Rock Bothy was completed in Edinburgh. Built on the grounds of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and hosting a series of talks, events and performances the project was part of Generation – an exhibition celebrating 25 years of contemporary art in Scotland.
 Niven’s ongoing sculpture practice involves working with a range of different materials and techniques. If he were to receive the fellowship he would like to develop ways of working with mud and glass fibre reinforced concrete with the eventual aim of building a sculptural out-door kitchen. Complete with bread oven, ranger stove and a rocket mass heater all constructed from mud, the kitchen would be protected by a glass fibre concrete roof and create a space for a programme of workshops and events with longer-term benefits in mind.


Aaron Williamson. Leaflet Wars

Aaron Williamson. Leaflet Wars

Aaron Williamson. Demonstrating the World

Aaron Williamson. Demonstrating the World

Aaron Williamson

Over the last twenty years Aaron Williamson has created more than 300 performances, videos and installations worldwide including Taiwan, Greenland, Canada and Transylvania. As a profoundly deaf person he made exploratory work about receiving sound, performing experimental sound poetry to installations using sound-to-text software. The main influence upon his work is what he calls the ‘Classic Period’ of performance art that ran from the late 1950’s through to the mid-1970’s. This period included a worldwide political, social radicalisation leading up to the revolutionary protests of 1968 and beyond. The mainstay of Aaron’s artistic practice is interventionist performance in urban spaces where the general public often forms the setting or even the subject of the work. Shopping centres, city streets, public museums or even galleries become his stage with their particular civic relevance and architectural properties becoming part of the work. In 2013 commissioned by Venice Agendas for the Venice Biennale Aaron staged a series of performances along the waterfront between Giardini and the Columns at the Molo. His work focused on infiltration, conflict and pacification, the three theoretical stages of invasion, a characteristic of Venice during the busy art festival period. More recently Aaron has been commissioned by Unlimited 2 for a durational public intervention work particularly aimed at urban shopping centres. For this future project he will perform using a mobile stage set featuring a radically displaced domestic interior designed in collaboration with architect Ida Martin. Demonstrating the World questions the intuitive negotiation of even the most habitual and self-evident activity. Since 2000 he has built up a catalogue of Performance Art pieces which he also disseminates through social media to a wider audience.

The winner of the 2016 award will be announced on 28 January 2016 in London at the Arts Foundation Awards 2016. The four artists were selected by Jeremy Deller, artist, Michaela Crimmin, curator and co-founder/director of Culture and Conflict, and Sally Tallant, Director, Liverpool Biennial.

The Arts Foundation award is to be used to pay for living and working expenses. It is one of six categories of awards,which also features: children’s theatre, materials innovation, literary translation, producers of live music, and jewellery design. The awards were launched in 2014 with Art in the Elements. In 2017 the award will feature artists’ work involved with Art in Architecture.


About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


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