Walls have taken on a whole new significance for me these days. Every time I walk down a street I see unclaimed spaces, creative opportunities and mostly potential. I want these plain surfaces to throb with colour, tell a story or transform a lonely nook into something enhancing that surprises, delights, shocks, provokes or just makes people giggle themselves bandy.
I’m hardly a late adopter to the love of public art, but have come to understand that it’s not just cosmopolitan towns or cities, places with a deep attachment to their history and areas undergoing polish and gentrification that need, desire and require the double-take of an unexpected piece of open and touchable artwork. Pieces like Philth’s mural in West Street bring a sense of life and spontaneity into towns.
In Maidenhead, with its uneven landscape and capricious history, we need a rollercoaster of public art that reflects it’s ever-changing circumstances, accounting for not just the status quo but embracing our community in its entirety – age, circumstance, industry, religion, gender and every other potential artistic aspect that our beautifully diverse flourishing home town can throw into the sky. Like Holi, the festival of colours, where thousands of pigments mix in the air and then gently settle, our public art must represent us, not harken back to a time that, while important, is an expression of history rather than hopes for the future.
Something as simple as a brushstroke, when carried out with skill, knowledge and heart in the right place can be endlessly more valuable to us than negotiated, strategised and ‘cohesive’ works that are ultimately disjointed because they are installed, essentially, by artists who have been commissioned to interpret and represent Maidenhead, without knowing us or living here. And yes, when you require specialist work then you must employ the best person for the job, but there are a lot of bare walls in Maidenhead. And a lot of incredible artists. I believe there are so many opportunities to circumnavigate the ‘strategy’ and create an artistic legacy from within our own community. So who is going to step forward to work with the artists of Maidenhead and support us in stamping our own personality on the town?