As part of the Bevin Court Community Restoration project, the Peel Centre Art Club was invited to create artworks and curate an exhibition in response to the rich social, architectural and artistic heritage of Bevin Court and Peter Yates’ mural: Day and Night, Winged Bulls. In May the group visited Bevin Court, only a minute’s walk from the Peel Centre. Many of the members live locally, and have done for many years, but didn’t know of Bevin Court. It was lovely to see this building that was unknown to the members and myself, and that we had often walked past, become familiar in the following weeks.
During the tour the group heard about the many histories of Bevin Court. The group questioned and investigated possible landmarks and symbols within the Mural. They took photographs of details that interested them individually, and these photographs were used as a reference later on. They were all really drawn to the architecture, and the impressive staircase and landings, all offering views of green surrounding areas, and of picturesque views of London. On a return visit the members shared stories of how the landscape had changed, discussing what would have been seen by the original residents.
In the following weeks the group began to explore their photographs, separating different elements within the building and mural, and debating what they were intended to represent. They also studied the Finsbury Coat of Arms, which originally inspired Yates’s Mural. Through drawings, paintings and collage they then brought these elements together, playing with colour schemes and re-combining shapes from the mural. Each member had a different approach; works included Phoebe Smith’s mosaic version of the mural, illustrating the different ratios of colours used, Ann Gregory’s painting of one of Yates’ dolphins emerging from Lubetkin’s stairwell, and Maria Luisa Castello’s re-interpretation of the foyer as a museum of artefacts, playfully returning the bust of Bevin which had long since been removed from the building.
At this point the group was asked to think about how to bring their ideas together for the exhibition, and what that would look like as a final outcome. Referring to Yates’ Mural they decided on individual representations of what they considered important in a community, brought together in one collaborative piece, Ebb and Flow. What they termed important was carefully debated and categorised. Many of the items discussed were everyday parts of a community, including parks, markets, and train stations (which were the inspiration for the title Ebb and Flow).
Fauziah Cevet painted Paddington bear, inspired by the statue on Platform 1 in Paddington station, where she often took her children. Philomena McCann’s goat, from her childhood home in Ireland, raised the idea of how important animals and their mythologies are within our communities, as was the bull and a dolphin in Yates’s mural.
This project highlighted the unknown histories that have happened right on our doorstep, and the new histories that are made in their retelling.