Thursday, 8 September 2016

Artist Residencies in the Local Community: Federico Herrero on Peckham's Pelican Estate

Pelican Estate. Photo by Dan Weill 

By Jack James, Children and Families' Co-ordinator at the South London Gallery

“avoiding the idea of a mural that is connected to decoration… [I’m] much more interested in the idea of a mural that is connected to an experience”  - Federico Herrero

When looking at opportunities for the touring exhibition Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today to connect with the South London Gallery (SLG), curator Pablo León de la Barra proposed that Costa Rican artist Federico Herrero contribute towards the SLG’s ongoing work on local housing estates in the largely residential areas of Camberwell and Peckham.

This instigated a residency co-hosted by Pelican Estate in Peckham and the SLG, in which Federico situated a social aspect of his practice. The residency existed alongside his studio practice of painting on canvases, which is represented in the SLG’s main gallery space as part of the same exhibition.

Installation view. Federico Herrero, Pan de Azucar, 2014.  Photo: Andy Stagg.

In discussing potential locations to create a mural for the estate with the Pelican Plus Tenants and Residents Association, Federico expressed his intention to create a work that was part of an experience within the locality, rather than being a decoration on top of it. After considering several potential locations by viewing images sent ahead of his arrival, Federico asked to situate his contribution to the estate by painting onto the surface of the playground and then actively encouraged people to walk, run and play on his work. This playground at the centre of Pelican housing estate is slightly larger than many, but is fairly typical of fixed play provision on housing estates up and down the country. Pelican Estate is a post-war housing development combining low and high rise blocks of flats and maisonettes with shared facilities including a community hall and another smaller playground.

Playgrounds invite and initiate activity through a collection of objects explicitly purposed for children’s gross motor play. Children can and will play anywhere but within the UK particularly, we have become accustomed to setting aside spaces for children to play and even legislate for the provision of outdoor recreational spaces in residential developments. Municipal playgrounds have a history dating back to the Victorian philanthropy, which gave us many of London’s public parks and civic facilities including the South London Gallery itself.

Pelican Estate. Photos by Mark Blower.