Hackney Council announces artists chosen to create two major new public artworks to honour Windrush Generation
Hackney Council has today announced that artists Thomas J Price and Veronica Ryan have been commissioned to create two new individual public artworks celebrating and honouring Hackney’s Windrush Generation, the first permanent public sculptures to do so in the UK.
The artworks will be unveiled in 2021, and will be installed in two different locations at the heart of civic and community life in the borough, including outside Hackney Town Hall. The works will serve as a permanent expression of solidarity with the Windrush Generation, a recognition of the hugely significant contribution they have made to life in Hackney and the UK, and will symbolise the ongoing commitment from the borough to provide refuge and welcome to worldwide migrants.
In August 2018, Hackney became the first local authority in the UK to pass a comprehensive motion regarding the Windrush Generation, pledging to oppose the criminalisation of Windrush families, calling for an end to the ‘hostile environment’ policies and for support for those who have been affected by them.
This announcement follows the Council’s decision to review the role of statues and the naming of landmarks, street names, parks and other public spaces to ensure they best reflect Hackney’s diversity and history of fighting racism.
The announcement is made on Windrush Day 2020, and follows an extensive consultation process which began in 2018. Following an initial shortlisting process, the final decision to commission Thomas J Price and Veronica Ryan was made by a panel including Hackney residents, Windrush campaigners, artists, architects and local councillors including Cllr Carole Williams - Hackney’s Windrush lead. The panel was chaired by Mark Sealy, Director of Hackney-based gallery Autograph ABP, with approval from Mayor Phillip Glanville.
Using photo archives, observations and digital 3D scans of Hackney residents, Thomas J Price will create a large-scale bronze sculpture, which will be placed in the centre of Hackney, outside the Town Hall. This larger than life physical representation of people from the African Caribbean diaspora will be a bold celebration of the legacy and cultural influence of the Windrush Generation, while also seeking to address the disproportionate lack of statues representing black people in the UK in a nuanced form that reinforces the beauty of the everyday, the human, and not just the exotic.
Veronica Ryan will create a series of large marble and bronze sculptures representing Caribbean fruit and vegetables. Speaking of her inspiration, Veronica Ryan said: “I have memories of going to Ridley Road Market with my mother as a child to buy fruit and vegetables, fabrics, and sewing materials. Little did I know, those early experiences would become essential material for my practice as an artist. I remember as a toddler during the 1950s the difficulties my young hopeful parents from Montserrat dealt with, navigating a new country and often inhospitable circumstances.”
We are thrilled to be welcoming the work of Thomas J Price and Veronica Ryan to Hackney. These very different works by two leading black artists will represent a symbol of our borough’s ongoing commitment to honouring the contribution the Windrush Generation has made to our borough. The visionary work of these artists helps us to demonstrate how much we value the role arts and culture play in expressing our identity and interpreting this essential part of our collective story.
Since 2018 we have been in conversations with cultural experts and our local community about the commission and the significance it brings to not only our borough but the story of Black History in the UK. While our commitment to this work has long predated the current debate about better and more diverse representation in the public sphere we’re proud, as we undergo our review of landmarks and naming of public spaces, to be able to make this announcement on Windrush Day 2020. It is a clear example of our ongoing efforts to reflect on and celebrate our migrant history, recognising it and Black History as an essential and valued part of Hackney and who we are as a borough.”
To see Hackney become home to two new pieces of art belonging to two different generations of the Windrush community is something we take pride in. Placing their work in the heart of Hackney represents our long history of welcoming migrants from across the world and recognising art as a form of expression and identity.
We’re proud to be home to one of the largest black British populations in the UK and we’re committed to recognising the ongoing contributions they bring through celebration, support and honour. The announcement of our Windrush artwork is another example of how we stand by those commitments and insist on visibility and gratitude to black British people within our civic and accessible spaces.”
Mark Sealy, Director of Autograph ABP, said: “I’m delighted that Thomas and Veronica have been chosen for these incredibly important public art commissions. It’s been an engaging and deeply participatory process from all those involved. Through this process we now have the opportunity to mark with respect and grace the incredible contributions the Windrush Generation has made to Britain and beyond.”
Thomas J Price said: “This is an amazing opportunity to show how people connected to Windrush are part of the very fabric of this country. I feel honored to be part of this celebration of its legacy, especially as my Jamaican grandmother came over as a nurse. Hackney is a place I know well and is close to my heart. I was born and raised in London and frequently visited Hackney to see friends long before I started to come to the area for arts and cultural activities. I am very excited to work with the people of Hackney on this project, and it’s my hope that this piece will challenge social perceptions and receive engagement from audiences that are often left out of traditional gallery environments.”
Veronica Ryan said: “The chance to work on this commission is really brilliant and exciting. l look forward to realising this timely project during this pivotal moment for transformation, positive representations of cultural diversity, and tangible visibility in public sculpture. It is wonderful that Hackney is taking this initiative.”
Thomas J Price
Born and still based in London, Thomas J Price studied at Chelsea College of Art (2001–04) and received an MA at the Royal College of Art, Sculpture School (2004–06) Thomas J Price’s practice engages with issues of representation and perception. Through sculpture, film and photography, Price invites us to look deeper into our interpersonal experiences and the mental processes that inform them. Price plays with methods of presentation, material, scale, and detail in order to challenge viewers’ expectations.
His work confronts the possibilities of misinterpretation, which he often does through figuration that examines stereotypical fears and questions assumptions. Selected solo exhibitions have been held at prestigious institutions including the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (UK), National Portrait Gallery (London), The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery (Toronto), Mac Birmingham (UK) and Harewood House (UK). Price’s work has also been included in shows in the US, Canada and Europe. Price's work is included in a number of private and public collections including The Government Art Collection (UK), Derwent London (UK), Murderme (UK) and The Rennie Collection (Canada).
Born in 1956 in Plymouth, Montserrat and raised in England, Veronica Ryan creates meticulously handcrafted work using a wide range of materials, including bronze, plaster, marble, textile, and found objects. Her sculptures and installations examine environmental and sociopolitical concerns, personal narratives and memories, as well as the wider psychological implications of history, trauma and recovery. Ryan has studied at St. Albans College of Art and Design, Bath Academy of Art in Corsham Court, The Slade School of Art at University College, London, and The School of Oriental and African Studies at London University. Over her forty-year career, she has been the subject of numerous exhibitions and residencies within the U.K., the U.S., and abroad. Her first one-person exhibition was at Arnolfini, Bristol in 1987.
Other important one-person shows have been presented at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge (1988), Camden Arts Centre (1995), Aldrich Museum (1996), Salena Gallery, Brooklyn (2005), Tate St Ives (2000, 2005 and 2017), The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh (2011), and The Art House, Wakefield, Yorkshire, England (2017). Ryan has been the recipient of many awards and prizes including most recently the 2019 Pollock Krasner Grant and the 2018 Freelands Award—for which the artist was awarded a forthcoming exhibition on Spike Island in Bristol (pended dates due to Covid-19). Her work is in many private and public collections such as the Arts Council Collection, Contemporary Art Society, Sainsbury’s Collection, Tate Collection, the Wakefield Collection at The Hepworth Wakefield, and the Weltkunst Collection at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Ryan currently lives and works both in New York and in the U.K., and is represented by the Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.
For more information visit www.autograph.org.uk
Create is a charity that explores the ways artists can contribute to the lives of people in cities. Its work is primarily focused in east London, home to more artists and art organisations than anywhere in Europe, and one of the most economically deprived parts of the UK. Create helps artists to connect more closely with communities through an ambitious programme of projects. Unlike a gallery or theatre, Create has no fixed public space, preferring to work in the places people encounter every day.
Photo credit: Corrina Antrobus