Coventry’s Grade II listed railway station is to get a makeover this month, courtesy of artist Christopher Tipping.
Christopher has been commissioned to create artwork to decorate the huge windows at the station. The artwork portrays some of the history of culture of the city. Coventry Society members were consulted and contributed to the development of the artwork.
Christopher writes “’I have been commissioned by Creative Giants to create an artwork for the Grade II Listed Coventry Station as part of the Station Masterplan and contributing to Coventry City of Culture 2021, for client Coventry City Council and their partners Avanti West Coast. I was commissioned in December 2020 just prior to what became the second national lockdown in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
“The artwork is to be installed by the end of September 2021 and will cover the floor-to-ceiling double height glazed screens of the ticket hall combining both West and North elevations. The size is approximately 50m in length and 6m tall, (approx. 350sqm).
“The artwork will be digitally printed in both opaque and transparent polychrome inks onto optically clear vinyl, allowing as much natural light to be retained as possible and maintaining clear views in to and out from the ticket hall.
“I am working in collaboration with VGL (Vinyl Graphics Ltd in Reading) they will print and install the work. I also have a commission to create artwork for 6 new Bus Shelters in and around the new Station public realm.
“My project brief was to create a personal interpretation of Coventry’s icons and landmarks. A celebration of the built environment.
“This city is many things, but what caught my attention very early, were the meeting and gathering places. The places for people. Spaces for the community to gather, mix, shop, pray – places to be inspired.
“The architecture of the city is dominated by four incredible public places:
Coventry Train Station
Upper and Lower Precincts & Broadgate
“All modernist gems of course. All representing something brave, something bold and new. An original experiment in urban form and community expression.
“Places where Coventry’s multi-cultural society gathers to go about its everyday business.
“I have chosen to focus on these social spaces. These landmarks. On the brilliance of their architecture, on the aspirations & hopes they held and still hold. The history they have still to tell. The legacy they take into the future.“
Christopher explains that there is deliberately no human representation in the work, although there are some animals! The artwork focuses on places.
“We may not know it or acknowledge it, but we all store impressions of places we have been. We know intuitively how somewhere makes us feel. We can learn quite easily how to navigate from A – B through landmarks rather than signage. Buildings, trees, the shape and feel of spaces – the shape of a wall, the colour of a door, the sounds of a street, a wobbly flagstone. I have been creatively ‘looking’ at places for thirty years or more. It’s a habit now, un-self-conscious and automatic, creatively surveying spaces, unpicking. This isn’t a critical or formal process it is an emotional and personal one. Seeing the shape, shadow, colour and texture of places. Cherry-picking the visual language and interpretation to understand for myself what makes a place interesting. I’m not looking for rights and wrongs. I am fascinated by the way places can silently communicate.
“I see patterns in everything. I am fascinated by pavement and pathways – I really am! – I see the history trodden into granite kerbs, threshold slabs, door handles. I notice the craft and language of a building. The hand of a maker. The marriage of art and architecture. The things we have collectively made as a multi-cultural & diverse community. This work is a celebration of our collective skills as makers and creators.
“I explore on foot. I can’t drive. I seek out what might be considered hidden and forgotten. I see the connections between things past and present. I like the backstreets and the secret places. Curiosity is a sharpened tool of my trade.
“The trigger for a project is often a detail, a small thing, something out of the usual. It may be the people, the community who live and work in Coventry. It is often a combination of several strands of interest coming together, weaving a new narrative – telling a new story.
“Being a visitor, I will see things differently than if I lived there. My experiences will be new, I’ll be bombarded by difference. I will try to connect and talk to people if I can. I cover as much ground as possible on foot – this way you see the minutiae.
“I visit archives and museum collections. It is an immersive process. My work is process driven. By that I mean I must be doing something, to discover what it is I am doing. I never start with an idea and try to make it. My impressions of places before I visit them or often at odds with the reality of seeing them for myself. I’m like a sponge in these situations, trying to soak up as much as I can. It can be overwhelming having to sift through everything that comes my way – but the things that resonate and stay uppermost in my mind eventually begin to coalesce and form the foundation of an idea.
“I love the idea, that when travelling, by train or otherwise, you take the DNA of a place along with you. You also bring something back in return to balance the equation. The essence of a place is not always a physical thing, it can be an attitude, a family memory, an accent, local heritage, a song. It drifts along with you, in your wake. Something safe in your pocket.
“I can think of it as a bird on the wing dropping seeds and inadvertently spreading plants to pastures new.
“Passing through that veil of glass and printed vinyl when entering or leaving the station, you too will pass through a slice of this place. This Coventry in 2021. A colourful curtain of ideas, 100 microns thick, yet substantial enough to stay with you, in your thoughts, embedded in your clothes, your memory, this essence of place.
“Visitors don’t escape it either. A light dusting of Coventry to take away. Thank you very much!”