by Community Reporter, James Yabut.
Constantine Gras ended his residency at the V&A Museum earlier this month (6-8 Feb.) with a weekend show titled “Vision of Home”.
During his seven-month spell as artist in residence Constantine was based close to Latimer Road tube station in a former council flat on Shalfleet Drive which is currently undergoing redevelopment as part of the More West housing project.
From here he ran a series of workshops for residents, community groups and school children to find out what “home” means to them. As an artist with a history of addressing the themes of urban life, and community and identity, Constantine was keen to find out how residents felt about the new development and give them a chance to express this through art.
The results were both thought-provoking and unexpected. Visitors to the V&A show were greeted with the image of a gigantic Tyrannosaurus-rex prowling menacingly around the Frinstead house tower block; delicate, colourless, models of local streets rendered in ceramic; as well as stained glass-inspired graffiti, and a series of short films on city life and regeneration.
Constantine was quick to point out how the workshops had also been of benefit to him: “As an artist I was constantly learning and unlearning.” Delighted to see how art can be used to engage whole communities, he is now eager to see how More West turns out and what that will mean for the community that grows up around it.
The borough’s Mayor, Maighread Condon-Simmonds, who had joined Constantine on an architectural bicycle tour earlier in his residency, commented: “I think his work is splendid. Constantine has really managed to capture the culture and diversity in the borough.”
Visitors to the final show, many of whom lived on or around Shalfleet Drive, agreed that the community’s involvement during Constantine’s residency had been a good thing.
Guy Silk, whose daughter Alwynne helped make a paper city panorama said: “It’s great to see your 3.5 year old’s artwork in the V&A. And it’s been good to see the community get involved and get a new perspective on where you live.”
Artist Genia Davy agreed: “Communities are often wary of change, but change can be a force for good. Every new development should have an artist’s workshop so the community can respond to what’s going on.”
For a peak at Constantine’s film ‘Vision of Home’, do check out his Vimeo page