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Serenity Wall

Re-Imagining William Mitchell's sculptured wall in Hockley Circus under the A41 Hockley Flyover, in Birmingham.

I was commissioned earlier this year to use photography to re-imagine part of the concrete structures found under the Hockley Flyover (A41) in West Birmingham.

The design and isolation of the public spaces under the flyover mean much of it is underused. Over decades the space has become disconnected with the local communities around it and is an interesting example of how large public spaces in the city are seen as a problem rather than an asset.

I was drawn to the textures and magnificence of the large concrete public art sculpture that is found inside the main public space under the Hockley Flyover. I photographed the wall and chose a section to make a series of nine cyanotypes to create a virtual wall to re-imagine Mitchell's' wall as as a 'Serenity Wall'. 

The wall was made by William Mitchell (born 1925) who was a British sculpture famous for his large scale concrete sculptures. The concrete wall was built around 1968 within the public space known as Hockley Circus that runs underneath the Hockley Flyover. William Mitchell died in January 2020 one month before I started to photograph his wall.

As the UK went in to lockdown in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic I carried on photographing the Hockley Flyover during a series of reflective lock-down walks.

These walks during this enforced isolation became a life line and changed the way that I reacted to the local environment down there. It became a place to almost seek sanctuary from the loneliness of isolation to connect with the world and find peace in the outdoors. As this experience unfolded it lead me to thinking about presenting an image of Mitchell's wall as a series of cyanotypes which draws on the power of the colour blue - this often evokes strong emotions connected to peace, calmness, grieve and serenity.

I used the same photograph to build on notions of repetition and ritual which became part of my daily life during the lockdown and made a series of nine cyanotypes on paper. Each cyanotype is slightly different due to the hand-made nature of the process which again reflects our experiences of activities that our repetitive like walks - even thou they seem the same they are always different.

The final work is presented as a virtual gallery of nine cyanoptypes which are shown above. The virtual wall in its entirety uses the power of blue to evoke emotions to re-imagine the dreariness and harshness of the grey concrete as a serenity wall. 

The series was produced with public funding from Arts Council England. All images are copyright of Tracey Thorne (2020). 



© Tracey Thorne
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