|Posted by Mark Cantrell on June 26, 2017 at 12:20 PM|
Athena is rising over Leeds
A landmark building in Leeds has become the canvas for a pair of street artists who are painting the UK's tallest mural on its façade, writes Mark Cantrell. The installation won't just jazz up the skyline but also – it's hoped – earn the city a few minutes of fame on the international scene.
Athena Rising, as the mural is called, was commissioned by East Street Arts for its citywide street art project, A City Less Grey. The installation forms the centrepiece of a project that is aiming to incorporate works of art onto the buildings and streets throughout the West Yorkshire city.
The artists bringing the piece to life are Nomad Clan – Cbloxx and AYLO, otherwise known as Joy Gilleard and Hayley Garner. The two are internationally acclaimed for their street art murals and have painted some of the largest murals in the North of England. The biggest to date was painted on a seven-story building in Liverpool.
Athena Rising, however, will top this at 41.9m high and 11m wide once it is complete. That's as high as 10 double-decker buses stacked on top of each other The mural is decorating the full length of the east elevation of the Platform building (formerly known as City House) and it will be visible from the railway station platforms and beyond; something for commuters to look at then, as they wait for their trains.
“It's a great privilege to paint something of this scale in Leeds,” said Cbloxx. “It's a place that one half of Nomad Clan still thinks of as home, after living and working there for over eight years. As a West Yorkshire lass born and bred, it really means the world to me.”
The heart and soul of Athena Rising is an owl in flight, set alongside a moon and a crown; two details that offer a nod to the artists creating the mural.
Owls traditionally signify wisdom and intelligence in many cultures around the world. Some Native American communities, for instance, believe owls to be the secret keepers of knowledge. In ancient Greek culture, the owl was sacred to the goddess of learning, Athena, and is even depicted on some Greco-Roman currency as a symbol of status.
As for the supporting aspects of the design:
- Gold Symbols: These design-centric motifs are inspired loosely by the study of mathematics in nature. Geometric symbols are often used in ancient architectural designs, as well as being repeated in natural forms.
- Moon: This echoes nature's thematics and cycles but classically symbolises enlightenment, which ties in with the 'knowledgeable owl'.
- Crown: This is one of Nomad Clan's affiliated symbols. The crown is used in street art to symbolise mastery of the craft, meaning that the street artist is deemed to have 'paid their dues'. It is said to be highly respected within that arena.
Nomad Clan is based in Manchester but has won international acclaim for its street art. Cboxx is a former Leeds resident. She worked in the city as a professional artist. AYLO, meanwhile, is Manchester born and bred and is described as a street artist and paint enthusiast with a solid background in graffiti.
The commissioned artwork they are delivering is the product of a collaboration with East Street Arts, LeedsBID, which funded the project, Network Rail, and Bruntwood. The latter company has refurbished the building to create 12 floors of workspace, including a tech hub for digital start-ups; the artwork is intended as something of a finishing touch to the building's revamp.
Nomad Clan began work on the mural earlier this month. It's expected to be finished early in July. Until then, the artists will be spending their working days suspended down the side of the building in a cradle on a harness, hand-painting the mural using emulsion and spray paint. Not a job for the faint-hearted, then.
Clearly, they've got a head for heights as well as an artistic eye.