For nearly half a century, artists across Shepherds Bush and Hammersmith have opened their studios, homes and flats for viewings and a chat to their curious neighbours.
Artists at Home, which runs this weekend (17-19 September), with painters, ceramicists, sculptors, photographers, textile artists, jewellers and glass-makers showcasing their art in the setting of their workplaces.
Last year’s event was online-only, because of the pandemic. But this year we urge you to get out and about safely to explore and celebrate local creativity.
You won’t believe your eyes
Among those taking part this year is Shepherds Bush artist Helga Stentzel (Hint: she’s Number 47 on the interactive map on the event website), whose new colourful mural on the side of her Victorian home is inspiring smiles.
When Helga decided to create an optical illusion painting on the blank side wall of her home, Helga sketched, resketched and finally came up with this whimsical design.
The W12 artist, whose trademark is creating amusing images using everyday objects, has turned a dull grey wall into a playful, eye-catching work of art for her first attempt at a giant mural.
She used the protruding chimney breasts to add perspective to her surreal geometric design, which plays tricks on viewer’s eyes… and brings a smile to people’s faces.
Painted at the start of August (in between showers), it now brightens up the side of 77 Westville Road, a 140-year-old house which proudly hosts the mural called The Hungry House. Helga was pictured with the finished work, seemingly feeding it a carrot!
“I brought the exposed chimney breasts – a legacy of the Blitz – into the spotlight for an interactive artwork based on architectural shapes, in life-affirming colours,” she explained, after she hired specialist mural painters who used a hydraulic platform to reach the highest points.
Smiles for miles
Neighbours are enthusiastic. One described it as ‘the funniest house façade I’ve ever seen’ and speculated that it won’t be long before tourist buses turn up to see it.
“It looks fab, and makes me smile every time I walk past it,” said another after viewing the artwork which was produced with the help of Blank Walls, a collective which creates street art on empty spaces.
“My style is comical, but I went with the most serious of the ideas that I’d sketched out,” Helga said. “It’s a slightly funnier version of a mural than other artists might have designed. One of the neighbours said she wanted a 3-D symbol of how demolished houses have made way for newbuilds.”
Helga’s hope is that blank wall mural painting will spread across west London, eventually creating a trail that people can follow.
She didn’t need planning permission. It’s acceptable to paint your wall with a design, provided it isn’t advertising and isn’t offensive, and as long as it doesn’t upset the neighbours.
Paint, design work and paying for the street artists and equipment cost her around £5,000.
“I’m glad I hired a specialist firm to do it once I saw them working on it for three days,” she said.
A surreal touch
Helga’s art is ‘household surrealism’. Russian-born, she was named ‘food art creator of the year’ in 2020. Before becoming a full-time artist, she worked in advertising, and ran a children’s clothes business.
Household surrealism is, she says about ‘finding magic in the mundane, and seeing beauty in imperfections’.
She began her art career by putting images on Instagram in 2016 and has gained 190,000 followers. There’s a hilarious clip of avocados singing Ave Maria (or ‘Avo Maria’), conducted by a spring onion.
Michelangelo’s David gains a skirt made of cauliflower, two used teabags seem to be having a conversation, while a loaf of bread – apparently plugged into a socket – becomes its own toaster, with slices poking out of slots at the top.
Helga’s other work includes ‘clothing line animals’, a series of pictures of a cow, horse and polar bear made of garments pegged to a line and set against an appropriate backdrop.
The pictures explore issues such as sustainability, and Helga is always armed with a notebook and pencil to scribble down ideas as they come to her. The idea, she says, is to ‘bring out the excitement of an inner child in the most mundane moments of our adult lives’.
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