VEXILLA MUNDI Mural –

Artes Mundi Mural by Art & Theory Students Forum

A Poster detail showing details and Logos of Sponsors and Supporters. The murals installation was made possible by the supporters who provided the space, time and materials, including the Student Forum Members

VEXILLA MUNDI: FLAGS OF THE WORLD MURAL

CARDIFF BAY STATION

Background:
‘Artes Mundi’ is thought to be the biggest cash prize for the visual arts in the world and is funded by Arts Council Wales and the Welsh Assembly.  The exhibition is held at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff’s city centre.

The Artes Mundi event:
The Artes Mundi Student Forum is formed with Cardiff School of Art & Design. There are competitions and opportunities to participate in the museum and other sites around the city for the duration of the six-week exhibition. Other initiatives address the interest and needs of students and children across the country.


Site-Specific Artwork:

The students were invited to a site meeting arranged with Geraint Morgan, the station manager for Arriva Trains [sponsors] to see what ideas they might have and what was to be allowed within the margins of Health & Safety as it is in public domain.  

How it looked and how it might be made was another matter.  Production schedules were agreed as the timeframe was quite short and all decisions had to go through the Arriva Trains Head Office. This put the students on their toes! Group tutorials with the 6 students, myself and Bob Mitchell, the then Course Director, led to the concept of a textiles approach which in turn became ‘Flags’. Another site visit followed and the agreement of the Station Master led to the projects final form and development. The project fell into the current module on ‘Professional Practise’.

The flags were printed on a waterproof substrate as one whole image which had to be cut by hand. The flags came in two sizes. The colour was strong and fully chromatic on a PVC reinforced fabric.

Flags: We held another group meeting to discuss the ‘Flag’ concept and the form it would take.  The idea of the mural becoming a textile artwork woven into the structure of the 10’ high fence seemed a really positive option.  It was discussed as a ‘metaphor’, (the students were studying philosophy!) that the action of weaving reflected upon the weaving of humanity as an integrating concept, the warp and weft of the human race.  The flag concept was agreed with Arriva Trains Office as it fitted all their needs as client and sponsor.  It could be interpreted in its global identity sense and as decorative abstract textile artwork.

Back in the studio the group did some ‘trial and error’ method studies and we discovered a plan of action which we all agreed upon. An online search showed how difficult it was to amass images of current flags but we chanced upon the Flag Institute, which had everything we needed in one place. I became a member which provided me with a disc of digital files for every flag in its current form. The students set about editing and designing for print. As it happened the Chairman of the Flag Institute lived and worked in Wales.

Gardners of Cardiff, the firm who printed my ‘Touching Glasgow’ mural, met me and a representative of the group and agreed to print the flags free of charge, and in two different sizes! A massive and generous action. Richard Gardner was an ex-graduate of the School of Art.

Installation: On the platform on a sunny but bitterly cold day we set about the job of interweaving the fabric into the structure of the fence. On the ladder is the Station Master, Geraint Morgan who couldn’t resist joining in! The vertical staves were wrapped in fabric and fixed firmly on the back with staples. The horizontal ‘weft’ was passed behind and around onto the front. No uncoloured gaps appeared using this method, a standard way to weave. In all it was 14 metres long. Geraint Morgan liked it so much much he extended its stay from 6 weeks to 6 months, a great success! Tourists were keen to photograph it before it was finished.

In this smaller version we used the smaller flags near the entrance to the platform. None of them were vandalised or removed. The students designed a poster which was framed at either end of the platform.

Representatives of Artes Mundi and Safle, the Public Art arm of Arts Council Wales, Arriva Trains, The School of Art staff and students, all enjoyed a cup of tea and flag adorned cakes made by our group to sustain them whilst attending the opening! All the students received a free local rail travel pass in appreciation of their hard work.

The Flag Institute provided 100% of the imagery, so a very big “Thanks” to you from all of us!

PHILIP O’REILLY NDD DFA

TJHC & DPG NOTE: My part in this was to teach to the Modules Subject. The idea of professional engagement in real life terms for the students was a rare and positive element. My connection with Gardners and the printing of the flags was fundamental to its success. The student discussions were taken seriously and the whole group stayed ‘on board’. The students shared the design and making as a group activity. They handled the press event seriously and gained some status amongst their peer group. Meeting all the sponsors was also a bonus for their work experience. An all round success for them, the department and the college.