Hola: Spain Around the World - St James's MFL Mural Commission
As mentioned, albeit briefly, in my previous post I have spent a big chunk of the early part of this year working on a number of large scale digital murals for the Modern Languages Dept. at St James’s Church of England High School in Bolton. The brief was to produce 5 murals, including. a staircase, based on Spain and Spanish influence around the world.
Spanish Speaking Countries Around the World
The first mural, which was a 2 storey high ‘map’ of the world, highlighted Spanish speaking countries. Bit of an awkward shape to fill, very tall and narrow, but still having to get most of North, Central and South America in as well as Europe and even Africa. It looks a relatively simple design but required a lot of research and a lot of tracing international borders and creating mini country shaped flags,. At the time I could easily list off all the countries and could probably have identified all the different flags but it’s all seeped away now. Oh to have a young sponge-like brain again!
Spanish Influenced Art & Architecture
This was one of the largest but despite having to fit up a staircase wall, still wasn’t the most complicated! The inspiration for this mural was Spanish Art and Architecture and no discussion on the topic is complete without talking about Antoni Gaudi. The brilliantly coloured mosaic walls and serpentine roof ridges and park benches were the starting point, with a hand-drawn rendition of the Parc Gûell benches snaking up the stairs, in line with the banister. Examples of other Spanish Art superstars, Picasso and Dali fill the central section of the wall, morphing into work from lesser known artists such as Leonora Carrington (technically British but lived most of her life in Mexico), Maximo Laura, a vibrantly colourful Peruvian contemporary textile artist, Margarita Azurdia, Guatemalan, feminist abstract artist and finally the iconic Frida Kahlo. I think this is my favourite but it swings between this and the next one in the sequence.
Landmarks and Landscapes in the Spanish World
Luscious jungles, sandy beaches, historic monuments and contemporary architecture are all composited here in this surprisingly small space. Difficulties included having to work the design around an existing wall light and cut outs required for light switches and window ledges. I love the sunset sky in this one as it contrast well with the jungles and water and compliments the sun baked stonework of places such as the Alhambra. within this mural we travel from Spain out to Venezuela, Peru, Mexico, Easter Island, Chile and back to Spain again. An important little inclusion was the Santiago de Compostela and ‘The Way of St James’. The shell is the symbol of St James and features on the school’s badge so I thought it was a nice inclusion to show it’s origins and the link to the school.
Food & Festivals
This was, BY FAR, the most complicated of all the murals. It was the largest of the 5 murals, at just over 9 metres long, and had the most number of pre-existing elements to work around, with 3 doors, light switches, 2 alarms and 2 wall lights to fit the design around. Tons of research went into this painting, finding food from around the Spanish speaking world that was both popular and visually interesting (a lot of Spanish and South American food is surprisingly brown!). Add on selecting images to represent the various colourful festivals and composite them all together and it took possibly the longest time of all the murals, including a complete rework after a mix up with the dimensions and an extra door being added! I love the Day of the Dead dancers and their costumes and the hand painted llamas and pom-poms. The food, hopefully, looks exciting and very appetising (though I think my favourite is still churros and chocolate!)
The purpose of this mural was to show international companies and organisations that are based in Spanish speaking countries and where, having Spanish as a second language, could lead to employment opportunities.
Some of these I knew beforehand but some were real eye-openers. Who knew Chupa-Chups and New Rock Shoes were Spanish companies!
I also had to ask my brother for advice on which Spanish Football clubs to use. I figured if I’d heard of them then they must be pretty big but needed to double check with him in case they’d been massively relegated or had crashed and burned financially. Think I got the balance in the end! Again this design had to be fitted around noticeboards and wall lights so not quite as straight-forward as it initially seemed.
Was lucky enough to be in school just after installation and got to see a lot of the kids’ first reactions as they rounded the corner to see the stairway for the first time. Lots of ‘Wows’, which is nice to hear and lots of them pointing out things they recognised. Fingers crossed there’s enough stuff hidden away in the designs for them to keep spotting new stuff for years to come!