A FORMERLY drab shop front in London’s Docklands has been transformed into a sea of colour by the brush of a New Zealand artist.
Wellington’s Bruce Mahalski was commissioned by Garry Hunter, arts coordinator at Trinity Buoy Wharf, to liven up a space in the development run by a property company.
The site was once where all the buoys and markers for the English coast were made, and the location of London’s only lighthouse.
The brief was to create a mural referencing the work of English electrical scientist Michael Farraday, who had his laboratory at the wharf.
The work, called Electric Soup, is an underwater scene featuring images of marine life from the Thames River, as well as deep water species that are under threat of extinction.
“One of the things Farraday is known for is his pioneering studies on bio-electricity using electric eels and electric rays,” Mahalski said.
“So the mural is a sort of bio-electric Farraday tribute.
“I did think about doing some pictures of Farraday himself and his electrical experiments but the rough surface of the shop front made this idea more difficult.”
The name alludes to an etching created by William Heath in 1828 – A Monster Soup commonly called Thames Water – depicting contaminants in the polluted river.
Mahalski said it took about two weeks to cover the shop front, with the rough surface making it difficult to paint in great detail.
“I was pretty happy with it considering the trouble I had getting good exterior paint colors – in England there only seemed to be about half a dozen exterior paint colors – whereas in NZ there are hundreds.
“It also rained a lot of the time but it wasn’t windy which was good.
“In Wellington the wind can be real problem when you are trying to put a giant stencil onto a wall.”
Mahalski has been working as an artist for around 25 years, and is best known for his work making art out of dead animals.
His first mural was for Toi Ponkeke (run by the Wellington City Council), and he sees the art form as legal street art.
Unlike many who do it, he prefers brushes to spray cans.
“The word street art- generally carries guerilla/illegal connotations,” he said.
“I am totally for a lot of street art but generally I consider myself a legal professional mural painter”
The commission came through his professional and personal friendship with Hunter, and fitted in well with his past life as a fisheries researcher.
He is still interested in marine science and is involved with marine conservation groups in New Zealand, such as the Island Bay Marine Education Centre, Forest and Bird and the World Wide Fund for Nature.