Taking the grey away

Last week the Mayor of Islington officially opened my latest mural ‘Follow the Lichen’, which was commissioned by the council’s Zero Emissions Network.

Funded by the Mayor of London, the mural marks out a new Clean Air Walk that takes pedestrians on a less-polluted route between Whittington Hospital and Archway tube station. It’s one of several such walks popping up around London, each established to encourage Londoners to avoid congested roads when walking through the city.

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It was a privilege to contribute to such an important initiative; so many lives are shortened because of air pollution in UK cities so I hope that this mural will help to encourage pedestrians away from the busy main road in Archway. If they do so, they’ll also discover a lovely small park that sits at the heart of Girdlestone Estate.

You’re taking the grey away
— Archway resident

I was really keen to celebrate the humble lichen in this commission. Not only is it an ancient and exquisitely beautiful organism (in fact, it’s 2 different organisms working in symbiosis) but, as it extracts nutrients from the surrounding air, it is also a useful indicator of air quality. This makes it a perfect symbol for the clean air walk and I had great fun ‘growing’ magnified lichen forms across walls and bridges throughout the estate. I even painted some of the bollards at the same time, because, well why not?!

The mural celebrates some of the lichen forms and colours one finds when looking closely, weaving in intricate stenciled-patterning in reference to the underlying structures of the organism.

During my 2 weeks working within Girdlestone Estate I met many local residents, hospital visitors and staff, with whom I shared my enthusiasm for lichen and explained the purpose of the mural. Not only do I hope that the artwork attracts a few more passers—by to explore the clean air walk but I also hope that by shining a spotlight on lichen, more people will stop to appreciate these fascinating organisms next time they pass them growing on trees, rocks or hedgerows.

#plantswereherefirst