lisa chandler  artist

Urban life reflected in mural

Judith Ritchie, The Nelson Mail, 5 March 2015

Lisa Chandler has painted large works before, but a commission to complete a major new mural in Nelson’s inner city has brought new challenges. Judith Ritchie talks with her about the project.

Lisa Chandler has just completed her largest mural yet, commissioned by developer James Purves. It covers an entire wall of a new residential development in Sussex Mews, facing Trafalgar Square.

“I was thrilled that James Purves was so open to allowing me to create an artwork that incorporates the concepts I explore in my art practice” says Chandler. “This painting is a generic space of transition you will find in any global city, a non-place, but it also incorporates the historic Nelson icon, Marsden House, a real place.” Chandler has purposely left out any defining features in the figures within the mural. “The reason for this is that when we are in a crowd, everyone is anonymous and people are a blur; we might capture small details out of the corner of our eye but not much more than that.”

Purves knew Chandler’s urban-themed paintings and thought they would fit well with the modernist architecture of Sussex Mews. “I was keen to support a local artist and to add to the vibrant outdoor art scene in Nelson, particularly an artwork that reflected Nelson’s increasing connections with global cities. Says Purves. He also saw it as an opportunity to celebrate the growing number of people living in the centre of Nelson. “Lisa’s ability to translate the complexities of modern life into a stunning mural was a perfect opportunity for us to contribute to the place where they live.

After creating a 2.5m x 7.6m painting for the Cruel City exhibition at the Suter Public Art Gallery in 2012, Chandler was keen to continue with large works. This new mural, measuring 3 metres high and 11.6 metres long, brought challenges that Chandler hadn’t faced before. The scale of the project required scaffolding throughout the entire project. Normally she would paint on canvas on the flat then the works would be hung later, but this time it was a case of painting upright.

‘‘On a canvas I normally create my initial washes by placing the canvas horizontally on the ground and tilting it around to make abstract marks,’’ says Chandler. ‘‘I could obviously not do this with a concrete wall so I applied an initial colour on the wall, then painted on watered down paint and wiped this off, creating a kind of similar effect.’’

Another difference was that in the studio Chandler was able to regularly stand back from a painting to assess the next steps of the work. ‘‘With this project the scaffolding obscured part of the image, making it more difficult to get an overall view of the artwork,’’ says Chandler. ‘‘ I’ll add some final touches now that the scaffolding has come down.’’

Another challenge was trying not to drip paint on the cars parked in the Betts car park below the mural. ‘‘I was mortified early on in the process when having carefully covered a car just below me with a cloth to stop any drips falling on it, I subsequently brushed against the back of it with my paint covered clothes,’’ says Chandler. ‘‘The owner was amazingly understanding.’’

Most challenging of all was the heat. Starting in January this year, she spent a total of 150 hours painting in the morning until it got too hot. ‘‘The wall is north facing, which has provided good light, but this has also meant that the paint starts to dry on the brush and in the containers from early afternoon onwards making it too difficult to continue to work.’’