Ed Lines gained exclusive access to the studio of Trivial Pursuits’ artist in residence, Zanny Mellor, ahead of ‘On Your Marks’, her first solo show.
It’s a Tuesday night and I’m cycling across town from work near Paddington to the Southwark studio of Zanny Mellor. Zanny has had a painting exhibited at the Royal Academy, she has designed album covers for rock bands but the greatest achievement of her career is surely being the artist responsible for the new look of the Trivial Pursuits website. My journey to this part of town usually takes in all the sights of London: Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, The Mall, Big Ben, The London Eye, Waterloo Station, etc. However, as I hit The Mall I come up against a blockade of fences and purple banners. Ahh, The Olympics, of course. Not a particularly intelligent moment for me, after all, The Olympics is the main reason for my journey this evening. For Zanny’s first solo show will feature much of her hard work over the last few years documenting the development of Stratford and the Olympic Park. Tonight I am allowed a sneak preview before it heads off to be hung tomorrow in Neville Johnson interior design showroom on Wigmore Street.
The Olympic diversion takes me round Trafalgar Square, along the Strand and means I arrive at the studio a bit late. Fortunately, when Zanny arrives to let me in the main door of the building she doesn’t look too annoyed and informs me that she’s been busy finalising the pricing list for the show. I always think that this must be one of the more enjoyable aspects of being an artist; actually ascribing value to something that you’ve created. But, if you’re not pleased with the effort to price ratio, I imagine it can go the other way too.
A window takes up almost an entire side of the sixth storey studio’s four walls. It gives a spectacular panorama of the City, which has provided Zanny with a great deal of her inspiration. If you crane your neck to the left, you can see the London Eye, and to the right is the nearly completed Shard, which has sprung upward in the time she has been working there. In the mornings of January and February, when the winter sun is low in trajectory, Zanny tells me that she gets practically blinded by its reflection directly into the studio for a few hours each day.
With London architecture such a big part of her work (read more about it in the Spotlight Interview earlier this year), and her fascination with the literal build-up to the Olympics, ‘On Your Marks’ is the most mature showcase of her painting to date. The works heading to the show are the products of research formed in the two-and-a-half years since she moved to London, and months of hard labour creating them. She has actually given herself a repetitive strain injury in her right wrist from the painstaking symmetric representations of Anish Kapoor’s Orbit present in many of her canvases.
Her birds-eye stadium triptych (top image) is a highlight, there’s a clear energy and vibrancy, which is felt in many of these works. And then there’s optimism and hope in the swirling vortex of Stadium vs Orbit (above) as the stadium appears to transform into a layered, living organism, much like it will for the next few weeks. The exterior of the Olympic Stadium will be gaudily coloured and feature moving digital displays, which Zanny seems to have captured here by way of imagination.
I like the fact these paintings feel less complicated than her previous work. The simplicity allows for more focus on the colour and the geometrics. A personal favourite of mine is Velodrome I (above) where I think the abstract forms of the different shades of pinewood on the track compliment her signature parabolic lines, colours and shapes.
It must be a strange feeling for Zanny Mellor at the moment, where the objects of so much of her focus for the last few years are complete. The opening ceremony on Friday may well feel like a closing ceremony for her as Stratford teems with unprecedented energy and symbolically signs-off this chapter in her career. But she should feel proud of her achievements as anyone who heads to Wigmore Street will testify. Her first solo show, the first of many, one imagines. What will the next chapter look like?
By Edward Lines
On Your Marks: A solo painting show of the London Olympic sporting venues
Neville Johnson interior design showroom, 3 Wigmore St, London, W1U 1AD.
Ongoing; 20th July – 11th August
Showroom Opening Hours;
Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm
Nearest tube stations: Bond St & Oxford Circus