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Vacant shop fronts transformed into creative canvases as Kingston School of Art students bring vibrant and inventive artwork to Kingston's high street

Posted Thursday 15 October 2020

Vacant shop fronts transformed into creative canvases as Kingston School of Art students bring vibrant and inventive artwork to Kingston's high street Student designers from Studio KT1 agency

A striking image of the tree-lined path through Fairfield Park, a collage of Kingston's architectural wonders and a digital rendering of swans on the River Thames are among the first artworks to go on display in a collaborative project between Kingston School of Art and the Kingston First business support group.

The student artists' work will adorn shopfronts in the central shopping district with the windows of unoccupied retail units in Kingston upon Thames' town centre covered in bespoke designs inspired by the past, present and future of the Royal Borough.

Kingston First, which supports and represents the local business community in Kingston upon Thames, sought to find a way of brightening up the streets using empty store fronts. At the same time, Claire Selby, of Kingston School of Art's design agency, Studio KT1, approached them with a solution that became the Kingston Canvas project.

Students from the newly-formed design agency pitched their ideas to the Kingston First team with a brief of adding colour, vibrancy and to create conversation among visitors of Kingston's shopping hub of more than 500 stores. Seven pieces were selected to be part of the Kingston Canvas project with the bold and creative student designs focusing on the people of Kingston, David Mach's Out of Order sculpture and Kingston bridge.

Natálie Barešová's striking image captures her walking route from Kingston to Kingston School of Art through Fairfield Recreation Ground and was one the first designs to be displayed on Clarence Street.

"I walk to University every day through Fairfield Park and have been really inspired by the scenery and how it changes through the seasons," the 22 year old from Prague explained. "In autumn the leaves started to fall down and change colour - It's such a unique place, with so many activities and people visiting. There were days I didn't want the walk into class to end, it was so beautiful."

Kingston's famously picturesque riverside has inspired more than one of the designs, but it was another of Kingston's more regal residents roaming the River Thames that made an impression on Josephine Miller's piece Surreal Swans. "I usually see massive groups of swans all along the river in Kingston, they are very symbolic for many Kingston residents. Therefore, I wanted to find a way to interpret them in my own style with a 3D sculpture." the 21 year old from Surrey said.

Zsófia Mayer's work focuses on kingston\'s architecture - picture credit Alexander BeerZsófia Mayer's work focuses on kingston\'s architecture - picture credit Alexander Beer

"I like to experiment with creating a lot of my work digitally in a 3D space. This piece was created by digitally sculpting a swan and multiplying it to create a large-scale surreal collage. The aim of the design was to give an illusion that the swans are emerging from the shop front when walking past. I feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity through the University, it's amazing to think about the amount of people who are now walking past my work every day"

Kingston's architectural past and present were the focus of the design located opposite one of Kingston's retail landmarks, the Bentall Centre. The photography-based illustrations were the result of 21-year-old student Zsófia Mayer's walks around the borough. "I like the architecture in this area and captured some of my favourite buildings in my piece and emphasise Kingston's versatile architecture. I really like that medieval elements sit alongside very modern buildings like the University's Town House," she said. "When I am walking, either at home in Budapest or in London I look at the buildings. It says something about the society and the culture of the particular country or city and helps to know where you are at that moment, what has been before you and hints at the future."

Kirsten Henly, Chief Executive at Kingston First, said she was delighted to work with Kingston School of Art to deliver innovative solutions to brightening up vacant retail units. "These fantastic pieces of artwork in the town centre in high profile locations brighten our streets and showcase local artistic talent," she said. "The students have thoughtfully developed their pieces to celebrate Kingston and the town's sense of community and we hope that people working in or visiting the town centre will take time to enjoy the pieces."

Claire Selby, Studio KT1's Commercial Projects Manager, said the project was a great example of how students from Kingston School of Art can make an impact on the town centre. "We are thrilled to collaborate with Kingston First and for our students to be given such a public showcase. Kingston Canvas will transform vacant shop fronts - instead of blank spaces, shoppers and visitors will be taking in works made by up and coming creatives This project is a demonstration of our commitment to developing sought after students and providing them with public platforms to display their talent."

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