In the heart of London's old police station in Hampstead an art installation named 'Elegant Warriors of Justice,' was installed th
In the heart of London’s old police station in Hampstead an art installation named ‘Elegant Warriors of Justice,’ was installed that offered a unique perspective on the intersection of gender, sustainability, and urban living. From June 8th to June 28th, 2023, this collaborative masterpiece invited public to confront and engage with complex societal issues through art.
This show was a collaborative project between Zoya Alina Currimbhoy, a young Pakistani artist, and Elyssa Sykes-Smith, an artist from Australia and presented by the Koppel Project.
As the centerpiece of the show, the artists skilfully created a large-scale installation on the ceiling of a former holding cell, using both 2D and 3D elements to depict a cold and overwhelmingly dense concrete jungle.) Navigating the sprawling metropolis depicted on the ceiling, one was consumed by the concrete jungle. The artists skilfully manipulated 2D and 3D perspectives, creating an enthralling and surreal visual experience. This crowded cityscape evolved as vivid public art features emerged throughout the metropolis, infusing new aesthetics, values, and opportunities into the urban environment. The Elegant Warriors of Justice, in the form of sculptures, murals, open-air cinemas, graffiti, and integrated designs, emerged as the driving force behind the city’s transformation.
The installation’s uniqueness was greatly enhanced by the presence of exaggerated visual elements. The Elegant Warriors of Justice, as the show’s title suggests, took the form of innovative public artworks, instilling a nurturing consciousness frequently absent in a metropolis.
The installation aimed to explore the artists’ role in shaping a more sustainable world and their contributions to addressing complex societal issues. Each public feature drew inspiration from divine feminine figures, archetypes, or goddesses, infusing the city with the wisdom of these remarkable women through artistic expression. Each artwork was presented from a feminine perspective, exploring themes linked to climate justice. As the various artworks began to interact, they wove together interconnected realms.
An exemplary public artwork within this installation, inspired by Demeter, the Ancient Greek goddess of the harvest, presented a figurative sculpture crafted from burnt wood—a poignant symbol of nature’s destruction through forest fires. The sculpture was perched on a building overlooking traffic, and on a nearby building, observers could see shadows of fetuses and sprouts of leafy growth, signaling nature’s rebirth and fostering a profound link to the ecological considerations surrounding life and death. (The public artworks created for the installation possessed deeply emotional elements, being seen as both personal and universal.) Opposite this masterpiece, was another that looked like open-air cinema paying tribute to Persephone, Queen of the Underworld and the goddess of spring growth. The cinema screen displayed two images in an accordion-style presentation, seamlessly transitioning into each other based on the viewer’s perspective. The two images showcased two distinct facets of Persephone: one portraying her grief over the changing seasons and the loss of vegetation, and the other embracing her power as the Queen of the Underworld.This dual narrative reflected the ever-shifting urban landscape and our constant struggle to balance growth with preservation. It also references the dual nature within humans—to experience pain and loss, yet also to realise their innate power and resilience and manage to stay alive. The public artwork within this broader cityscape references how human reflect nature in all its multifaceted aspects.
Similarly, each public artwork within the city was crafted to support and inspire the citizens. Situated in the heart of an intersection was a serene wishing well. Inspired by Sedna, the Inuit goddess of the sea, it offered a respite in the bustling city, providing clean drinking water and a moment of tranquility, prompting individuals to make wishes and dream big.
Other public oevures within the installation featured an elaborate and bountiful tree taller than a skyscraper, graffiti inspired by poetry, seamlessly woven into the buildings like delicate fabric stitching. The public art featured in this installation were aspirational and questioned the confines of urban development and imagination. It made sense why these public artworks were maquettes in a fabricated city ; essentially, both the artists portrayed the exciting potential of public art.
The art exhibition was dynamically enhanced by a series of captivating artist discussions and immersive creative workshops. In the culmination of the exhibition’s final week, the artists curated three distinct and engaging creative workshops: a drawing session, a spatial exploration, and a performance workshop. Each workshop was meticulously crafted not only to educate participants about the myriad creative techniques utilised by the artists but also to delve into the thematic depths explored within the installation.
The drawing workshop ignited a dialogue centred on city planning, culminating in a collective creation of a vast drawing or collage, vividly illustrating a bustling and vibrant cityscape. The spatial workshop deeply explored the significance of public art and its profound influence on the community, fostering practical exercises and discussions while facilitating the construction of models representing public artworks. The performance workshop, rooted in movement and collective storytelling, encouraged participants to express themselves through physicality and narrative, harnessing the expressive power of embodiment. These workshops were thoughtfully open to the public, serving as a catalyst for community engagement and igniting a belief in the expansive potential of creativity and imagination.
‘Elegant Warriors of Justice’ was not just an art installation; it was a catalyst for transformation. It transcended geographical boundaries, echoing the global reach and influence of Pakistani artists like Zoya Alina Currimbhoy and Austrian artist Elyssa Sykes-Smith. In a world where gender disparities, sustainability, and urban challenges persist, these artists boldly contributed to a brighter, more inclusive future. Their work echoed the artistic legacies of Western visionaries, forging a path toward societal healing and ecological consciousness. This installation left the audience pondering not only the role of artists but also their collective responsibility in creating a more just and sustainable world.