Chad McCail selected as mural artist for the This Used to be Fields project

Thursday, 17 July 2014


We are delighted to announce that Lanarkshire-based artist Chad McCail has been commissioned to produce a mural on the Becontree Estate as part of the This Used to be Fields project.

McCail is known for figurative paintings that use the vernacular of cartoons and instruction manuals to make playful but subversive observations about everyday life. Figures are engaged in generic activities in works that frequently make bold assertions about public and private life. This commission will see McCail diverge from his usual artistic practices as he creates a mural through conversation and collaboration with people in Barking and Dagenham.

Murals have long constituted articulations of political comment and public protest. Extensive mural making began in London in the 1970s, when numerous works of public art were commissioned by the Greater London Council. Murals were created by artists who wished to work outside of commercial galleries to make art that was more directly relevant to local communities. Artists of the London Mural Movement opted to work alongside communities to make work that chimed with local issues. Murals in the 1970s and 1980s often examined specific local concerns, such as the impact of property development, or they depicted historic moments that had broader political significance to the area, as is the case with the Poplar Rates Rebellion Mural (1985) and The Battle of Cable Street (1983).

Mural production has waned in recent decades, a phenomenon that is in part due to a resistance to public art as it has come to be seen as prescriptive, compromising on either artistic integrity or community relevance. This commission aims to reclaim the mural and in doing so return public art to the fore, creating tangible links between artists and communities.

On August 16 and 23, 10am – 4pm, Chad McCail will be opening his Valence House studio to the public. Visit him to share your stories about the Becontree Estate, show him your photos and learn more about his ideas for the mural.

Address: Valence House Visitors Centre, Beacontree Avenue, London, RM8 3HT

Image: people share things in common, (2014), detail. Courtesy Chad McCail.

This Used to be Fields is a new collaborative project by Create, Historypin and the Barbican that aims to explore the history of the Becontree Estate, a pioneering development in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, through the creation of a communal digital archive and a new work of public art.

The project has been commissioned by the Barbican with funding from the Arts Council of England and additional support from Creative Barking and Dagenham.