17 June 2011

Art ascending: Film about the construction of ‘An Exaltation of Larks’ for John Lewis Westfield     

Larks rising high over east London’s marshes were the inspiration for the impressive artwork that will dominate the glass prow of the new John Lewis Stratford when it opens September.

Artists Juliet and Jamie Gutch have created An Exaltation of Larks: a 12m mobile of aluminium and stainless steel that will fill the space with larks in flight.

‘Through our research we found that, despite critically declining numbers of skylarks in the UK, there are surprisingly good numbers in east London,’ said Juliet.

‘Skylarks are dull little brown birds on the ground but come to life in flight when the underneath of their wings flash white. They are so joyful and vibrant when they are singing and that’s the feeling we wanted to create.’

Juliet and Jamie also drew inspiration from the building. ‘It’s a modern building using modern materials, but the space we are filling is complex architecturally and a plain white mobile is intended to act as a foil to this.’

Nicola Bover commissioned the mobile for John Lewis. As Retail Designer, Concepts, Nicola has no intention of pleasing everyone. ‘We want art that engages customers and Partners but also has the potential to challenge and promote discussion. It’s got to be more than wallpaper,’ she explains.

Taking flight

Nicola is in no doubt that the Stratford mobile, which will visible from the Espresso Bar and the Place to Eat, will be a real talking point for customers. ‘The mobile, which will be driven by the air’s movement, will be a wonderful thing to watch. It will add something special to customers’ shopping experience.’

Nicola has been working closely with Juliet and Jamie on developing the mobile, including getting the right final coating, which reflects the light. ‘The only way the complete length of the mobile can be seen is from the outside of the prow. Lit up at night it is going to look magnificent.’

Nicola’s job as Retail Designer is all about ensuring that the interest and impact of the shop’s design makes it somewhere customers want to spend time. ‘I want to ensure that customers’ visual experience meets with their expectations of John Lewis,’ she says.

The bigger picture

Juliet and Jamie hope the mobile reflects the harmony and balance of the Partnership’s employment model in that each element, big or small, is integral to the whole. ‘It’s an organisation that we admire and we were very keen to produce a work that reflects its ethos,’ says Juliet.

‘The Partnership stands out from other companies in many ways including its support for the arts. Art is often shown in private places but our mobiles are on display for everyone visiting the shopping centre or on their way to the Olympics. And hopefully it will inspire people to seek out other art.’