Publication: Daily Echo
Written by: Rachel Adams
IT’S the European fight for independence that has shocked the world.
Just two weeks ago Catalonia’s separatist government held an independence referendum to break away from Spain.
But one Southampton resident had his own take on some of the story behind the news.
Oliver Hall was one of only a handful of international artists to win a residency in the Catalan town of Riba-roja d’Ebre and the chance to produce his own piece of public art inspired by the region.
Pictured: Artist Oliver Hall in God’s House Tower, Southampton.
The Southampton fine art graduate took a traditional ‘footrace’ which has been run by local residents since the 18th century as his inspiration and created mural to depict the annual event.
He said: “I painted a mural illustrating legs running. My intention was to express a parallel between different generations connected through time in the same activity throughout the villages history and the the River Ebro infinitely running and carving its path through the valley.”
He also produced a time lapse of the mural, with the accompanying theme the Anthem of Catalunya, which was once banned by the Franco regime. He added: “The song was played daily on the town square tannoy in between announcements next to where I was working so there is the connection to Catalan identity. People were definitely talking about the issue a lot and it was interesting to hear what they had to say. It’s definitely an interesting time to be working in the region”.
Now his footrace mural is part of the Riu d’Art project setup by the Town Hall of Riba-roja d’Ebre with support by fellow Sotonian Sarah Misselbrook – who now lives in Spain. She has also set up an off-grid music and arts festival ‘Riba Rocks‘, which began in 2013.
The 40 year old former City College lecturer – who still delivers workshops in Southampton when she comes back – said: “We call for applications from artists both local and international each year, with the residency taking place each summer. This summer saw Oliver create a large scale mural in the Placa del Forn, which has been very well received, working alongside other artists.”
The footrace is presided over by local officials and is accompanied by live music – with traditional prizes of a cock for first place, a rabbit for second place, and an onion for third place – as well as trophies and cash prizes which have been added to the traditional awards.
But it’s not Oliver’s first piece of public art – he has also had his large scale drawings displayed on the walls of Westquay as part of a project giving space to local artists.
The landscape he exhibited was a drawing of Fawley oil refinery made with discarded engine oil thrown out by his mechanics neighbours.
He said: “I’m still learning how to use the oil – it can be quite tricky to work with”.
Sarah plans to extend the artist residency for two weeks next year and said she would love to make more links with Southampton.