Artist interview: Tree mural at the Allen Gallery

The Allen Gallery in Alton is set to undergo its most significant capital project since the building and its collection were opened to the public over 70 years ago. The galley has played a key role in Alton for more than half a century and houses one of the largest and most important ceramics collections in the UK outside London.

We are delighted to have received development funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the first phase of the project, Rediscovering the Allen Gallery, which will help to make it more relevant, sustainable and enable research into some of the 8,500 items in our ceramics collection. However, we require further funding to realise our ambitious plans for the redevelopment of the gallery, which will include a new community space and also ensure our rediscovered collections are accessible to everyone.

We have subsequently launched the Ceramic Leaf Appeal where visitors can donate a unique handmade ceramic leaf to our painted tree in our exhibition space.

Ceramic leaves, created by 318 Ceramics.

The tree where the leaves hang was painted by local artist, Andrew Sviridov. See the tree being painted below and learn more about Andrew and this special mural which takes pride of place within the Allen Galley's current exhibition space.

1. What inspired you to become an illustrator?

The freedom to apply my fine-art-influenced practice to a variety of things such as album covers; book covers; murals and product packaging just to name a few really appealed to me. I think I came to this conclusion sometime during college. Had I gone down the path of just solely fine art practice I think I would have felt rather boxed in as opposed to being an illustrator. I like to preserve traditional working methods as I feel much more connected to the work I make and applying that to illustrative briefs is a challenge I always look forward to!

2. Do you like ceramics? and if so, do you have a favourite ceramic item in our gallery and why is it your favourite?

I love ceramics, I went to a ceramics club in secondary school which I enjoyed a lot. I wasn’t the greatest if I’m honest with myself but I did make a bowl on a pottery wheel that I decorated with a Japanese motif that I was quite proud of. I think I have somewhere, although it is probably collecting dust at the moment!

Item wise, I love the red bowl as I have a bias towards anything with the colour red. For me the particular effect on the bowl gave the illusion that it was cut from one single rare stone or geode and in the right light it shimmered in a way that looked as if the (I’m assuming) glaze was still wet and flowing. Personally, would love to have it in my home!

Red Bowl HCMS1973.71

3. What inspired your ‘Frozen Willow’ design?

A number of things, some more obvious than others, I guess. Naturally I was hoping to link the mural to the Allen Gallery’s collection in some way and the wonderful glazed Delft pottery tiles drew my attention and I think I decided on the spot that I would go with something blue-on-white-themed like the Delft and Ming-dynasty ceramics on display. When deciding on the tree I was inspired from a walk in Flood Meadows where there is a willow tree that I though would be perfect with its flowing foliage. Stylistically I blended various techniques found in the Delft pottery (notably where trees where depicted) as well as Van Gogh’s Almond Blossom painting that helped inform how I could give the tree some much-needed three-dimensionality.

Andrew with the tree mural in the Allen Gallery. 

4. What’s your favourite thing about the design?

The overall application of it being used to display ceramic leaves I think is what really makes it. I am of course really pleased with my mural but it wouldn’t be what it is without the great collaborative effort in creating physical ceramic leaves that are all personalised in different ways and mounted within the mural itself. I think it is a really unique way for a mural to be used in a given space beyond just being a tree painted on the wall. It calls for participation and interaction from visitors which is what the project is all about!

5. How did you find the process?

The process was pretty smooth-sailing and it was a much-needed break from the ordeal which was putting up my university’s degree show. Taking some time out to paint a tree was really therapeutic. Once I got the design on the wall in pencil that was the hardest bit done! The tree was painted with two tubs of light and dark (respectively) blue acrylic paint over roughly a week period.

6. What’s next for you?

I’ve recently finished my Bachelors and graduated which is a strange feeling in and of itself. In September I will be starting my Masters in Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art in London which I look forward to greatly! That’s the short-term, and the long-term plan would be to fully immerse myself in the industry after my Masters and later on specialize in Album Cover illustration.

7. Is there anything else you would like to add?

I’ll use the opportunity to encourage people to contribute a ceramic leaf which you can do by contacting a member of the gallery team as well as donate to the Allen Gallery as this new redevelopment is a very exciting time for the gallery and also a great opportunity for the creatives in and around the Alton area! Finally, I’ll say that I am open to portraiture and illustrative commissions and that you can find more of my work on my Instagram page under the username @_horizertical_, you can also contact me via my website.  

You can donate a leaf  to add to Andrew's tree mural by visiting the online shop or visiting the Allen Gallery and speaking to a member of our team who will be happy to help you.

Ceramic Leaves at the Allen Gallery
Please donate a ceramic leaf today and help us to rediscover the Allen Gallery in Alton.

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Hampshire Cultural Trust

From museums to galleries to arts centres, we manage and support attractions across the county, welcoming over 740,000 people each year. Our charitable purpose is changing lives through culture.
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