Portraits of celebrities and inspirational figures who have lived, worked or studied in the London Borough of Ealing will be brought together in a new display, alongside a film installation created by artist Eelyn Lee and students from Brentside High School in Ealing, it was announced today (Thursday 19 June 2014).
Freddie Mercury, who studied at Ealing Art School from 1966 – 1969 before forming Queen in 1970; filmmaker Steve McQueen, who attended Drayton Manor High School; actor Sid James, who lived in the borough and appeared in films produced at Ealing Studio; and Dusty Springfield, who developed her passion for singing at St Anne’s Convent School, are just some of the famous figures who have inspired the film installation which will be displayed alongside their portraits in Creative Connections from Thursday 19 June 2014.
Through a series of workshops led by Eelyn Lee and the Gallery, the Year 10 GCSE Art students researched their local area, learnt about the Collection through the biographies and achievements of sitters who have connections with Ealing, and developed creative and technical skills in photography and film.
The immersive film installation An Ealing Trilogy is the culmination of the partnership between the young people and Eelyn, exploring the notions of endeavour, vision and creativity. The film was recorded at borough locations including Pitzhanger Manor and features the young people, their artwork and a guest appearance from Trevor Baylis, who invented the wind-up radio and studied mechanical and structural engineering at Soil Mechanics Lab in Southall.
Other portraits that will go on display alongside the film include Peter Crouch, who attended North Ealing Primary School and Drayton Manor High School; film director Gurinder Chadha, who grew up in Southall; Pete Townshend, who regularly played at The Ealing Club; and former Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, who lived in Ealing Common.
The initiative has formed the second part of a four-year participatory arts project, Creative Connections, which is led by the National Portrait Gallery’s Learning department and is designed to extend the Gallery’s work engaging young people with portraiture.
Imogen, a student at Brentside High School and a participant in the Creative Connections project, says:
‘It was an extremely exciting opportunity to be involved in a professional project such as this and, through it, I have learnt so much about the film-making industry and about portraiture.’
Liz Smith, Director of Participation and Learning, National Portrait Gallery, says: ‘We are delighted to have collaborated with students from Brentside High School and Eelyn Lee to create a really engaging and memorable film and display inspired by the spirit of creativity that continues in Ealing today.’
Mike Roddy, Arts College Director, Brentside High School, says: ‘We are very proud to have been selected by the National Portrait Gallery to take part in this prestigious project and we are equally proud of our students’ achievements celebrated by this exciting and creative exhibition.
‘Working with Eelyn Lee and the professionals of the National Portrait Gallery has given our students a unique opportunity to understand the making of professional art works. Engaging with the themes of ‘Endeavour’, ‘Vision’ and ‘Creativity’ has encouraged our students to aim high and to take pride in the achievements of our citizens, our borough and our school.’
Eelyn Lee says: ‘After spending the past nine months working with the portraits of these inspiring people, it is powerful to see the Collection displayed alongside our film projection. The National Portrait Gallery is leading the way in raising the status of this kind of collaborative work, giving it a platform of the highest level. The display is a true reflection of the creative journey we have taken together. Along the way it has been gratifying to see different young people flourishing at different times and everything coming together in the production of the film.’
Eelyn Lee’s films are often devised through collaboration, using rich imagery and soundscapes to tell multi-layered stories about people and place. She is interested in groups of people, both in the making of the work and the subject of the work itself. The vision, energy and experience she brings to the creative process builds an environment conducive to making bold and original work.
In the first year of the Creative Connections project, the National Portrait Gallery focused on the Tower Hamlets borough, working with 49 young people aged 14-16 at St. Paul’s Way Trust Secondary School in Bow and local artist Lucy Steggals. The final display comprised works from the Gallery’s primary Collection complemented with collaborative works by the young people and locally based artist Lucy Steggals. The project enabled young people to discover links to their local area and in turn explore issues past and present surrounding identity, belonging, connection and legacy.
The next two years of the participatory project will see the Gallery’s Learning department working with young people from other London boroughs and local artists, to be displayed in consecutive summers.