Marston Vale - Class 230 Artwork

Monday, 29 April 2019
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By Alisha Miller - April 2019

I describe my practice as Transit Art - Public Art - Visual Art, since winning Year of the Artist in 2000 with my first Transit Art made in Coventry and Nuneaton where I created enormous artworks for the exterior of articulated lorry trailers, I currently have 12 lorries transporting my work across the country and into Europe.

I have also made work for buses, dustbin lorries, hospitals, town centres, schools, galleries and now trains.

Art encourages us to see our world differently - and in some cases - SEE our world rather than view it through a screen. My work takes art direct to the public, blurring boundaries between advertising spaces and spaces for exhibiting art, taking art beyond the confines of the gallery. These enormous digital vinyl drawings are created and inspired through innovative yet accessible engagement and consultation processes with the people, the landscape and the working environment it travels through.

For this project - the Marston Vale line, Bletchley - Bedford, my aim was to bring the outside in and to reference historical/heritage links, personal stories, the surrounding landscapes and its meaningfulness to people who use the route. The artwork images go beyond the obvious ‘tourist’ landscapes, encouraging people to look and engage with their surroundings but also personalise and celebrate the route.

I wanted people to feel good on train, to enjoy their journey, to have a beautiful distraction from delays or stressful encounters, to learn and question the landscape around them and the people who have created it.

I first visited the new trains being built in Long Marston by the amazing engineers at Vivarail on the hottest day of the year last summer. It was sweltering and I could barely concentrate to measure up and experience these amazing new/old trains for the first time - what a privilege!

Then to help me create and have ideas for the artwork I spent the remainder of last summer traveling along the line and speaking with people who live and work between Bletchley and Bedford. For this creative engagement process I designed a visual ‘Mind Map’ and created a special train ticket specifically for the Marston Vale line. I used these to start and record conversations with the public, passengers, volunteers and staff that have a relationship with the route/s, its visual journey and history to inform a start point for ideas enabling people me to make personal and emotional connections with the rail network and ultimately create the final pieces of public artwork.

I have created three unique digital vinyl artworks for the three new ‘upcycled’ Class 230 trains on the Marston Vale line Each artwork is themed - Wildlife Whispers relates to the whole of Marston Vale - Secrets Sounds relates to Bletchley and Brickline Landscape relates to Bedford. Each artwork spans the entire exterior perimeter wall and doors of the universal access toilet within the trains with a distinctive and recognisable change in design for the space which accommodates automatic door. It was imperative in the design brief that there was a recognisable distinction between wall and door.

My time between BLY and BED last year and the wonderful full time I had speaking with people along the way is now reflected in the enormous colourful drawings which now feature in the trains. The artworks feature beautiful flowers tended to by volunteers along the platforms to important and memorable architectural features, some no longer with us, some very much part of British history. There are references to global industries past and present, along with an abundance of wildlife seen by myself and many drivers and conductors I spoke to. I wanted to capture the spirit and the passion that people feel for this line bringing to life features that are unique and some that reflect personal and special memories. All these images and colours were inspired by the conversations I had with people and I am truly grateful for their knowledge and willingness to share stories and memories, you know who you are. It’s been an amazing project and its thanks to the inspirational Sam Jessup who not only has rebranded LNR and created the fabulous documentary panels within the new trains, it was he who thought this was a good idea and commissioned me to create the work.

I hope everyone enjoys their time working and travelling on the new trains and takes a moment to enjoy the artwork too.

By Alisha Miller - April 2019