Martin Richman is the embodiment of east London. He’s lived in bohemian Hackney Wick for many years, was commissioned for permanent art installations in both Hackney Central and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and now he’s designed T-shirts to help raise money to be used in the community. We caught up with the artist to hear why he loves Hackney Wick so much, how his T-shirts will help the local area, and what he’d put on the fourth plinth.
Image by Ben Hopper
attracted you to this project?
I’ve lived in Hackney Wick for many years and have become involved with aspects of the area’s social and cultural spheres, design and developments in a fast-changing neighbourhood. The CIG (Cultural Interest Group) is a positive arena for information and exchange of thought between the developers, artists, locals, businesses, institutions and other interested bodies. I wish to support the forum as a useful mediator and platform for expression and engagement in a pressured urban space.
How will the T-shirt sales help the local area?
It’s hoped that sales of shirts, and potentially other products, will help fund CIG, enabling a strong body to continue mediating between and connecting different elements within the community, particularly during the coming period of substantial change and development.
There are only 200 T-shirts available. Do you have any ideas for future T shirts you might design with CIG?
Lets see what happens to those we have, but there is no shortage of potential creators in the area. I’m sure were I to be asked again I’d be delighted to develop a new design.
Image by Ben Hopper
Looking at your incredible works, you clearly like spiral patterns. Why is that?
I’ve long been interested in the spiral as both a form in nature and as a symbol within cultures. In fact, there are a wide variety of spiral forms, and the ones I tend to use are not mathematical constructions, like those in nature, but are more akin to symbolic forms found throughout the world’s cultures. To me, they are rich in resonance. I tend to think of the journey of life taking a spiral form, whereby we seem to be going in circles, but each turn is slightly differing and expanding on the previous.
The image for the shirts seems to suggest a radiation of creative energy expanding and almost bursting through the constraints of the spiral, suggesting perhaps two centres of radiating energy melding with one another, which could be Hackney Wick and Fish Island.
Hackney Wick has a great reputation for creativity. Why do you think artists are drawn to the area? What drew you there?
There’s inexpensive property with generous spaces. Possibly, also the sense of being slightly off the beaten track, allows for greater freedom of spatial and street use. The development of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has been something of a double edged sword, in that the area seems suddenly more central, and more desirable for development -thus pushing up property costs for the very people who were early adopters and likely to be driven out as rents rise inexorably.
Your work was part of Art in the Park last year in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Have you returned since part of it was opened? What other parks do you like to visit in London?
Yes I’ve been in the reopened park. I enjoy Wick woods and go to Mabley Green or Victoria Park pretty much twice a day. I used to like
Holland Park and Tower Hamlets cemetery in Poplar. I find it intensely frustrating that Hackney Council are so unimaginative about park possibilities and seem to insist on tarmacking over grass to build unwanted extra hard surface football pitches, creating sporting monoculture and privatising common land.
If you could put something on the fourth plinth what would it be?
You mean outside of an installation of my own? There’s something quite appealing about the rotation of works, which allows fresh voices to have an airing. Saying that, I think I’d incline towards a longer stay as it seems they slip away before I’ve seen them.
There are so many frustrations in city life that an occasional nomination for an object or person of scorn to be pelted with opprobrium or rotten fruit etc., might be suitably placed on the plinth for a few hours of retribution.
To buy one of Martin’s T-shirts click here.