In today’s NW8, the only evidence of the once wild medieval wood is the leafy streets and large gardens of the resident supermodels, rockstars and international bankers. The original wood, known as the Manor of Lilliestone, gave its name to modern Lisson Green and spread from Kilburn Priory (now the curiously named Shoot Up Hill) down to Portman Square. The Knights Hospitallers were the keepers of the forest until repossession of their lands and property forced them into long exile on Malta.
Looking carefully around the streets of St John’s Wood, there are many medieval references and heraldic crests on buildings that range from council estates to the towering excesses of faux daub-and-wattle facades of relentless private housing blocks. On Queen’s Terrace, around the corner from the former Marlborough Road Underground Station, is the most potent example, a sizable painted 3D representation on the former The Knights of St Johns Tavern (see photograph).
Looking ahead to 2012, nearby Lord’s cricket ground hosts the archery contests of the Games. To highlight this and a citywide Cultural Olympiad, Westminster Initiatives programme has commissioned a pilot trail, to create new contemporary artwork exhibited in non-gallery locations, supported by the modern day charity of The Order of St John.
Pairings include portraits of medieval battle re-enactors at home, in an estate agency; sculpted submarine conning towers in a Spanish fishmonger; delicate Latin American painting in a colourful yarn shop; and, in a library, a remnant of ‘live’ performance where 500 arrows were fired into a map of the USA, on locations where the artist has friends and family. Meanwhile, a collectibles shop on Violet Hill hosts interpretations of famous record sleeves, including a Pink Floyd album recorded at Abbey Road. Other locations include a barber shop, a café and a gastropub.
A guide featuring a surreal map by Steven Appleby (the latter included below) can be found online at www.fitzrovianoir.com. Venues are generally open 10am–5pm, but all artwork is visible from, or even on the street.
1. LISA NEWMAN, St Johns Wood Library, Circus Road
2. TOOTHFISH, St John's Barbers for Gentlemen, 10 St Ann's Terrace
3. JONATHAN TURNER, Brian Lack and Co, 4-6 St Ann's Terrace
4. STEVEN APPLEBY, Fego Caffe, 64 St. Johns Wood High Street
5. RUSSELL CLARK, St John's Wood Collectables, 2 Violet Hill
6,7. CHEWING GUM MAN, Violet Hill and Ordnance Hill areas
8,9. ISABELLA LOPEZ CARRETE & MANUEL SANMARTIN, The Salt House, 63 Abbey Road
10,11. DAVID SNOO WILSON & KIT BOYD, Coastline Galicia, 69 Abbey Road
12. GUSTAVO ORTIZ, Tricollette Yarns, 93 Boundary Road
The art trail runs until 21 October.
By Harry Urgent. Disclosure: the author played an organisational role in putting together this art trail.