London artist Hanna Benihoud has unveiled Rainbow Ribbons in the newly-opened Claremont Park today. Incredibly, the dynamic flowing sculpture is fashioned from steel and powder-coated in an array of vivid colours. But to look at it, you wouldn't think it was made of metal.
The "ribbons" float down in continuous wavy lines in front of the Brent Cross Town park's new locally-run ice cream kiosk, creating quite the centrepiece for the area. The architect-turned-artist wanted to bring a sense of creative unity to the park while injecting a sense of colour and play.
It's typical of Hanna's approach, where she blurs the boundaries of architecture and design to make site-specific pieces that engage with local communities. She tends to gravitate towards large-scale mixed media, often using spray paint, concrete, helium, and digital. After collaborating with Levitt Bernstein to build the City of Stories installation for the London Festival of Architecture, Hanna's studio has also created public art across the capital and internationally. Her work always hopes to tell stories and add joy to public spaces through her art and design.
The idea for this latest sculpture came after leading a 'ribbon workshop' with local young people of all ages. "We wanted to focus on play and sport, so I spent a sunny day in the park with a load of brilliant local children of all ages – from toddlers to teenagers – playing with colours and shapes to see what inspired them," Hanna explains. She wanted to find a physical activity that would intuitively encourage a sense of playful coming together. "Eventually, a theme of a rainbow made from ribbons shone through. It doesn't matter what your age is. It's hard not to smile when given a ribbon to play with."
They "looked like the ones you might have used in a PE class at school, which was a way to integrate physical movement and play into the artwork itself," she adds. She then used photographs taken on the day of the children twirling and making shapes with the ribbons to create sketches and 3D models of how the installation might look while ensuring it also served the practical need of providing a screen to the kiosk.
Interestingly, Hanna says it's not the scale of her work that she finds challenging but the decision of which material to use. "I've worked with all kinds of materials, but this is the first time I've worked with steel. It's much more pliable and fluid than something like timber, for example, but it's strong enough to survive being outside all year round."
To create the installation, Hanna collaborated with The White Wall Company describing the process as "experimental and fun". The metal workers heated the steel with blowtorches so it was molten and could be manipulated. They then had to work fast to mould the steel into a spiral before leaving it to cool. Speaking of her time with them, she said, "I absolutely loved that the process of making the artwork was as playful as the workshop itself."
Regarding her previous collaborations, Hanna says: "I create collaboratively and out of that, I design the work. I have integrated engagement into the design development to ensure people are part of my process. It is almost impossible to capture the full spectrum and nuance of any community. Still, I love to be inspired by a collection of individual stories that share a common backdrop. It makes public artwork of its place. It cannot be picked up and moved elsewhere because it is designed to be integrated with that backdrop."
She says of her experience working at Brent Cross Taown: "This project is the embodiment of why I call myself a studio. It might be my name on the work, but the process from beginning to end has been collaborative. From local kids to photographers to architects and fabricators. Everyone has their hand's mould in this piece of artwork."