The story behind White City House’s bold mirror mural
Artist Alice Browne takes us inside her immersive work, inspired by the transformative beauty of the cherry blossom season
Thursday 9 November 2023 By Anastasiia Fedorova
Every work in our House art collections are essential; they spark conversation and provide a backdrop to some of our members’ most memorable moments. Site-specific works, however, are particularly special – be it Miranda Forrester’s botanical ceiling at London’s Little House Balham or Desirée Vaniecia’s poolside mural at Soho House Austin. Created especially for the House they’re in, these works are designed to complement and enhance their surroundings – often spaces where people are dining, connecting or relaxing.
One of our most recent site-specific commissions is the mural for the restaurant at White City House, created by London-based artist Alice Browne. Painted over mirrored panels, the mural adds an additional dimension to the space, as members’ reflections exist alongside bold strokes of colour.
Browne’s artistic interest lies at the intersection of nature, technology and fantasy. Through painting, photography, drawing and sculpture, she explores the boundaries of the real and imagined; the complexity of people’s senses. Bold colours often dominate her canvases, as day-to-day objects and scenes are reinterpreted with emotional and sensorial force. Her works are currently in the collections at Soho House 40 Greek Street, 180 House and The Ned Club in London, and her solo exhibition, Still Moving, is on at Paris’s Liusa Wang until Saturday 30 December. We sat down with the artist to talk about her mural at White City House – how it reflects her expressive experimental vision and the inspiration behind that glorious pink colour.
What was the process of creating the mural for White City House like?
‘Sara Terzi from the Soho House art team first contacted me when they were redesigning the restaurant space in the House. The team were keen to include a large, impactful piece, to be painted directly onto the mirrors. This wasn’t something I’d done before, but I was quite excited about the challenge. I went away and did some research, created a design, and then painted it on-site over a couple of days.
‘When I was approached about the work, we were in the middle of this really wonderful cherry blossom season in the UK. Where I live in east London, by the canal and Victoria Park, there are lots of cherry blossom trees. Perhaps because it was 2022 and we were still coming out of a long period of COVID-19 lockdowns, the blossom felt particularly significant that year. It had this incredible transformative effect on the local area.
‘As a lot of the cherry blossom trees are along the canal, the petals fall onto the slow-moving water. It gives the strange effect of a pink blanket across the water and stones of the towpath. It changes your feeling about what is a liquid, what has weight, what is hard, what is soft… It’s kind of magical. I wanted to bring that to my work at White City House.’
How did the mirror panels play into your work?
‘I felt like it was quite important not to cover the mirrors entirely, because I wanted to use the internal space provided by the reflection of the restaurant. I enjoy playing with visual depth like that. The things I painted on top of the mirrors were hard, opaque and firm, and everything else around them was changing and moving.
‘I enjoy working quite decisively, but also allowing the work to develop throughout the production process. Even though I went in with a design, it had scope to change and I was able to respond to the room as I got to know it better. The work expands right into the corners of the space, reflecting the idea of falling cherry blossoms.’
How do you feel about your art being in a space that’s different to the classic white cube – a busy area full of people dining?
‘I’m very interested in how we see and experience the world. Our eyes are imperfect: our peripheral vision isn’t always clear and we have blind spots. So, I’m always thinking about that, especially when I’m creating work that you can’t perceive all at once. You need to experience it across a larger space and maybe over a period of time. I hope that’s something people will feel intrigued by.’
Do you enjoy making site-specific works that can’t be moved elsewhere?
‘I do. Even when I’m working in my studio, things around the space find their way into my work – I’m always absorbing my environment. I’m really happy with the fact that the work lives at White City House and represents where I was at in my life and career when I created it.’
What are the themes or mediums that you’re especially interested in exploring right now?
‘I’m working more with photography at the moment. Paint is a constant in my work, but photography has always been important to how I see the world. I’m taking photographs in a more purposeful way, considering how they can exist alongside – and maybe in dialogue with – my painted works.’
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