The red telephone box is an iconic a symbol of Britain and the booths are still a familiar sight on London streets today. However with the rise of mobile phones, many of the kiosks are rarely visited for their actual purpose of making a call. So what does the future hold for the classic red boxes?
Some of the boxes have been sold off, whilst others have been used as pop-up shops or ice cream stalls. But for the many disused boxes that are dotted around the City, one of them stands out amongst the others. On London’s Southampton Row, you’ll find a telephone box that has blossomed. Commissioned by social enterprise Public Space Jam, contemporary artist Andrea Tyrimos transformed the disused telephone box outside number 79 by painting it in order to highlight the need for greener spaces in the city. Referencing travels to Borneo and Mauii, Tyrimos used oil paints to carefully cover the telephone box with green leaves and flowers. The project, entitled LivingBox, took Tyrimos one month to complete and was finished in February of this year.
“Painting on the streets in this way makes art so much more accessible than to simply keep it confined to the white wall gallery space. I feel honoured to be painting on such an historic and iconic piece of London” she said. The permanent art installation depicts one of the ways art can be brought into urban spaces, whilst simultaneously challenging perceptions and changing public spaces.
LivingBox is just one of the many permanent art installations in London that Tyrimos has been involved with. Before LivingBox, Tyrimos was commissioned by Southwark Council to transform utility boxes. The first of these is at the entrance of former zoological garden Pasley Park, Kennington – entitled ‘Ziggy’s Brick.’ “I painted a meerkat, (as the park used to be a zoo) who acts as the ‘Park Patrolman’, in the same way that meerkats have ‘sentries’ in their gangs or mobs (a play on anti-social behaviour). I named the meerkat Ziggy as this was one of the many dogs’ I befriended during the painting process. As this was a public art piece I felt it was only right to honour the park’s residents” she explains.
After Ziggy’s Brick, she was then commissioned again by the council to create a second piece on another utility box within the same park. ‘Pasley Park Pounce’ has been created with oil paint on the metal utility box and was completed in May this year.
“I wanted to compliment the first painting – to reference that Pasley Park used to be a zoological garden, and again to use my ‘camouflage’ technique. It’s important for me for the pieces to be interactive, so using trompe l’oeil techniques, I attempt to ‘trick the eye’, and blend the utility box into its background. With all of my public art pieces I like to reference the history of the environment. From research into Pasley Park, one of the animals recorded as being kept at the zoo was a leopard” she explains. She then painted a leopard onto the box along with metal fencing to give off the illusion that the animal has burst through the fence.
The utility boxes are part of a series called the BRICK project, which contains 12 different paintings on urban spaces around London. Changing public spaces, challenging perceptions and tricking the eye are all crucial concepts running through Tyrimos’ work. “The idea of ‘hidden art’ is what my BRICK project is all about.”
You can view LivingBox, Ziggy’s Brick and Pasley Park Pounce at the following locations:
Southampton Row (outside number 79)
Ziggy’s Brick and Pasley Park Pounce