While the coun­try’s gal­leries and art spaces have been closed, it has been incum­bent upon artists to find more inge­nious ways to dis­play their work. Some­one who has been bring­ing artis­tic enjoy­ment and a sense of com­mu­ni­ty to his neigh­bour­hood for sev­er­al years is artist and art project organ­is­er Ahmed Farooqui, togeth­er with his part­ner Alan Swann. Ahmed and Alan’s Stroud Green home in north Lon­don has served as a friend­ly com­mu­ni­ty space for a series of inno­v­a­tive projects. And since lock­down, the two have used the front of their prop­er­ty as a giant can­vas, cre­at­ing work to amuse and uplift any­one who hap­pens to walk along their street. 

The project start­ed dur­ing win­ter. Ahmed cre­at­ed two giant Win­ter Hares. Word spread and peo­ple came from far and wide to enjoy the instal­la­tion. As spring 2021 loomed, Ahmed thought about cre­at­ing a replacement. 

Seen ‘in the flesh’, the tigers are impres­sive. They are larg­er than you expect them to be; one tiger (top pho­to) sits impos­ing­ly across the front of the house while the oth­er hov­ers over the door, a teacup and saucer bal­anced rather pre­car­i­ous­ly next to it.

I asked Ahmed about the installations:

Your win­ter hares instal­la­tion was incred­i­bly pop­u­lar. Were you expect­ing that? 

Frankly I didn’t know what to expect and I was sur­prised by the reac­tion. I had over 1,100 likes on local Face­book group pages, and not a sin­gle hos­tile or even snarky com­ment out of hundreds. 

Was it the pop­u­lar­i­ty of the hares that led you to make the tigers? Or had you planned to cre­ate some­thing to fill the same space?

I was going to take the hares down at end of Feb­ru­ary but so many peo­ple were walk­ing over to see them every day that I decid­ed to keep them in place till after I had made replace­ment ani­mals for the sum­mer. Lots more peo­ple than usu­al were walk­ing the streets for exer­cise dur­ing the win­ter and the expres­sions of sheer delight and increduli­ty when they came across the Hares was priceless.

How did you come to choose tigers for your theme? 

I want­ed con­trast­ing ani­mals for the sum­mer, so as an alter­na­tive to the cool blue “metal­lic” win­ter hares, I thought of warm, fur­ry, trop­i­cal tigers. I was think­ing of ani­mals that chil­dren would par­tic­u­lar­ly relate to. I felt this con­nect­ed with Judith Kerr’s won­der­ful book The Tiger who came to Tea, about a lit­tle girl’s kind­ness and gen­eros­i­ty towards a (rather scary) stranger who had invit­ed him­self to tea. You could “read” this instal­la­tion as adding a fur­ther chap­ter to the sto­ry where the tiger fam­i­ly invite the lit­tle girl to tea in return. Hence the title of this piece “Tea with the Tigers”. After the dark win­ter that we have had, I want­ed a pos­i­tive and opti­mistic theme to take us through the summer.

Who made the tigers and how long did they take?

The Hares and the Tigers were made by me; Alan con­struct­ed the scaf­folds and the pul­ley sys­tems for rais­ing and low­er­ing the ani­mals and did most of the instal­la­tion work; friends and fam­i­ly helped us haul the ani­mals in place on the day they were installed as they were too big for just the two of us to manoeu­vre. It took me around 6–7 weeks to research, paint and con­struct the ani­mals each time.

How long will this instal­la­tion be up? 

The Tigers will be up all summer.

Where are the Win­ter Hares now? Are their new homes per­ma­nent or will they move on? 

They are per­ma­nent. One has now gone to Sun­ny­side Com­mu­ni­ty Gar­dens and the oth­er will be installed at Ash­mount Pri­ma­ry School in June, so they can con­tin­ue to be enjoyed by the local community.

Tea with the Tigers can be viewed out­side 36, Ash­ley Road, N19
For past work at No: 36 please click on the fol­low­ing links
The Secret Life of No:36 – an art project in a Lon­don ter­race
Space 36: the Brex­it issue

Main pho­to: © Ahmed Farooqui; oth­er pho­tos © Lizzie Brown

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