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