Walter and Zoniel, A Simple Act of Wonder (2020)

Before I heard about this exhibition and community-based artwork, Moulescoombe was just a destination on the front of the 49 bus, a neighbourhood so different from the middle-class bubbles in which I’ve lived, I had never gone there. And yet go there, properly, we did, myself and co-writer/co-photographer, 9-year-old Aysha, who enjoyed spotting the newly painted murals from the passenger side of a car driven, too slowly, by me, around the unfamiliar suburban streets.

I can only say we did experience a simple act of wonder to find bright geometric painting on the side of characteristically grey council housing. We found five such interventions, each resonating with the others, and each one a testament to the occupants, brave enough to foray into exhibiting contemporary art on the side of their traditional housing.

By this wondrous act, artists Walter and Zoniel have brought Moulescoombe and adjacent neighbourhood Bevendean into dialogue with city centre gallery Fabrica; in this central hub, the murals now relate to an immersive installation, all bright carpets and stretched plastic tape, which echo the loud colours and geometric forms deployed around the two estates on the edge of town. It was hoped that many Brighton residents, especially those who are often excluded from contemporary art spaces, might come and explore this show. But a global pandemic has meant that the gallery is closed to the general public.

Our family got access (a blogging perk) and we got to enjoy the space as light streamed into the colours here, on one of the last days of summer 2020. Liz Whitehead from Fabrica recounted the genesis of the project: the time the artists had spent on the two estates, the fact that a few of the houses will retain their new appearance, and also the origins of the show title; ‘A Simple Act of Wonder’ emerged from a conversation between the artists and a resident who apparently exclaimed “That’s it! That should be the title!”

Simple art, perhaps, but for people who are clearly never simple. A good few from these neighbourhoods have got to grips with a disruptive new artwork. And as for me, I got to navigate a new local environment, quite different to my usual haunts. And I got to share the wonder of Aysha; my daughter wrote, unaided, a review of the show at Fabrica. (She also took the photos for this post.)

“Me, Mark and Mummy went to this really amazing art exhibition. There were so many colours there. Later in this review I will show you some pictures of it. It was so colourful it made me want to run and jump around. We were told to take our shoes off before we went in, because there were so many different kinds of textures on the floor that they wanted us to feel them and it was really fun. The artists’ names were Walter and Zoniel. It was in town in Brighton. Some of the colours were red, orange, yellow, green, blue purple pink and grey.

Here are some photos:

“In the picture you can see at the end there are some photos of stuff like cats, dogs and people doing stuff.”

“There you can see that there were little things like toys.”

A Simple Act of Wonder runs until, at least, the 10 September 2020 in various sites in Moulescoombe and Bevendean. A map trail can be found on the Fabrica website where you can also explore the gallery show, virtually,

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