Jasleen Kaur
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Artist Jasleen Kaur wins commission to create South Thamesmead’s first piece of permanent public art

Jasleen Kaur has won a commission to create the first piece of permanent public art for Cygnet Square in South Thamesmead.

This is the first public art commission for the London-based creative whose work explores the way culture and social history are embedded into material and immaterial things.

She was unanimously chosen following a competitive selection process and responded to a brief that was explicitly centred around the people of Thamesmead.

Her initial proposal, which is being kept under wraps as it develops, impressed the five founding members of Thamesmead’s creative studio (Comfort Adeneye, Gonzalo Fuentes, Qozeem Lawal, Shalini Panchal and Whitney Manassian). The members — emerging creatives from Thamesmead who are passionate about where they live  have been leading the entire commissioning process.

This included writing the initial brief, selecting a shortlist and then choosing the commissioned artist. Jasleen will now spend the next six months working with them to finalise the designs for her artwork, incorporating input and ideas from other Thamesmead residents. 

Jasleen hopes that her completed art piece will allow Thamesmead residents to explore their hopes,  dreams, and concerns for the future. She has been described as an artist who ‘consistently delights and challenges audiences,’ helping to shape culture and providing alternative ways for people to experience social history. From Glasgow to Gravesend, and to the Wellcome Collection in London, her work also examines identity and hierarchy throughout history, making her a fantastic fit for capturing the development of Thamesmead.

Jasleen Kaur said: “The commissioning model is what I was really drawn to, with the setup being that young creatives in Thamesmead were supported to be involved through an entire commissioning process; somewhere between mentorship and paid internship. I love that they, as residents and artists in their own right, have a stake or claim to a public artwork being planned for their area as it goes through an immense period of change. It’s a really non-hierarchical approach to working together; knowledge is moving horizontally rather than vertically.

I’m interested in how working collectively is accountability — there’s a responsibility to listen to and care for everyone in the room. It’s a collaborative way of working, many ideas will inform the final artwork, not just mine. The process so far has been to get to know one another and generate ideas through discussion be that in person or on Whatsapp.

The Thamesmead creative studio said: “From the beginning Jasleen’s proposal has been people-centred and focused on the community, which is absolutely central to what we laid out in our brief. It’s important that she wants to connect meaningfully with people from Thamesmead and we’re confident Jasleen’s process will attract different demographics, especially those who aren’t necessarily interested in art. There is a complexity and nuance to Jasleen’s proposal. She showed a passion for creating meaning that goes beyond the physicality of the artwork, exploring its value in social and cultural contexts. This feels significant during this time of change for the area and we’re looking forward to seeing how the plans for Jasleen’s design develop.”

Adriana Marques, Peabody’s Head of Cultural Strategy for Thamesmead, said: “Jasleen has demonstrated a real understanding of what the new creative studio wants to achieve with this project, and her approach to representing and co-creating with local people is at the core of our vision to support community leadership. We recognise the need to shift how culture is created, and who it represents, and we look forward to this artwork marking an important milestone in Thamesmead’s future.”  

The Thamesmead creative studio is a project piloted by Yinka Danmole, Vickie Hayward and Joseph Gray, a cultural commissioning team which is modelling ways to deliver public artwork where decision-making is delegated to residents. A citizens assemble model of sorts, the opportunity provides on-the-job learning for local talent and creates opportunities for people to access careers in the creative industry as curators, commissioners, project managers and other roles beyond that of the artist.

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