Ryan Gander appointed to create new public artwork for London

20 December 2021 By
Elephant Park sculpture workshop
Elephant Park sculpture workshop

Award winning artist, Ryan Gander OBE, has been appointed to deliver a landmark public artwork for Elephant Park in the London Borough of Southwark, conceived and developed with the local community.

This autumn Ryan Gander started working with the South London Gallery on a series of workshops for local school children that will bring together their playfulness and imagination to co-create the form of the final artwork. This final work may have several elements at different locations, forming a trail around the park – a new two-acre green space in London’s Zone One – for existing and future communities and visitors to the area to discover and enjoy.

Ryan Gander was invited to the role following a curatorial process led by Contemporary Art Society Consultancy. He has an established international reputation for artworks that materialise in many different forms, ranging from sculpture, apparel and writing to architecture, painting, publications and performance. His public commissions are diverse in material, placement and outlook and always cite the space as the initial seedling for the idea and overall concept.

Ryan Gander says: “Elephant & Castle has always been a really special part of London, through all its historic iterations. When we think about place we often think about ‘as it is’ or ‘as it was’, but seldom do we envisage para-possible futures, what a place ‘could be’. This form of ‘Imagineering’ takes great cognitive ingenuity and inventiveness, and so it seemed really apparent and fitting to me that working with those with the most active imaginations and those who know the place the best – namely the young people who live in the area – would be the most catalytic approach.” 

The commission is supported by Lendlease and Southwark Council, who are jointly delivering Elephant Park, the £2.5bn regeneration project in Elephant & Castle. Around half the site is devoted to public and green space, including a two-acre park, public squares and pocket gardens, the new Walworth Library and Southwark Heritage Centre and future community spaces still under construction. The project is breathing new life into this special part of Central London and the new artwork will form a memorable feature for local communities and visitors.

Kristy Lansdown, Lendlease Project Director for Elephant Park, commented: “When designing Elephant Park, we have always been hyper aware of the value that public spaces bring to a local community, and have strived to create an environment around our buildings that is inclusive, relaxing and inspirational. It is exciting that the next generation of Southwark’s community has the opportunity to help shape this landscape by working alongside Ryan.”

Megan O’Shea, Senior Art Producer, Contemporary Art Society Consultancy says: “We’re really delighted to be working with Ryan on this commission. His experience in the public realm and enthusiasm for working with young people open up exciting possibilities for future art in Elephant Park.”

Margot Heller, Director, South London Gallery adds: “Ryan’s proposal was outstanding in its involvement of children in the development and co-creation of a new permanent artwork for Elephant Park. Engaging children and our local communities in creativity is at the very heart of the SLG’s ethos so we are delighted to be able to extend our work with schools and artists to collaborate on this exciting project.”