French Impressionism isn’t the first thought that comes to mind when it comes to the Olympic Games, but that’s exactly what sparked the creation of a photograph by Olympic Delivery Authority artist-in-residence Neville Gabie.
The photograph of workers enjoying the east London landscape was inspired by “Bathers at Asnieres,” the 1884 impressionist work of Georges Seurat. It was more than the similarity of the riverside locations that inspired Gabie; it was the message behind the classic painting. “Seurat’s artwork was painted when France really embraced being a republic, when it had become acceptable to paint ordinary urban, working-class people with factories in the background,” the artist told the BBC. “Olympic Park is a public park for people, but instead of being a post-industrial landscape, it has big, iconic sporting venues.”
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Gabie recruited his subjects by studying the “characters” working to build the park. The final selection included landscape architects, engineers and security guards. He blogged about the difficulties of getting the shot, which was taken in June 2011, calling it a “logistical nightmare.”
During his 15-month residency, Gabie created a variety of works featuring the people of London in their Olympic roles. He also completed a film of an Olympic Park bus driver swimming the length of her route – just under one mile – at the Aquatics Center for the games.
Gabie’s work with the Olympics is not complete. He is now working with the Olympic Park Legacy Company and hopes to have an exhibition after the Games have ended.