Seeing the big picture of city

Workstation portrait by 'We Live Here' artist Jonathan Wilkinson which was specially-commissioned for the We Are 20 exhibition marking the 20th anniversary of The Workstation

Workstation portrait by 'We Live Here' artist Jonathan Wilkinson which was specially-commissioned for the We Are 20 exhibition marking the 20th anniversary of The Workstation

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There were a couple of reasons Jonathan Wilkinson was particularly pleased to be commissioned to produce a picture of The Workstation as part of its 20th anniversary exhibition.

“They would not have known, but I once worked in the building in the box office and front of house of the Showroom,” says the artist who looks to capture the places and things that people love about their surroundings.

The other reason he jumped at the chance he says was because the black and white Thirties Art Deco building suited his own distinctive geometric style.

After graduating in Painting and Printmaking from Sheffield Hallam University in 2001 Wilkinson started off working as a graphic designer.

It was what he calls the brutalist surroundings of the city landscape that inspired him to start producing architectural and urban scenes.

“I was interested in found images, things like retro postcards of places with faded glamour like the Bull Ring, the M25 or the Humber Bridge,” he says. “There was something truthful and hopeful at the time and it made me alter my thinking about preserving what was around me.”

In 2007 he launched an online store, We Live Here, to market his paintings and prints celebrating the places and things that people love about where they live.

The destruction of the Tinsley Towers provided him with his biggest hit.

“I tried to take places people had got so used to seeing and presenting a version that made people look at it in a fresh way,” he says..

He looks to incorporate patterns and lines that people might not have noticed in a familiar building. He starts by taking photographs of the details such as 20 windows on the front of The Workstation.

The sheer length of the facade on Paternoster Row dictated the size and shape of the piece currently filling a wall in The Workstation foyer.

The size presented a challenge to the artist who works on a computer. “It’s a bit like looking in a letterbox because I focus on a detail at a time and zoom in and out,” he explains.

Wilkinson works from a studio at Sheaf Bank Business Park producing designs and artwork that mostly end up inside people’s homes but he has also produced special commissions for The Baltic Centre, the RIBA, the National Theatre and Sheffield Theatres. He also produced the cover illustration for A for Angelica, the debut novel by Sheffield writer Iain Broome.

Increasingly his work is moving towards “discordant” urban and industrial landscapes and objects such as street furniture rather than pure architecture.

In another departure Wilkinson has produced pattern based designs which have made their way on to fabric and a set of cushions.

The Workstation exhibition runs until September 30.