A tree awkwardly pokes its arm through a closed shop's window. A crane hoists a plank, interrupting the skyline. An old sign factory sits idle, its own neon sign going unlit for years. The buildings of a city, in their varying states of decay, desertion and regeneration, have volumes of stories to tell. It's these stories that stir Jo Peel's curiosity, that have her reaching for her paintbrush.
Jo Peel captures moments in the life of a city that pass many by. She sees character in places that others may take little notice of, and preserves the memory of buildings' former lives as they enter states of transition. Anyone who's visited Hagglers Corner will recognise the distinctive Jo Peel style from the huge mural on its outside wall.
Her main subject is, unsurprisingly, Sheffield, but in 2015 Jo created a series on Pittsburgh alongside Sheffield, looking at two steel cities on the move. Here she lets us in on what inspires her.
Update: Jo was commissioned by City of Ideas to create a mural for the side of Yorkshire Artspace's Persistence Works in 2020. She collaborated with planting design innovator Nigel Dunnett to turn the facade into a massive green wall, a beautiful combination of art and nature, titled Growing City. It was finished just before the lockdown began – scroll down for photos.
How would you describe your work?
I don’t really like describing my work. I think that’s why I make pictures and animations – I like to tell stories, but I haven’t mastered the written narrative. I usually describe myself as a contemporary urban artist and sometimes when at my least articulate I would say "I draw buildings".
What inspires you?
Cities inspire me, as there is such an interesting dialogue between humans and their surroundings. I am interested in old architecture, ambitious new builds and the complete failures! Every building has a story...
What’s your workspace like?
I've got a studio at Yorkshire Artspace, right in the centre of town. It’s a great base to come back to, as I’m often working out of the studio in different environments. I’m very lucky to work outside a lot creating large murals, so my workspace is constantly changing with each new project.
What do you love about Sheffield?
The people. The views… and the hills! And walking with people, in the hills, admiring the views.
What would you do to improve the city?
An outdoor lido. Right next door to my studio please. And maybe a flume from the roof.
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- Meet the Locals: Yorkshire Artspace