The key to the [small part of the] city

The Brockley Central Interview

For some time, Brockley Central has been curious about the giant key that appears to stick out of the side of a house as you walk along Brockley Road from the station. It’s one of a handful of oddities in Brockley, which includes the Hilly Fields Stone Circle and that mysterious baroque house opposite Tyrwhitt Road.

Then, we found out that the key was part of a wider South East London public art project, and determined to find out more.

"It's actually a trompe l'oeil - a 2d image that's stretched so that, when you look at it from certain angles, it appears to be a 3d object,“ says its creator, Patricio Forrester. “The technique is called anamorphosis and the key is just a flat print on the wall."

Patricio's company, Artmongers, began the creation of a South East London Circuit of Public Art three years ago and are the team behind the famous wheelie bin / cow hybrids that populate the streets of New Cross.

The concept first began when Patricio attended a Brockley Cross Action Group meeting and became excited by the idea of doing something locally. It eventually came to fruition when funding was provided by the Brockley Max festival. But he admits that he had to suffer for Brockley’s art:

"The whole process was pretty protracted. Despite the support and enthusiasm of many for the project, it took about four years for it to happen - even though the production only took us about a week."

Eventually, they found a wall next to Toad's Mouth Too and the project got the go-ahead.

"The key resembles a B for Brockley. We wanted to create a local landmark."

When we tell him that our son is convinced that a giant mechanical robot lives in the house, with only his wind-up key poking through the walls, he seems delighted:

"That's exactly the kind of reaction we were hoping for. Something that makes you wonder. The key is a giant visual question mark - what is it there for?"

"We wanted to do something minimalist and conceptual, in contrast to the nearby mural, which is very vivid and colourful."

There’s no doubt that Artmonger’s projects have brought a little more joy to the streets of South East London and we asked Patricio what’s next:

"We're just finishing a project called 'Fabric of Society', which will be an image of a curtain made from a patchwork of the fabrics that have meant most to the local people who've contributed. We're planning an unveiling event in the summer, with a picnic at Telegraph Hill.”

Patricio is enthusiastic about the new opportunities for art that are planned for Brockley.

"I think art's place is in the street, but of course, I'd welcome a local gallery [planned for the Tea Factory development at Brockley Cross]. And of course, the Brockley Open House arts event is a great institution.”

He's also impressed with the progress that the Brockley Cross Action Group have made in rejuvenating Brockley Common.

"I've watched the changes that have taken place and I think it's impressive. Their plans for a public art commission for the common is a really nice idea.

"I live between Nunhead and Telegraph Hill and moved to the area when I came to Goldsmiths.

“While I was there, people told me that, as an artist, I would have to central London to make a life, but I wanted to stay in the area - it has so much space, so much potential. That's probably the best thing about living here."