Rose Rouse rocks around Harlesden with Gabriel Parfitt

Former sculptor in metal has a cutting edge effect on art gallery he runs

Writer Rose Rouse is on an adventure – not in Cuba, Bali or the Outer Hebrides but in Harlesden where she lives. Every month, she walks and talks with friends and neighbours around busy NW10 and meets people you may have heard of living on your doorstep.

This week, she meets Gabriel Parfitt, who runs Harlesden Gallery, for an art walk, beginning in Park Parade and ending in Harley Road.

Have you noticed the public art in Harlesden? No, I thought not. Gabriel Parfitt was runs the Harlesden Gallery(harlesdengallery.co.uk) - a group of 40 artists – has arranged to meet me at the blue sculpture called The Workers in Park Parade.

Created by artist, Kevin Harrison as part of the City Challenge in 1995, it has what looks like four Russian workers with a flag. “It reminds me of a Peter Gabriel video,” says Gabriel. And it is a strange, cartoonesque satire. These workers are apparently (I asked Kevin H) struggling to put up a corporate flag. However, I find it hard to know what it has to do with Harlesden or how it adds to the landscape.


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What is Harlesden Gallery about? “We’re not all local artists,” says Gabriel, “but we are all committed to putting energy into projects in Harlesden. We did the posters for the Love Harlesden day last year and I’m sure we’ll do the same for this year’s on June 17th. There’s a community ideal behind it, as well as our exhibitions. Recently, we had our second group exhibition at the Tricycle, and we sold one piece and another artist was commissioned from it.”

A former sculptor in metal, Gabriel now paints. I want to show him the Sun Disc at the corner of Hillside and Brentfield Rd which was made in 1994. Funnily enough, when I first saw it, it seemed irrelevant but this time, Gabriel points out the fascinating archive newspaper headlines and photographs which are etched into the pavement around the central steel disc. And it’s true, they are brilliant, textured and fun. But it’s hard to see how they – made by photographer, Guy Paterson – interact with the steel Sun Disc created by Geraldine Konya.

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On the corner of Acton Lane, there is a mosaic sculpture in bold colours which looks as though it is celebrating the vibrancy of the area but it is looking worse for wear. No-one is looking tending to these pieces of art and they are deteriorating. There’s a broken toilet next to this one and it’s not meant to be there.

Finally, we visit the most recent piece of public art called Girls and Boys in Harlesden down Harley Road. A long black and white mural on the wall adjoining Willesden Junction Station. Created in 2008, it contains images of Harlesden Primary School children who are of course diverse. And so artist – Mat Hand now based in Berlin – wanted to make a mural that had social value. The words Bad and Good alternate next to the images and the idea is that we, the viewers, challenge ourselves around our perceptions of young people and how they look. It’s stark and startling, and at least it definitely does have something to do with Harlesden. “It’s a bit cliched now,” says Gabriel and he’s right.

What does he dream of for Harlesden Gallery? “Eventually, it would be great to have an exhibition space in Harlesden and there is going to be some more money available for public art as part of the Harlesden Town Team vision so we have to consider what will work the best for Harlesden and be inspiring and interactive at the same time.”

Watch this space.

Harlesden Gallery’s next show ‘An Ideal Soup’ is at the Willesden Gallery in April (http://www.harlesdengallery.co.uk/An%20ideal%20soup.html) More walks on roserouse.wordpress.com

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