Q&A with Eyal Granit, winner of the 2019 Vitrine Art Commission at New Covent Garden Market
In October 2019, Eyal Granit’s vibrant citrus fruit artwork was unveiled on Nine Elms Lane, on the 20 metre façade of New Covent Garden Market. Granit was the first winner of a three-year public art initiative, Vitrine, London's newest art commission celebrating London's oldest market.
Vitrine Art Commission is a new three-year long public art initiative, funded by VINCI St. Modwen (VSM) in association with Covent Garden Market Authority and realised in collaboration with London’s largest contemporary art festival Art Night. It aims to promote the work of artists of all career stages working within photography, painting, text or other two-dimensional medium.
For the New Covent Garden Market Vitrine Art Commission 2019, artist Eyal Granit (b.1979, Jerusalem, Israel) created a new work titled ‘Still Life Citrus’ (2019), which will be on display until October 2020.
We caught up with Granit on his thoughts on participating in the project, his inspiration for his work and what he’s being doing since he won.
VINCI St. Modwen (VSM): What did you learn about the Market on your first visit?
Eyal Granit (EG): It was really amazing. My wife and I were invited to have a grand tour of the market at 5am - it was pretty tough getting up at that time, but it was so incredible seeing how busy and vibrant the market was. We don’t have those kinds of markets in Israel; that variety of product, fruit and vegetables and flowers all under one roof. And the freshness - the idea that you can get an apple or an orange that was picked 6 hours ago from a field in Spain and I can have it for breakfast in London? It’s unbelievable. I learnt that it’s the biggest wholesale market in the UK and second biggest in Europe. What I loved most was the people - the people behind any market are always the story. They were so positive - even though many of them work nights and don’t see daylight!
VSM: What does having your artwork displayed at the Market mean to you?
EG: First of all, to show my work in London is a big thing. It’s a huge city - an international cosmopolitan city - so it’s a big opportunity and that’s thanks to the work that VINCI St. Modwen and Art Night put in in funding and publicising the open call. It means I can share my work with the hundreds of people who walk past it every day. What I love about the project is its placement – I like the idea of public art. People usually have to go to a museum or gallery to see art. With public art everyone that passes by can see it, enjoy it and connect to it. It also connects them with what’s happening inside the market, which a lot of people wouldn’t know about.
VSM: How did New Covent Garden Market inspire your final creation?
EG: I thought that the best thing would be to use something really colourful to reflect the brilliance of the market, and to contrast the colour of the pavement. I wanted to bring colour, the feeling of sun and yellow and blue and orange to the somewhat grey streets of London. I ate oranges in a field growing up – I wanted to provoke the smell and the taste of summer - something that makes viewers feel more alive.
VSM: Who and what are the influences in your photography?
EG: I studied photography in Madrid. I got to know a lot of painters and art photography during that time, which really shaped my way of using light and composition. There is a big influence in my work from the Italian artist Caravaggio and the Spanish still life painter Juan Sánchez Cotán. Cotán used hanging fruits, which is really unique to him. I use it as a kind of homage to him.
Most of the food photographers I see are doing more or less the same thing. I wanted to do something else, something different. I combined my love of 16th and 17th century painting with a modern photographic technique called focus stacking. It allows you to get the perfect photo with the best sharpness all round. It actually comes from commercial photography – you’d use it if you wanted to get a perfect photo of a pair of sunglasses for advertisement – but I took that technique into my work. It’s something that nobody else does for large scale works, I think that’s something unique to my work.
The work in Nine Elms is combined from 40 different photos. It was so much work and the biggest challenge of my career no doubt. But I’m happy with the result!
VSM: Tell us about your new exhibition at Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem.
EG: Since my recognition in London thanks to VSM and Art Night, I approached the Municipality in Jersualem and told them about the success of the project. I’m from Jerusalem, this is my home, my place. I said, let’s do an exhibition here. It has never happened before, so it was really exciting when they said yes! I am a pioneer in that sense.
I’ve used the same technique in some photos in Jerusalem. We now have 18 photos up in the market, which are still-life artworks of fruit and vegetables. I am now working on the second part of the exhibition which will feature 8 more images using more produce from the market.
The reaction of the people in the market has been amazing. They all want their photos taken! We’re looking to expand to a part three, which will focus on portraits of the veteran market sellers who have been there for 50 years – many of their chairs have been moulded to their bodies! It will document the market as it used to be as well as it is now. We’re looking for budget for that, and if it happens, that will be an amazing closure to the exhibition.
VSM: What are your future plans?
EG: While I am working on this project, I am already planning the next one. I’d like to do an exhibition in one of the markets in Tel Aviv and after that the plan is to go to Europe – specifically to Berlin as I lived there for a couple of years. I’d love to exhibit in Madrid, where everything started. There are markets in every city, so there really is no limit! This whole project was born at New Covent Garden Market due to the hard work of VINCI St. Modwen, CGMA and Art Night and I love the process of becoming part of the community with the traders and the products they sell. I would urge artists to respond to the Open Call for 2020!
The Vitrine Art Commission will run for two more years, with the new open call launching in Spring 2020. Artists of all ages and career stages will be invited to apply to present an artwork for the New Covent Garden Flower Market’s 20-metre long building façade on Nine Elms Lane.
If you are an artist interested in taking part, check out https://www.newcoventgardenmarket.com/blog/call-for-artists-new-covent-garden-market-vitrine-art-commission and get in touch with Zarina@artnight.london