Hackney artist wins acclaim for house that appears to be falling down

PUBLISHED: 11:00 19 October 2013

Artist Alex Chinneck with his artwork

Artist Alex Chinneck with his artwork " Telling the truth through false teet" on display in a derelict building in Hackney.


It’s impossible not to do a double-take when you see photos of, or walk past, a house that seems to be falling down.

Alex Chinneck's art installation in Kent is made to appear as if the front of a house is falling downAlex Chinneck's art installation in Kent is made to appear as if the front of a house is falling down

However, if you stare long enough, you may – or may not – realise it is merely an illusion.

The brainchild behind the disconcerting installation is talented 28-year-old Hackney artist Alex Chinneck.

Called From the knees of my nose to the belly of my toes, the visually striking installation in Margate, Kent, took him six weeks, working dawn to dusk.

Not content to rest on his laurels, he started work on another quirky installation called Miner on the Moon beside Blackfriars Bridge, London, the day after he finished in Margate.

The work features an image of two upside down buildings on the facade of a derelict one.

The art work is a humorous take on everyday details, which Mr Chinneck says is something he enjoys doing.

“I like making work that is conceptually accessible”, he said. “I use humour and illusion as they can be enjoyed by anyone. I would say my work can be enjoyed by anybody regardless of their cultural experience.”

His installations are also physically impressive, and embrace other disciplines such as engineering and architecture.

He said: “I’m interested in architecture, engineering and theatre. I would not describe myself as an artist – rather as someone who makes things exist.

“I have a basic understanding of how things are built. The understanding came from being curious, through making things and a basic understanding of architecture and structure. You can’t be bound to your training otherwise the realms of possibility are very limited.”

He also admits to drawing on advice from experts, saying: “You need expert opinion and I surround myself with structural engineering and architectural experts. You need a basic understanding of those disciplines and how to evolve this idea.”

Mace, the construction company behind the Shard, is helping him with Miner on the Moon.

Despite this, he is worried about future reaction to the piece, which is due to be completed in a week.

“There’s been such a warm response to the falling down house”, he says disarmingly. “I feel my head on the chopping board with this one.”

But the fear seems unfounded given the scope of his talent. As well as having his studio in Bayford Road, Hackney, he also has an art installation in the borough called Telling the Truth through false teeth, which consists of 312 identically smashed windows, conceived in a disused building which was a former cannabis factory.

He says it used 1,248 pieces of glass and took four months to build.

Describing this work, he says: “It’s about the idea of taking control of an uncontrollable scenario – controlling chaos as it were. A smash or a crack is a complete accident.

“It’s taking things that are unfamiliar and presenting them in a heightened and theatrical way.”

The building, in Tudor Road, Hackney, is due to be demolished, which Mr Chinneck confesses to be pleased about.

“I like the idea of my work being temporary”, he said. “In my opinion, one of the best artworks produced in the UK was a concrete house in Bethnal Green by Rachael Whiteread.

“It’s legacy was heightened because it was knocked down.”

Looking forward, he says he does not want to be pigeon-holed. “I really see the sliding house and inverted buildings as sketches for something bigger.

“I like the idea of building a multi-discipline studio to create all kinds of experiences – sculpture, architecture, furniture and design.”

It’s hard to believe that he was destined to become a professional sportsman.

“It was only when I was 16 that I started becoming interested in art”, he said. “I wanted to be a cricketer. I captained my school for years at county level.

“My dad is a PE teacher and was head of PE at my school. I was nurtured into being a professional sportsman.

“The creative path I took was initially born out of rebellion. I’m lucky my mum and dad did their best to understand.

“I keep my work light and physically impressive and I think they enjoy it.”

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