Neville Gabie Gives Seurat Bathers Olympic Makeover

Neville Gabie re-creates Seurat’s Bathers At Asnières on banks of the Olympic Park

The Olympic Park’s artist in residence, Neville Gabie has re-interpreted the famous work by French post-impressionist painter Georges Seurat ‘Bathers At Asnières’. This 2012 version of a work dating from 1884, sees Neville Gabie substitute the original setting – the banks of the Seine in an industrial suburb five miles from the centre of Paris – for the banks of the River Lea in Stratford, east London, with Parisian factories in the background replaced by the Olympic Velodrome. And, in the place of Parisian bathers, Gabie has photographed members of the Olympic Games construction team – the landscape gardeners, engineers, designers and security staff.  

This new work is called ‘Freeze Frame’, and has been created as part of the Art In The Park programme organised by the Olympic Delivery Authority. The idea for the work came to Neville Gabie when he was struck by the similarities in Seurat’s scene to the pre-construction visualisation of the Olympic Park that he was shown upon taking up his residency.

But, while ‘There is an obvious and surprising physical connection between the two landscapes’, this is not simply visual pun, Gabie explains: ‘the concept for the work explores the more striking similarities between the social and political contexts of the two.’ While Seurat’s painting explores life during the Industrial Revolution, we’ve ‘Now, in the east end of London…, re-imagined a post-industrial landscape using sports.’

Not only have state of the art venues been constructed, the Thames itself is also getting a new lease of life, with efforts to clean away the detritus of Industrialisation, with restoration and cleaning of the water ways, along with extensive new planting: and this, Gabie believes, is the ‘real transformation’.

John Armitt, ODA chairman, has saluted the new work as a ‘fitting tribute to everyone who has worked so hard to ensure the project will finish on time, within budget and to an excellent standard’.

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