Off-court, Wimbledon is making a notable exception to its famous dress code this year thanks to British-Nigerian artist and designer Yinka Ilori. To celebrate the tennis world’s much-awaited return to the All-England Club, the famously colour-loving multidisciplinary creative was asked by Evian to create a mural and collaborate on their terrace, designed by Matt Gates, which opens its doors today.
Known for capturing the nation’s attention with his brilliantly bright pieces, Yinka – top New Designer at the ELLE Decoration British Design Awards 2019 – was the perfect person to develop an inspiring narrative art installation illustrating the importance of community. We caught up with him to discuss the project over some strawberries and cream…
What was the inspiration behind the Wimbledon installation?
It’s about celebrating community, which is a theme suggested by Evian that I found very powerful, especially after this past year. Drinking water is so important to community and the idea of togetherness really resonates with me and my practice.
The art installation itself is a mural with a lightbox behind showing the message: ‘the power of togetherness is what keeps us alive, let’s celebrate that’. It’s interactive too, as guests can play with the colours of the backdrop.
One of the things I love about colour is that it tells a story, but can also evoke an emotion.
The suite also features my homeware collection which I designed last year and launched in December, so it will be a space where you will be immersed in both mine and Evian’s worlds.
What role does the idea of community play in your work?
It plays a huge role. Wimbledon is one of the first big events this year that lots of people are going to be able to go to. I am just so happy to be out and talking to people and being part of a community again. Everyone is going to be super-excited to experience art, meet new people, see both old and new friends.
What I love about art, especially with this piece, is that it brings people, communities, cultures and ideas together. Although this is a VIP area, I still think it will allow people to experience art in a way that is inclusive. One of the things I learned during this past year is that the whole world is a community in some way.
How did this Wimbledon collaboration with Evian come about?
One of the things I advocate for is trying to make design and creativity very much an inclusive space for diverse backgrounds, people of different cultures and identities. With the theme of community, I think it was clear that Evian and I cared about the same things.
I designed a number of murals around London recently; one that said ‘better days are coming’, and another that read ‘as long as we have each other we’ll be ok’. Those words for me are affirmations. I try to empower and make people feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I am hoping this project will also inspire, bring people together and make our city a more positive, colourful space.
Evian’s Wimbledon suite has been certified as carbon neutral – is that also important to your work?
Sustainability is something that I struggle with because it can be very expensive, but what I like to do when I create work is to give it an afterlife. The Evian team and I are going to donate this installation to a charity once the tournament ends.