“Corporates have recognised the value in a good space” Alex McKell, a mural artist with a background in fine arts and psychology, sees Luxembourg’s many offices as an opportunity to make people experience their environment differently. How did you get into mural art and working with businesses? Well, I’ve been painting murals for about 10 years now. I started off in England. I was a support worker in a care home and wanted to make the space more environmentally relaxing for the residents, and for them to take a bit of ownership of the space. So we had workshops where they would talk about things that they liked and colours that they enjoyed and how these could help. I started applying my art to the walls that they had there. That’s the first time I thought about making art on walls. And then, it just developed from there. [After moving to Lisbon] I came back to Luxembourg, which is where I grew up. I wanted to break into the corporate market because the atmosphere in offices can be quite limiting and uninspiring. I think there’s a huge market here because there are a lot of people who work in corporate environments. And over the last few years, you could see that corporations are trying to improve the workspace. They’ve recognised the value in a good space, so I want to lend my skills to that ambition. How do you balance your own creativity and the ideas and demands of a corporate business? What’s important for me is that I have a skill set that they don’t have. I would like to make their idea a reality with the skills that I have at my disposal. If they say ‘we want to promote a certain message,’ we will go back and forth on what elements they’d like to see in the design. Then, I pre-create the design on a digital platform which I can project onto the walls, so they can see how it’s going to look and ask for changes to be made. It ends up being a really collaborative experience. I think that also adds value to it because they can take over ownership. I’m just the facilitator for the idea that they have. Based on my experience, I can influence their ideas to make something they might not have realised they could achieve.
Is it a challenge to put yourself out there as an artist? It is a bit challenging in Luxembourg. I’ve worked a lot with SES. My last year was mainly projects with them. But once you build a good relationship with one client, the opportunities come. Do you ever feel like there are any limits to your mural art business? Well, for example, with SES, we’re talking about doing some of their other offices. They have a lot of different locations in the world, so there’s that avenue of development in terms of within a company. But then, in the meantime, I try and do things where I can help people. I’ve worked with refugee camps on workshops, teaching people how to paint on a wall and what the challenges are with that. There’s no lack of things to do, and there’s all these outdoor mural projects as well, which also present really good opportunities. As an artist who works with businesses, you also have to be a businesswoman. How do you manage both roles? It’s really challenging, but I have to set aside time to keep up with my admin. For me, the joy is really in the painting, but I’m hoping to develop myself to a point where I can have some help on that side. That would be ideal because I’ve managed so far, but I do have a lot of platforms that I have to keep up to date. And I’m not just a mural artist--I also paint on canvases, hold exhibitions. But if I’m working for a company, that will always take precedence.
McKell recently created a 6m by 7m mural for one of SES’s offices
Interview TRACY HEINDRICHS Photo ROMAIN GAMBA