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Mirror Mirror - Marion Coutts - A Commission

READING, UK.- Watery gardens comprising fountains and wells; gushing jets of water; reflections and refractions through mirrors and lenses, illuminated objects at dusk and other illusory features are all part of artist Marion Coutts' spectacular vision for regenerating Reading town centre twenty-four hours a day. Mirror Mirror investigates concepts of reflection, refraction and repetition to inspire a sense of belonging, ownership, enjoyment and contemplation. Drawing on Reading's history, topography and economic development, Coutts identifies and uses distinctive visual motifs that contribute to the town's identity for her atmospheric transformation of Chatham Place.

Renowned for her highly original sculpture and video work, Mirror Mirror is Coutts' most ambitious project to date. In charged, evocative, laconic pieces Coutts often effects spell-binding change of the ordinary. The projection piece, Everglade, (2003) a compelling fusion of moving image and object, presented vignettes of urban parkland as an afterlife of scenes of pastoral idyll. In Some Enchanted Evening (2001) a display of rings in a jeweller’s shop becomes a panoramic vision of the night sky. The Super 8 film Epic, (2000) follows a life-sized model of a horse being ceremonially carried through the streets and gardens of Rome, part ritual, part removal job. Coutts mines her raw materials for a wealth of associations — coins, satellite dishes, jewellery, watching television, a walk in the park. Other recent works have seen a suite of ping-pong tables shaped like London parks and ten pounds in coins stacked end on end to make a single, gleaming rod.

The appointment of Marion Coutts coincides with the relaunch of Reading Borough Council’s contemporary art programme, Art at the Centre, which has become ‘Artists in the City' to more closely reflect its role in the town. Recent projects include Dwelling, with artist David Ward and landscape artist David Moore who — inspired by architect Sir John Soane’s connections with Reading — installed brightly illuminated stained glass panes in buildings of architectural and historical interest close to Chatham Place, the site for Mirror Mirror. Sound artist Scanner’s unique work for a town centre cinema conjured a rich tapestry of collaged fragments of film dialogue with imaginary soundtracks and Luke McKeown was commissioned to produce sixteen collectable artworks for the back of bus tickets to highlight Reading’s new transport systems.

Mirror Mirror is an initiative between Artists in the City, award-winning architects Cartwright Pickard, landscape architects Townshends (known for their landscaping of More Place at GLA's City Hall), property developers AMEC and Reading Borough Council. The project — Reading's most ambitious to date— will extend the heart of the town centre to the west and create the first physical link to the town between the two sides of the Inner Distribution Road. Marion Coutts has been appointed as part of the multi-disciplinary team working on the design and construction of a development which will incorporate apartments for key workers, shared equity housing, private flats, retail units and other public facilities.

Marion Coutts will present her concepts for Mirror Mirror and some of her earlier work at a public event on 14 July in Reading (for confirmation of venue and time email

Marion Coutts studied in Scotland. Before becoming an artist she followed a career in music, working for a period in Europe as a vocalist and trumpet player. She now lives and works in London. She has had numerous solo exhibitions and has exhibited extensively in group shows in the UK and in Europe. She was Artist Fellow at Kettle's Yard/St John's College, Cambridge (2003-04), artist-in-residence for Tate Liverpool (2000-01) and a Rome Scholarship holder at the British School at Rome (1999).

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