Utopia Painted On Norwich Building for EASTInternational

By Sarah Morley | 30 June 2006
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photo of a man in a cherry-picker painting words on a wall

The artist is meticulously painting each word of Utopia on to the wall. Photo: Sarah Morley

Sir Thomas More’s entire novel ‘Utopia’ is currently being written in paint onto a building due for demolition in Norwich.

The old Eastern Electricity building on Westwick Street, just off Duke Street, inspired local artist Rory Macbeth to paint his favourite novel on its exterior walls for the EASTinternational 2006 contemporary art exhibition. He said his reason for painting Utopia onto the building is that the novel is “as valid now as it was when it was written”.

The artist and his assistants from Norwich School of Art and Design started work painting the walls on June 26, and just a few days in, the novel is nearly half way to completion.

“As long as the weather is nice,” said Rory, “we’re on target for Saturday the 8th of July” – the opening day of the exhibition.

photo of a large building from across a river

The building will be demolished next year. Photo: Sarah Morley

Utopia is 100 pages long, so Rory worked out precisely where each line must be positioned for the entire 40,000 words to fit on the wall.

“I like expressing the text through graffiti,” he explained, “as most graffiti is utopian – the world would be perfect if this or that were different.”

The building, visible from across the river, is due to be demolished in about a year’s time, so there won’t be any need to wash the graffiti off if anyone objects to Rory’s style of art. On the contrary, he has had lots of positive support: “We’ve made lots of friends, everybody wants to know what we’re doing.”

At the top of the building, painting while standing on a wobbly cherry picker, the artist admitted: “I’m terrified of heights!”

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Sarah Morley is the 24 Hour Museum/Norwich HEART Student Writer in Norwich. Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust is the groundbreaking initiative to regenerate, manage and promote one of the most remarkable heritage resources in the UK and in Europe.

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