Budding art historian, amateur documentary filmmaker and fellow Lady Eleanor Holles Year 12 student Maddie Parker achieved a well deserved second place at the SPoKE, an art documentary competition for students in Year 11,12 and 13.

Maddie’s film is a captivating and emotional telling of Requiem by Chris Ofili, a colourful and emotional ode to the Grenfell Tower disaster and the death of Ofili’s friend and fellow artist Khadija Saye.  After such a fantastic success she kindly spoke to me about her emotive inspiration, artistic freedom and continued passion for Art History. 

Maddie recalls seeing the artwork for the first time on a visit to the Tate Britain where she was immediately impacted by the emotions and message of it. She decided that it “deserved a voice” and that by doing her documentary on it, she could give it one. The emotions in the piece are particularly personal to her as she used to play netball 10 metres or so from Grenfell Tower and vividly remembers seeing it for the first time after the fire and the lasting impact it had on her. Both the impact of the artwork and her personal connection to the devastating event it captured inspired her to make her documentary on it.

The impact of the artwork on her is clear from both the brilliance of the documentary and the way her eyes light up when asked to recall her favourite aspects of Ofili’s work. She tells me about how captivating the burning building is and how the dramatic image brings the Grenfell disaster to life in a way that even the pictures and videos can’t. Additionally she highlights the use of colours noting that one would “assume something quite disastrous and horrific would be painted in colours that connote sadness but here it is actually a celebration of life.” This insightful observation feeds into the idea, shown through her film of grief and the acceptance of grief. This grief is so clear in the artwork due to the personal connection between Ofili and Saye with Maddie noting that it is clear she had “a profound impact on him in such a short amount of time” and that this personal connection makes the piece even more powerful and emotional.

The SPoKE competition required a 5-7 minute documentary but had virtually no guidelines on what the content could be. This meant that Maddie had far more freedom and artistic licence, giving her  “a creative outlet that she misses since completing art GCSE.”

Maddie spoke about her artistic choices, including  the animation she added to elements of the artwork as she felt “the clips didn’t do it justice and the animation made it feel more alive”. This meant that the documentary would have more impact on the viewers as would be viewing the artwork closer to how the artist intended. Additionally her use of the music which the name of the piece is inspired by, Requiem by Fauré adds to the emotional impact of the documentary and sets her apart from other competitors. She also tells me that she “made sure to include clips of the wrapped building (Grenfell Tower) which acts as a memorial and a reminder of Ofili’s words that in order for this to not happen again we must remember it.” This strong and powerful message sits at the core of the artwork and is magnificently mirrored by Maddie in her documentary.

Maddie achieved an amazing and well deserved second place and she credits “my use of animation which switched things up” and the fact it was a “very powerful topic” for her achievement. When I asked her what she would do differently she remarked on the sound quality of the documentary, however this definitely didn’t deter the judges of the competition from heralding Maddie with praise for taking on such a “potent topic in an assured and delicate manner”.

Throughout our conversation the word impact was mentioned time and again by Maddie and it became clear that that was at the very heart of both the artwork and her documentary. The impact of a disaster as massive as the Grenfell Tower fire on the whole country, people who lost loved ones and even Maddie herself. The impact of such a beautiful piece of art on its viewers, a long lasting reminder of grief and acceptance, a long lasting reminder to never let it happen again. And finally the impact of Maddie’s film, which mirrored the beauty, emotion and impact created by Ofili himself.