Duffield artist unveils huge London street mural of Agatha Christie

Duffield artist Iona Rowland has unveiled her latest work based on a picture of Agatha Christie at the Seven Dials in Covent Garden, one of of London's busiest shopping destinations.
Duffield artist Iona Rowland has unveiled her latest work based on a picture of Agatha Christie at the Seven Dials in Covent Garden, one of of London's busiest shopping destinations.

An artist from Duffield unveiled her latest work at one of London’s busiest shopping areas last week in a historic tribute to a literary icon.

Iona Rowland, 28, was commissioned by the Seven Dials district near Covent Garden to produce a mural celebrating Agatha Christie’s The Seven Dials Mystery, published 90 years ago this month.

Trained in London and New York, Iona has featured in exhibitions across the country and her work is now held in private collections all around the world.

Trained in London and New York, Iona has featured in exhibitions across the country and her work is now held in private collections all around the world.

The billboard-sized acrylic, spray paint and silk screen print gives a colourful new look to a 1926 photo of the author, which subtly shifts with the viewer’s perspective.

Iona said: “It’s tying in with International Women’s Day in March, so I wanted to try and show her at the start of her career –a normal woman who faced all the same issues we do today on her way to greatness.

“A lot of my work remixes old images, and I think it celebrates her as a creative force but also as a woman evolving, adapting, and becoming.”

She added: “It’s the first piece I’ve done for a public space like this, and I wanted to reach younger audiences and make people stop amid the business of London, and engage with the area’s history.

“I’m used to doing private commissions or gallery shows, and this feels more like it’s helping to enhance people’s everyday lives.”

So far it is having the desired effect, with scores of people sharing photos online and writing to Iona after reading the mural’s plaque.

Although she now lives and works in the capital, the former Ecclesbourne School student still has a studio in Duffield where she retreats to work on large-scale pieces.

She said: “It took a few months to make, and a very technical process, but the hardest part was having the strength to pull the printing ink across such a large canvas.

“When it was finally unveiled it was quite an emotional moment – to see something I’d done, on that scale, in a location like this.”

There was emotion too, as she reflected on the influence her grandfather, Hazelwood resident Brian Fairholme, had on her artistic approach before his death last year.

Iona said: “He was part of the Ilkeston Arts Club and so many of the members there were instrumental in my creative process.

“That generation often worked in a very formulaic way, but Brian and his peers were real innovators, far ahead of their time. I learned so much from them about colour, mark-making and how to make things bold and fresh.”

The mural will be on display until March, when it will be auctioned for charity.

See more of Iona’s work at ionarowlandart.com or @ionarowlandart on Instagram.