top of page
  • Writer's pictureCatherine Flutsch

Luxmuralis: Art, Light, Beauty and Hope

Updated: May 17, 2021

It is quite difficult to put into words, just how much the light murals of art collective, Luxmuralis, mean to me. Luxmuralis comes to Oxford, usually at the end of November or the beginning of December – when winter has finally settled. The air is freezing, crisp and clean with the beauty of an English winter beginning to show; all bare, frost covered branches and red berries with a hint of wood smoke on the air.

The nights have closed in and rugging up in warm clothes, thermoses in backpacks, ready to go to the Natural History Museum to stand outside and watch the exquisite artworks move across the magnificent buildings, to emotional, beautiful, and original music. There is nothing better.

There is also nothing that brings Oxford’s diverse community together in the same way; everyone comes - rich, poor, town, gown,* all races, all ethnicities, all persuasions, and all orientations comes together to stand as one and marvel at the beauty that is the Luxmuralis show.

When I had the opportunity to talk to Peter Walker, bronze sculptor, and the artistic director of Luxmuralis, I was thrilled. The following interview took place via Zoom on Tuesday 4 May. Peter was so open and generous with his thoughts, I think that everybody will be enriched by reading his views on inclusivity, art, artists and art education.

Your sound and light shows are so inclusive – everyone comes – how do you manage to achieve genuine inclusivity?

David Harper, composer for Luxmuralis, and I have found that the people who work in Oxford’s beautiful buildings genuinely want inclusivity too. Often, though, they are hampered by the Victorian infrastructure of the buildings – these can seem like very intimidating, closed places that seem like they are only there for a certain type of person. So, even with the best will in the world, it can be difficult to get a diverse range of people to come inside.

Photo: Louis Trichard

At Luxmuralis we we work with partners to open up those spaces – we create light shows that showcase the buildings and the collections inside of them and project them onto the outside of the buildings together with beautiful, original music.

Photo: Jools Parker

Or we open up the buildings by repainting the interior architecture with light; bringing stories about what’s happening in the world to life.

We try to emancipate the collections and the buildings with our art. Our shows are almost always free or, if a venue wants to charge, we always insist that the cost isn’t more than a cup of coffee and a cake – so that everyone can afford to experience them.

David and I will never forget our first show outside the Natural History Museum in Oxford – how emotional it was – we saw everybody there - Oxford University students in full tuxes – standing next to families in wellies with the kids dancing around the lawn. Artists are made by having access to art. Seeing so many different types of people being moved by our shows…well, that’s why we do this!

Inclusivity is at the heart of what you do, why is that?

Inclusivity is part of our ethos, which comes from our working-class backgrounds. Neither composer David Harper nor I are trained artists, we haven’t gone through academic structures to get to where we are. Yet, both of us have created art our whole lives.

I’m primarily a bronze sculptor and a public artist. I believe that art is for everyone and my work goes into public spaces. Once my art is in a public space, it is for everyone. I want it to provoke discourse. This is quite a different way of working than the commercial relationships a lot of artists have – selling art to individuals or organisations for display behind closed doors. That’s ok of course, but being behind closed doors means that only a small number of people will get to see it.

Photo: Oxford City Council

I’ve never aspired to be a white wall gallery artist. Even I find it difficult to walk into a London gallery where the prices on the wall are beyond anything that I could ever afford and the attitude is, “If you can’t afford this, you don’t belong here.” That is not a world I want my art to live in. I prefer my work to be seen in context and where everyone can encounter it.

I think I have this attitude because when I was growing up, I found it very difficult to access art. The nearest place I could go to was an art gallery in Walsall. I was fortunate because that gallery held some of Jacob Epstein’s collection, gifted by his widow. The gallery was just above the library, so it was slightly more accessible to people from my background.

You’d go upstairs and the first thing you saw was a Van Gogh, a Gauguin, and a Monet. That set the tone for me. Now I think that if you produce an artwork that is going to be behind locked doors, then the artist’s voice is silenced.

Is light a difficult medium to work with?

I don’t really follow what other artists who work with light do, in fact, I don’t really follow what’s happening in the art world at all. Having said that, as far as I can see, art that uses light seems to be quite an academic, technical subject. I’m not trained in any of that.

Video still: Catherine Flutsch

The first time we did a show, we plugged a projector into a computer and projected our work onto a wall! We’re a bit more sophisticated now but I’m not interested in being too technically clever. The most important thing for us is that our work has heart and emotion.

We use light to communicate a message – that is what all artists should do. We try and communicate our messages in a beautiful way and hope that the people who come and see our work go away and have their own conversations about what they’ve seen. We want to start conversations without being prescriptive.

This is what I get from the masters and it is what I hope that I can give to people seeing our works.

What would your advice be to a young person to wants to carve out a career as an artist?

The most important thing is to be honest. I’m always honest with the people I work with and with the work that I produce. If you want an honest art career, and you’re communicating something inside yourself through your art, then just go ahead and do it, using the resources that you have. Don’t worry about money. If you need to do another job so that you can do your art, then do it. I do a number of things to support myself including being a consultant.

I grew up in a place where there were no rich people, so I didn’t think that being poor would stop me being an artist.

In Oxford, where you see incredible wealth and incredibly wealthy people all around you, it can feel like you need to be rich to be an artist. You don’t. Just paint and draw and sculpt, using what you have and be honest in your work. Do it solely for yourself and the joy of doing it. If nobody else in the whole world likes your work, it doesn’t matter. If you are joyfully lost in your work, then you are an artist.

Video still: Catherine Flutsch

What do you think about art education?

One of the worst things that can happen to children is that their artwork gets judged. My advice to children, or to anyone, whose artwork gets judged is this – don’t worry about it.

Only you, as the artist, can say whether you like it or not. If you make it and love it, then it’s as good as a Van Gogh, a Rembrandt, a Picasso.

Video still: Catherine Flutsch

You don’t need anyone else to like your work because you’ve made it for yourself. If anyone criticises you or your work, more often than not they are simply imparting onto your work their own self doubt and criticising themselves through your work.

The biggest mistake that happens is that a child’s work gets judged and then they’re pushed to do something that looks like something that’s already been done. Let children make art in a simple way – let them create the sound of the music rather than draw a perfect picture of the musician.

Video still: Catherine Flutsch

Older people have been reassessing their lives during the pandemic. Is it possible for an older person to go into the art world?

People can enter the art world at any time. The luxury with age is that you might have a little money behind you – that will help you enter into a commercial world. If you want to make a bronze sculpture – which is expensive to make and expensive to cast – then you can afford to show a premium sculpture over something that might be in plaster, which a gallery is less likely to show. So straight away you can walk into a commercial world in a slightly easier way.

Video still: Catherine Flutsch

As an older person, you might have more contacts – more friends and networks that might buy your work and that will give you confidence.

But, ultimately, it’s the same advice that I would give to younger people – the most important thing is to look at an art career in an honest way. Do it for yourself and find joy in doing it. Even if it’s painful subjects you’re looking at, there’s still joy in the production.

That’s also when it can become cathartic – you can learn something about yourself in your work and it’s also where you can start to find the messages you want to convey.

Video still: Catherine Flutsch

I wouldn’t ever look at the art world and say, “That’s my new career and I can make a living out of it.” I think that’s the wrong approach to the art.

As soon as you start to think, “I want to sell my art in a gallery”, then you’ve locked yourself into a commercial box and you’ve not done what you wanted to do – which is to enter a creative and free-thinking world. That creative world is a beautiful place to live in and I’m so lucky that I have it in my daily life. That freedom that you find in this creative word – approaching things with a completely open mind, with honesty – that’s where people find themselves and that’s where the very best artwork is made.

Why do you love to do your shows in Oxford?

Oxford is probably the most creative and diverse city in the UK. Given this, it also has the potential to be the most inclusive place – but it needs creative leadership. My skill as a creative person is to open those closed doors. But creative leadership needs to be able to break away from the idea that things must be done in a certain way, because that’s how it’s always been done.

Video still: Catherine Flutsch

Inclusivity can’t happen without radical changes in the way things are done in Oxford. It’s possible! I’m also the artistic director at Lichfield Cathedral – and I speak with the leadership in the most honest, open way. Sometimes those conversations are difficult for them to hear, but they are open and willing to try new things. As a result of changing the way things have been done, we’ve had significant changes in the people who come and visit: a reduction in the average age, a wider geographic and demographic reach. So, it is possible.

Quite often, the leadership in established institutions are just reacting to what’s in the news instead of pre-empting.

Video still: Catherine Flutsch

Oxford could lead the way, but it might mean that certain people would have to make way for other people, the old ways and old traditions need to adapt – and that’s where the difficulty will be.

Video still: Catherine Flutsch

In your experience, are people in leaderships positions open to hearing truth from others?

When I was younger I was often ignored because I have this accent, which is not the prescribed, acceptable intellectual accent. So now, I always try and avoid the traditional ways of communicating, such as meetings, which can often restrict growth and change. I try and have friendly one to one conversations. This helps people hear your thoughts and engage with you as an individual rather than judging you at a table, trying to decide which box you fit in. My informal method of communicating generally seems to permeate back into those traditional structures. But, I can only speak from my own personal experience.

Video still: Catherine Flutsch

When can you call yourself an artist?

I’ve always been an artist, from a young age. You don’t need to go to art school to call yourself an artist. Conversely, you aren’t necessarily an artist if you have been to art school. Some art school graduates are still art students, not artists, even 20, 30 years after graduation. They’ve not entered life as artists, they’re still trying to be academic students.

Calling someone an artist is describing the soul of the person.

Going to Oxford or Cambridge or a major art college, or living your life in Dublin or Dundee or Humberside, it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to whether you are an artist. It depends on the statement you’re making with your art and how you make it.

Video still: Catherine Flutsch

Even if your work commands million-pound fees – because you fulfil all the necessary criteria to be able to demand that amount of money, to me, it doesn’t mean your work has any more value than someone who can’t sell their work because they don’t have access to that world.

The art world in this country has become an academic, commercial, and a very westernised way at looking at how art is valued. When I was 19, I saw Van Gogh’s Sunflowers – it made me cry – because I connected with the artist and his message not because it’s worth millions of pounds – that aspect of an artwork means nothing to me.

Video still: Catherine Flutsch

In the art world, the best doesn’t necessarily rise to the top. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. That’s why you have to do it for yourself and there will be value in it and value for you too – the value for you will be to understand that you’re being yourself in this world, which is a complicated place to navigate.


*The traditional way Oxonians call two types of people in Oxford; residents unconnected with Oxford University are referred to as “Town” and academics and students at Oxford University as referred to as “Gown”, due to the practice of wearing academic gowns.

Unless otherwise credited, all photos ©️ Luxmuralis


Square Stage
bottom of page