Heather McLean with Minor Victories

Photo of Heather McLean by Andy Nichols




Canadian artist Heather Mclean has recently been called to participate to "WALL POETRY" a project by Urban Nation Berlin brought to the festival Iceland Airwaves 2016. This project brought together 10 musicians with 10 street artists. What emerged out of this mix are exceptional song interpretations adorning house walls in Reykjavík. 

For this project, Heather Mclean chose to collaborate with the band Minor Victories.






Music On Walls got the chance to speak with Heather Mc Lean about her recent collaboration. 

Hi  Heather, could you tell MoW why you did accept to participate to "WALL POETRY" this year?

Yasha from Urban Nation invited me, and from the beginning I was interested in working with her, as Urban Nation is always doing cool projects. As soon as I found out the project was in Iceland I couldn't believe it. It's been at the top of my travel bucket list for years. And turning music or literature into images is totally my thing already, so it seemed a perfect fit. Also I was wanting to do more murals!

Among all the bands that will perform during Iceland Airwaves Festival, you have chosen to collaborate with the band Minor Victories. Did you choose to collaborate with the band? 

It was assigned to me! I didn't choose them, but I can see why they paired us, the narrative and mood is a very good fit.  

On Urban Nation's website, it is written that "Heather McLean will work on two paintings inspired by these songs given by the band. » Did you have contact with MV before starting painting? 

Barely, just to get lyrics, and I sent them my sketches as a preview. 

Did you discuss the collaboration together before your started painting?

Not really, I wanted to get my ideas just from their music and lyrics purely without suggestion from anything else. 

Did you chose the songs with them? 

I chose the songs I thought would make the best visual translation, “100 Ropes” and “Scattered Ashes”. Also with the nautical imagery and then the ashes, I thought it fit into Iceland’s ocean and volcanos.  

During the creation process, did you have contacts with the band?

Not really...

What do those songs mean to you?

I just listened to them and pulled images out of them. Very easy to relate to as we have all had stormy relationships and dealt with loss. 

What is your favorite song between the two?

No preference, both are good for different reasons!

How did you represent the two songs in your artworks? (How are the 2 songs represented in your artworks?)

 The lyrics to "100 ropes" are: 

You told me not to take a look
Never thought this could happen
Here we are on an open sea
With no way to go back
You hold me as you shiver
The coral beneath us glows
There’s so much to discover
All my senses are numb

And a storm is rising
The blood rushes and the current swirls
Lungs full about to burst
Like a pulley of a hundred ropes
As you come back up for the next breath
The ocean is at war
Reckless, scattered and torn
There is everything to fear my love
The tide is out and the fight is up
No more tired resistance
The storm is closer than you ever thought
So come on we’ve got to find our
Own way out this shipwreck on an ocean of doubt

And so I wanted to show two people in a boat on a stormy sea of her hair, coral growing out of the larger figure who represents the struggle and friction or wind providing challenge for any relationship. And then the positive side is from the wound where she is cracked open, something beautiful grows. 

Take the wheel but you cannot steer
You can see it but it isn’t real
Buried under a thousand tons
Crushed by the weight of love
It can’t be what you thought
It can’t be what you saw
Still you fight for what was never lost
It’s gonna happen when you know it’s not

No more tragic endings
I’m done trying to hide the holes
Seal my flood defenses
The storm is raging but I feel your love
So come on
We’ve got to find our own way
Out this shipwreck on an ocean of doubt


The lyrics to " Scattered Ashes" are

Drunk in the morning sun
I could be talking to you dear or anyone
This is my hiding place
I’d found a focus
You were a light on the shadow of a darkened path
Its an empty world now you are gone

Tell me what it’s all about
Shed tears for God’s rejected
Cut the cord, rewind the ending
Take my life back to the start
Pick up the pieces of my heart
Let it be over

Smoke another cigarette
Draw into the cavern of my failing
Lungs with heightened senses
Scattered ashes
All that’s left of a lifetime that we had planned
I am here and you are not

Tell me what it’s all about
Cruel Gods of intervention
Cut the cord, rewind the ending
Take my life back to the start
Pick up the pieces of my heart
Let it be over

Scattered ashes
Someday we might find a way back to each other
But for now





So I wanted to show a woman alone, hiding, and a heart, and scattered ashes, and elements of volcanic lava with the black against red. Someone experiencing loss and wanting to hide away.  



Can you describe the collaboration process with a band like MV? 

I feel like I do my best work when I can collaborate right from the purest source, which is the music, and not the back story. I mean the story is in the music, right? So collaborating was me listening and understanding and finding a way to tell a similar story visually. 

What is the feedback of MV on your art and your collaboration?

The loved the sketches, and said they fit the songs and mood well. I don’t know if they have seen the walls so far yet. Hopefully I will meet the band in November. 

What is your feedback on the collaboration?

It was great! I love crossover like this. Most of my work is inspired by either literature, music, or science so it felt like home to me. I’ve worked with bands a lot, so I enjoyed this. 

Is there anything you would like to mention about this project, this collaboration, the art, the music? 

This was my very first outdoor wall (well, pair of walls!) and I have to say it was some crazy conditions in Iceland: rain, ferocious wind, problems with gear for the first few days, long 12 hour days, very labour intensive. But wort it and I learned a lot and have has a great trip. 

Do you often create artworks inspired by music?

All the time! And I'm always listening to music when I work. or podcasts. I had my headphones on the whole time working on these walls, and I played lots of Bjork and Sigur Ros, two of my favorites, in their homeland! Pretty neat. 

Are you a musician?

Not in the least. But many of my friends and family are!