Olympian artist
Neil Eckersley (GBR)

© WETZL, Thomas

Neil Eckersley represented Great Britain in judo at Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988. At the LA Games, he won the bronze medal in the men's extra-lightweight division (-60kg).

He forayed into painting as a therapy to deal with the tragic loss of his older brother, and has now been a professional artist for the last 15 years. He also sees painting as a way of dealing with the difficulties of having dyslexia as it allows him to express himself in an open and creative way without the use of words.

© FINCH, David

His digital artwork is full of life and emotions, and is heavily influenced by the environment in Norway, where he lived for eight years. He now resides in Lancaster, UK where he owns and runs his own art studio. He is also a judo instructor, continuing to give back to his sport. For more information, see www.olyart.no.


© VREEKER, Paul

Artworks

Frozen in Time
Frozen in Time
Frozen in Time
This is an acrylic piece on canvas. It represents the energy and essence of a moment in time that is often referred to by athletes and their coaches as “the zone”. To me as an athlete, the only way I can describe this moment is similar to having an out-of-body experience, where there is no time and everything has stopped. The landscape of a frozen lake blurs into one image, and there is no difference or separation between the lake of ice, the horizon or the winter sky. To me, this represents when an athlete is totally focused on producing their ultimate performance, with no understanding or concept of reality. The colours on the left represent the athlete who stands on the edge, about to step into the unknown. The journey sometimes feels lonely and isolated, but there is sheer determination to succeed and reach their full potential regardless of the result.
2021 - Neil Eckersley
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Beijing calling
Beijing calling
Beijing Calling
This abstract piece portrays the iconic winter cityscape of the host city of Beijing. The piece celebrates the calling of all the world’s youth to join together to participate in the Winter Games Beijing 2022 under the banner of the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect. The idea for the piece ironically came from my memories of the Closing Ceremonies of two Olympic Games that I competed in. Towards the end of the Closing Ceremony, I distinctly remember the IOC President saying: ‘’I call upon the Youth to assemble in four years….’’ In the piece I have depicted the buildings in their raw state. The viewer can see the steel work, which is totally exposed underneath the buildings before the layers of concrete and cladding are added. Even though the buildings are vulnerable, exposed and open to the winter elements, they stand tall and strong and braced for whatever is thrown at them.
2021 - Neil Eckersley
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City of ice
City of ice
City of Ice
This a tryptic piece using acrylic paint on canvas. The city of hopes, desires, ambitions and dreams magically appears like a mirage over the frozen landscape. This represents the athletes/Olympians’ dedication to pursue a lifelong ambition and dream to become the best in their chosen sport, whilst also being dedicated to the core values of the Olympic Movement and the desire for excellence, forming friendships and respecting themselves and others along their Olympic journey. The final canvas shows the burning sun, which brings warmth, compassion and a sense of belonging and acknowledgement of the Olympians’ dedication and pursuit of excellence. It represents the whole team and community that have supported the Olympian throughout their journey.
2021 - Neil Eckersley
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Q&A with the artist

  • Q. To you personally, what does being an Olympian mean – how does it define your approach to life and how you view yourself and the world?
    • A. To me, it is a dream come true. I was a dyslexic street kid from Salford, Manchester, and all I dreamed about was representing my country at the Olympic Games. By chance I happened to see Neil Adams winning his silver medal at the Moscow 1980 Olympics, and this was a turning point in my life. I remember telling my father, who is one of my biggest supporters, that I was going to the next Olympic Games. My father’s characteristic response was “that’s fantastic Neil, what are you going to do about it?” Luckily, with hard work and determination I managed to achieve this ambition by competing in Los Angeles 1984, where I won a bronze medal. I also went onto compete at the Seoul 1988 Games, where I was honoured to be the team captain.

  • Q. What do the Olympic values mean to you?
    • A. They mean everything to me. They are my guiding principles whenever I make a decision, both as a coach and as an artist. I use the values especially during difficult and challenging times in my life. The Olympic values have been a comfort and a constant resource for me. Being an Olympian, I am always guided by these principles and values, and I use them in everyday life. I feel it is my obligation to be an example for others to follow.

  • Q. How do you explain to people that the Olympic Games are more than the sporting competition?
    • A. Even though I am not religious, the Games feel spiritual to me. I explain to people that the Games are more than a sporting competition. They are a coming together of the whole of humanity, to celebrate participation and achievement.

  • Q. If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
    • A. Live in the moment, control the controllable and continue to “Dare Mighty Things”.

  • Q. Are there parallels in your approach to your art and your approach to your sport? Or do you find that the two dimensions bring/brought out totally different facets of your personality?
    • A. To me, the approach is totally the same. As a judo athlete, I had a reputation of being open, free thinking and creative. At the same time, I was disciplined, professional and totally dedicated to becoming the best I could possibly be. I have adopted the same principles and mindset in my career as an international artist.

  • Q. Your thoughts on being an artist-in-residence for Olympic Agora Beijing?
    • A. I am deeply honoured to be part of this amazing project and it feels as though I have another opportunity to represent my sport, my nation and fellow Olympians on the Olympic stage. To me it is never about the destination, it is all about the journey.

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