Greek sea goddess Keto will take a walk over Hampstead Heath

PUBLISHED: 10:30 15 June 2020 | UPDATED: 10:30 15 June 2020

Clare O'Hagan as Keto on Paros and at Kenwood Hampstead and Pond Square Highgate

Clare O'Hagan as Keto on Paros and at Kenwood Hampstead and Pond Square Highgate

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Artist Clare O’Hagan will be a living installation tracing a nine mile odyssey along the Fleet river to highlight plastic pollution on Greek islands like her beloved Paros

Clare O'Hagan as Keto on Paros and at Kenwood Hampstead and Pond Square HighgateClare O'Hagan as Keto on Paros and at Kenwood Hampstead and Pond Square Highgate

If you are wandering over the Heath on Friday and spot a figure in a decorated skirt and mask - then you have bumped into the Greek goddess Keto.

The artist behind this eco-themed living installation is Clare O’Hagan, and her walk from Hampstead to Blackfriars is in lieu of a cancelled exhibition on Paros.

“I had been working on it for three years and was really disappointed that it wasn’t going ahead,” says the Finchley artist.

She has been visiting the Greek island for a decade, and during one visit, became aware of how plastic pollution was devastating its natural beauty.

Clare O'Hagan as Keto on Paros and at Kenwood Hampstead and Pond Square HighgateClare O'Hagan as Keto on Paros and at Kenwood Hampstead and Pond Square Highgate

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“It’s an extraordinary place, where the footprint of history is visible under your feet, with remnants of civilisations 5,000 years old,” she says.

“I totally fell in love with it 10 years ago and spend every June there. I always get up early in the morning to go for a long hike. One morning three years ago after a storm, I found the bay covered in plastic bottles, coat hangers and fishing lines. I picked up what I could, and I was so angry and sad. I was watching the birds and thinking maybe there is a Greek god of the sea I can conjure.”

The god was actually a goddess - Keto - and O’Hagan decided to make an installation around the plastic debris, including a rock she found on the shore that resembled a Greek mask. Using a photographic print technique called cyanotype she exposed images of the plastic onto paper and cloth.

“I felt we all have a responsibility to highlight the destruction of the oceans and plastic pollution and decided to make some artefacts around it, and create a myth of Keto.”

But with her planned exhibition cancelled, and unable to visit her beloved island, O’Hagan has made herself a skirt and gloves decorated with cyanotypes and a replica of the stone mask. On Friday, when her exhibition was due to open, she will undertake a nine mile walk from Hampstead.

“During lockdown I decided to make her manifest using the imagery from the exhibition as a form of community engagement. Keto becomes real and will go on an odyssey from the source of the Fleet river at Kenwood to Parliament Hill to Kentish Town, then following the Fleet to the Thames at Blackfriars. And when restrictions are lifted, she is going back to Paros.”


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