London Art Spot: Femme Fierce

Photo from the Femme Fierce Facebook page

When I heard about Femme Fierce, my ears perked up: A week-long, all-female street art event drawing nearly 100 artists into London from around the world with a Leake Street takeover on International Women’s Day (March 8) and a documentary about women in this male-dominated scene? Count me in! There’s lots of free events and one cheap one for which the proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Awareness charity. To find out a bit more, I’ve thrown a few questions at a couple of the key people involved in making this fabulous event a reality and they were kind enough to answer. Meet Zina and Chock (from the Girls on Top Crew), two of the artists involved; Darren, the curator; and Catherine Cort Koppel, the film-maker behind the documentary.

Photo of Zina from Cre8 Gallery

LLO: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. Where are you from originally?
Zina (Artist): I’m an Illustrator and Street artist based in London. I’m Norwegian, and yes I’ve got an accent. I did a bachelor in illustration at Falmouth Uni, in Cornwall. I moved to London in 2010, and started spraying after few months in the city. It was hard to not get inspired walking around seeing all the art around East London, even though with an older brother who is into graffiti, I was already familiar with parts of the scene. Music, mainly hiphop has been a great inspiration when making my art.

Photo of Decent Beatz from the Femme Fierce Facebook page

LLO: What are some of your main hobbies or interests? 
Zina: The thing is, I’ve been working on making my hobby my full time job. Maybe not the safest bet some would say, but if I try hard enough and sacrifice a little on the way, I might just get there. Hopefully very soon. Other then urban art, illustration and painting, I enjoy music and dancing. Also, I love researching and looking into subjects like philosophy, consciousness and symbolism, which also influence the subjects I paint.

Photo – CBloxx from the Femme Fierce Facebook page

LLO: Femme Fierce must be one of the biggest all-female street art events ever. What can we expect?
Darren (Curator): We are hosting a 7-day art exhibition featuring artists like Amara Por Dios, Artista, Ashes 57, Boxhead, Girls on Top Crew, Theiu and Zina. Imagine a female ruled planet where street art defines the rules and what we call reality. This exhibition will provoke the thought of a female planet that is governed by art… a world where you will find everything from the earthly, surreal to otherworldly. Over the seven days we also have the Leake Street takeover event, a graffiti workshop and film screening, plus all the girls are going to come together to create a group mural for the closing.

Photo of freakSTATIC from the Femme Fierce Facebook page

LLO: It’s a huge undertaking and very exciting. How and when did the idea develop? 
Darren: We (Earth Tone Arts / Cre8 Gallery) were in the process of developing an all female street art show towards the end of last year for 2014… Ironically, the Street Art Agency were coordinating the Leake Street event around the same time and we were both talking to some of the same artists. After a meeting at the gallery and a little give and take between both parties, we decided to pull our resources together and make the projects bigger and better. Femme Fierce was born and the rest is history…or better yet – herstory.

Photo of ZABOU from the Femme Fierce Facebook page

LLO: With 100 artists involved, it’s hard to narrow it down, but tell us about three you are most excited about.
Darren: That’s difficult… All the ladies involved in the gallery exhibit are top notch and some of my favourites, but if I had to pick three, I’ll choose, Amara, Neonita and Zina because they all have an indigenous surreal style, look and feel to their work that I personally like and I’m interested in that kind of artwork.

Photo of NEONITA from the Femme Fierce Facebook page

LLO: It’s a wonderfully international bunch of artists. Where are some of them flying in from and how did you all connect?
Darren: We have people coming in from all around the UK, plus artists flying in from South Africa, Japan, Dubai, Sweden, Norway and Italy to name a few… The internet is the tool we used to make it all happen, taking advantage of all the social networking sites plus our contacts to spread the word.

Photo – work by Midge from the Femme Fierce Facebook page

LLO: Tell us more about the documentary film “Women on Walls”, which will launch during this time. What is the storyline and the message the film aims to communicate?
Catherine Cort Koppel (Film Maker): The documentary explores how it was to be a female in the male-dominated graffiti scene in the late 90s and how the coming of street art changed the scene for women involved in the subculture. Graffiti and street art has been a popular topic for yearss, but much attention has been given to the male artists. For the first time some of the few English female graffiti writers active in the 90s tell stories of their experience being a female in a rough, sexist and male-dominated subculture. In the early 2000s, the face of graffiti changed with the coming of Banksy and street art. Through the eyes of graffiti writers, street artists and experts, “Women on Walls” looks into the current street art and graffiti landscape and how the scene has changed for women artists involved over the last decade. The documentary showcase female talent and asks why the scene has been so male-dominated in the past and why that is rapidly changing as more female street artists gain recognition for their work in the current climate.

Photo – work by Hannah Adamaszek from the Femme Fierce Facebook page

LLO: How has the street art scene evolved recently to attract more female artists to something that has typically been male-dominated?
Chock (Artist): I think over the past 10 years, there has been more internet and media attention and graffiti and street artist have been shown not just to be angry little boys vandalising peoples houses anymore. People have begun to realise that it is a legitimate art form too. There have always been a select group of hardcore girls as there are hardcore males, but with the arrival of Instagram and social networking, it has become more fashionable and girls love fashion. Haha. Artists such as Mad C totally destroying most guys skills has really pushed graffiti to the max and inspired many female artists to push themselves, I believe. Street Art has become very accessible and an industry has built up around it now, especially in East london. This makes it more open to anyone and less elitist.

Photo – work by Amara Por Dios from the Femme Fierce Facebook page

LLO: Why is street art important?
Zina: Street art for me is about sharing art, thoughts and ideas with more people, instead of hiding it all in a gallery. It’s also good exposure of one’s work, and personally I enjoy the feedback, seeing people’s reactions and appreciation is great. Their excitement about the work is what makes me want to keep painting, and I wish sometimes the excitement will rob off on me too.

Photo: Steffi Bow from the Femme Fierce Facebook page

LLO: How much do tickets cost and where does the money go? Where can we buy them?
Darren: The exhibition, workshops and film screening are all FREE events. Tickets cost £2.50 to take part in the Leake Street event. All the proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Awareness charity. Tickets can be purchased through eventbrite.

Image – work by Pyklops from the Femme Fierce Facebook page

LLO: What does this project mean to you personally?
Zina: This show is a great start to the year and it seems lots of people have heard about it already. It’s nice to be more involved and get to know the other girls who are spraying. I’m looking forward to the Leake street takeover more than anything, to meet people and see new and different art work.

Thanks Zina, Darren, Catherine & Chock!

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