London Art Spot: Nigel Tufnell

A note: Just a quick word before I introduce Nigel. You may have noticed that I haven’t posted here in about a month besides that entry last week and the past few posts have been interviews. If you read Little Observationist, you’ll know I’ve had a bit of a busy and rough month! I had been travelling for a few weeks and then came back to London only to have emergency eye surgery two days later which has left me housebound for about three weeks. Needless to say, I have not been out and about in London for quite a while so I haven’t been able to create content for LLO. However, hopefully I am on the mend and will be back soon. In the meantime, I bring you an interview with one of my favourite London photographers, Nigel Tufnell!

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I’ve featured the wonderful portraits of London strangers by Nigel Tufnell on Little London Observationist many times in the past so I was thrilled when he agreed to an interview. A born and bred Londoner, participating in the 100 strangers photography project has given Nigel new insight into his city. He’s learned that good things can come from talking to strangers! Below, he tells us the story of how he started photographing strangers, one of his most memorable encounters and the camera and lens he uses to capture such stunning and natural images.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 12.46.31Photo: Yasmin on Castlebar Road, London

LLO: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
NT: 
I’m from London, born and bought up in West London. For as long as I can remember, I have loved London before I really knew why and without knowing it. Even as kid I knew there was something special about it. Driving along the A40 to the Marylebone Road there just seemed so many possibilities or getting off the tube at Oxford Circus or Ladbroke Grove.

I’ve always been passionate about photography, the idea of capturing a moment; that means something to me. My formal training is in furniture restoration, but I have earnt money in various guises over the years and in the last four or so years my photography work has extended and effectively taken over.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 12.48.20Photo: Ric on Kingley Street, London

LLO: You took on the 100 Strangers photography challenge and now you’re about halfway through your second set! Tell us a bit about why you got involved and how it’s changed the way you approach the city and your work?
NT: Before I was aware of the project, I saw a girl sitting outside a rundown shop near Regent Street drinking coffee and thought she would make an excellent photo, so I approached her and just asked if she would let me photograph her. She said yes! I put the photos on my first flickr account and she loved them, so I got in contact again and we went out and did a longer shoot. It was fascinating talking to her about her ambitions to become a doctor and her education from a state comprehensive to Imperial College, her background and her Iraqi heritage. All that from a simple photograph.

Because of this meeting I found the 100 strangers project, it was quite a natural process.

Street portraits are instant and they are real and I love that they are really immediate. The people I want to photograph could be anywhere; it’s just a case of keeping your eyes open. I want to take photographs where I have an involvement and this project has made me realise that even more because you can really talk to people. It becomes quite powerful. Listening is massively important and really taking in what people are saying because the communication between two strangers is quite unique.

It has just reinforced my view that there is fascination everywhere in London. Sometimes you go out and don’t see anyone to photograph or you get a few knock backs and other times when you aren’t expecting it, you get some great people. It’s full of surprises; as Arthur C Clarke once said, ‘who knows’. It’s vast and there will be times when it’s suffocating and unfortunately there are quite a few wankers, but you just have to deal with that.

During the first 100 strangers set I was obsessed with it. I’m less so now, but it has definitely influenced me to be a bit more positive towards people. You learn by doing this project, about how to get things right and quickly with your camera and by talking to people and hearing their stories. That process influences other things you do.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 12.51.09Photo: Pamela, Margaret Street, Fitzrovia, London

LLO: Do you remember the first time you approached a stranger for this project? What were you thinking? What did you say? What was their reaction?
NT: 
I approached two people and just told them about the project. I was going to make a new account for my 100 strangers and hadn’t even done that yet; I just wanted the pictures. Their reaction was positive. One said yes, one said no.  It was good having the 100 strangers project to talk about. It kind of gave me a sense of validity, but because I had approached someone before and the response was very positive, it felt normal.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 13.02.17Photo: Marwa on Peter Street Soho, London

LLO: Describe a typical encounter with a London stranger – what do you look for before you approach a person? What do you say to make them feel comfortable with you? How much time do you spend with them?
NT: 
Difficult to say really. I see different things in different people. Sometimes I see someone and I’m off. There is no thought. I just feel I want to photograph them. You have to weigh the situation and you don’t have too long to do that because people and situations are easily missed. People say never walk up behind someone, but if you are on a busy street it’s not a problem and needs must, there isn’t a science to it.

The shortest shoot was probably about two minutes and the longest was over an hour. It  varies massively.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 13.03.53Photo: Ruby on Brick Lane, East London

LLO: Tell us about one stranger that really stands out for you and why you remember them so vividly.
NT: 
There are many people that really stand out, but if pushed I would say a girl I met in Kingsland Road called Makada. She had had a very tough life and she and her twin sister had moved out of home at 15 due to a very difficult situation. They moved into a hostel in Camden, but there was no bitterness or even anger. She was at college and trying to do well for herself. It was just a very positive experience. We talked for over an hour and even though I have had similar length conversations and heard some amazing stories, both good and bad, hers was the first. Her openness and positivity touched me. It can be amazing how open people are talking to a stranger on the street. It was just a great experience to really have a decent conversation with someone who was a complete stranger; interestingly a lot of barriers are broken down.

Also all the people I have met up with again and photographed a second time have all been great!

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 13.04.51Photo: Abdul, Red Lion Street, Holborn London

LLO: What has this project taught you about yourself and the city around you? 
NT: In many ways, it has just reinforced my feelings. I love the place, but there are a lot of misperceptions about it and media cliques both good and bad. People do have time to talk and that communication is so important. It is not as cold as we are always being told. London can be but sometimes if you try, things can be very positive.

The city is always moving. The buildings are changing and there is a constant flow of people coming in and going out, experiencing London and hopefully adding to the city. To make it work, it has to keep changing and evolving. The people just can’t be pigeon-holed. You really don’t know what you are going to get when you start talking to strangers. While you have to be wary, very aware of the situation, the positivity makes that less of an issue and on the flip side of that, it’s great to get positive responses from people.

The disappointment has been that while I walk the streets taking photos the disparity between rich and poor (areas) is getting more and more evident. I also think the project has reinforced my dislike for things that are too staged, things like adverts and magazine shoots where everybody looks the same. People on the street look great. They have real style and elegance, but everyday there are visions of the ‘perfect looking person’ looking down or at us to prey on our insecurities.  The people I photographed weren’t prepared, but they had a certain belief that it was okay. I like the instant nature of that. These photographs aren’t manufactured; they are real and honest.

Social media is very big but I like the interaction, actually looking at people and talking to them in the real world.

It has taught me that you can be touched by people armed with a camera and a smile as long as you are willing to listen. It’s massively important to know your subject and if you have only just met somebody, you better start listening and then interacting to what is being said to you. I like to feel involved. I feel that every time I photograph somebody. It’s my way of breaking the prejudices forced upon us by social conditioning that says London is not for talking to strangers.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 13.05.58Photo: Tonisha, Hills Place just off Oxford Street, London

LLO: Let’s talk equipment – what camera do you use? Which is your favourite lenses for photographing people? How about a flash? Any post-processing?
NT: 
I’m currently using a Nikon d700 with either a Nikon 50mm 1.8 or a Tamron 24-85mm. I do a bit post processing but not much. I might enhance the colour or sharpness  a bit, but I basically keep it as it is in the original. I want to see reality in the portraits.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 13.07.32Photo: Mark, Frith Street, Soho London

LLO: Along with each photo, you tell the story of the person you’ve taken a picture of along with their favourite song or record. Why the music question? What has been the most interesting answer?
NT:
 I love music. I think it can be a great source of inspiration among other things. Everyone must have a favourite song or piece of music. It just helps to make people have a think while I try and get a few shots and then it leads onto other conversations. It is strange how some people who seem quite cool can like some really terrible music (my opinion obviously), but that’s just part of it. The most interesting answer was a man called GT whose favourite song was a song he’d written. He then proceeded to give me a copy of it.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 13.08.40Photo: Mina on Southampton Row, The Kingsway, Holborn

LLO: Have you ever had a negative reaction when approaching a stranger to photograph?
NT: 
A few iffy moments, but nothing too bad. It can be a negative when you have a few knock backs in a row, but fortunately that doesn’t happen much and I feel if that happens I must get someone before I head home. It doesn’t always happen though.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 13.10.12Photo: Cristina, Regents Canal, Hackney London

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery? What’s special about it?
NT: 
The Sir John Soane museum in Lincoln Inn Fields is great. In 1806, he became Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy. He wanted his house and collection of paintings sculptures and artefacts to be preserved for the nation after his death. It’s not like a museum; it’s just a fascinating old house full of interest and it’s free!

Also, the Black Lion in Plaistow, an old coaching Inn about 600 years old and a real old fashioned East End pub. There is a boxing gymnasium upstairs that is home to West Ham Boys Club – a boxing club that produced Olympic medallist Terry Spinks. It serves great beer and Bobby Moore even used to drink there! A real top place.

Thanks Nigel!

Follow Nigel’s work on his Flickr stream: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stretch1000/ 

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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!

Listen to a Londoner: Suzi Brown

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I received an email the other day inviting me to a little shindig to kick off something called “Mama Brown’s Pop-Up Experience”. The message said it involved fashion, all sorts of art (including”specially curated graffiti”), the offer of some Monday evening drinks, a spot of shopping with local artisan vendors, food (always important) – in particular, home-cooked Middle Eastern treats and some comfy lounge-style sofas.

What could be better apart from the fact that it’s set in the old abandoned Victorian post office on King’s Road that’s always intrigued me and the fact that it’s less than two minutes walk from our flat? Yes, please. Count me in.

So I decided to interview the brains behind this operation to find out what it’s really all about and, well, who exactly is “Mama Brown”? Turns out she’s Suzi Brown and she’s a pretty fascinating person indeed. She’s well travelled, has a light installation in her dining room from a Saudi Arabian artist and she believes in cooking good food and bringing together people from all walks of life. Read on for more.

(Note: These are press photos throughout besides a couple from Mama Brown’s Facebook page, but I’ll be sure to take some to share with you at the event on Monday night!)

Mama Brown's

LLO: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. What’s your favourite London discovery?
SB: I was born in Baghdad, Iraq, and grew up in Lebanon. When the war started in 1975, I came to the UK to study at Oxford and then went on to Richmond College and earned a BA in Art History. London is now my home. There’s nowhere like it. It is the centre of the modern world, yet it maintains a rich sense of history and tradition. That’s what gives London its edge and that’s why people keep coming back. Just when you think you know it, London presents another side that you never even knew existed. It is then that you realise you’ve only just scratched the surface of this amazing city. Discovery is the norm in this eclectic and international place.

Brooski Jewellery

LLO: The old Victorian post office on King’s Road will host your upcoming event “Mama Brown’s Pop-Up Experience”. What can we expect from the “experience”? What will the atmosphere be like? Also, talk a bit about your choice of venue.
SB: When I first walked into the post office on King’s Road, it was in a sad state –  dirty and grimy, with no source of water or power. But there was something about the space that I knew would lend itself well to what I wanted to do with Mama Brown’s. It was huge, cavernous, and gritty. It was like working with a blank canvass, “tabula rasa“.  We immediately seized the challenge of transforming the space into what it is now. The atmosphere is a bit of London’s East End meets London’s West End. Mama Brown’s is bringing a bit of Shoreditch street flavour to the posh neighbourhood of Chelsea.

Miro's Love Bites

LLO: What prompted you to set up the first Mama Brown’s Pop-Up Experience over the Summer and where was it? What were the highlights? What’s new this time? 
SB: The first Mama Brown’s was at Holland Park. It was hugely successful as it was an intimate setting where art, design, culture and cuisine came together. Apart from the amazing showcase of merchandise that came from all around the world, people were very much impressed by the organic Middle Eastern food that was served fresh every day. That was definitely a highlight.The idea was born through my love of bringing people from all walks of life together at huge communal tables – each person sharing his or her own experiences in life, culture, food and art. But this time, I want to take things even further by making the experience even more memorable, more enriching, more impressively festive. Of course, Mama Brown’s will still have the same heart and soul that made people fall in love with it the first time around, but we have a few more surprises up our sleeves that are sure to delight. There will be more art to admire, more beautiful merchandise and even better food. We are bringing in lots of new vendors whose items you will fall in love with.

Torula Bags

LLO: Tell us about a couple of the stand out vendors who will be there on King’s Road. 
SB: It’s difficult to name only two as all of them are stand outs in my opinion. Each one is bringing in something totally different from the other. What makes Mama Brown’s different and unique is that all these amazing designers, whether they are established or up-and-coming, will be found under one roof.

cire trudon candles

LLO: Give us your top choice of gift for holiday shoppers looking to buy something fun at Mama Brown’s Pop-Up Experience for each of the following:
SB:
Mum: A beautiful and ornate cashmere shawl
Dad: A pair of exquisite cufflinks
Brother: A cool, one-off designer shirt
Best girl friend: Gorgeous accessories for everyday
Boyfriend:  A holiday weekend bag or a nice leather iPad cover with his initials

LLO: I hear there will be “specially curated graffiti” on display at the event. What sort of specially curated graffiti? Also, with artist Ben Wilson’s recent chewing gum art trail down King’s Road, do you think Chelsea’s becoming more open minded about embracing street art? Or will it stay in the east?
SB: The space we have was a virtual blank slate and we had to think of ways to aesthetically transform it whilst keeping the edgy character of the place intact. Graffiti is the one art form that we felt would allow us to do this.  But it couldn’t just be any graffiti. The style had to reflect what Mama Brown’s is all about – avant-garde, yet classic; street, yet clean and functional. Yes, we are in Chelsea, yet we are bringing some edge to it. Ben Wilson’s chewing gum art on the King’s Road is a breath of fresh air. It tells us that the neighbourhood can appreciate beauty in all forms.

Year Zero Bag

LLO: What is your favourite piece of art in your private collection?
SB: It would definitely be the Ahmed Mater light installation in my dining room. It is difficult to explain why. Art is art and it speaks to each one of us differently. That’s why art is so special, isn’t it?

Imperial Collection Vodka

LLO: Where does your love of cooking come from? What will we be eating at Mama Brown’s Pop Up Experience?
SB: When you are a mother of five children, you learn how to diversify and experiment when it comes to cooking! Apart from that, I was exposed to some of the best cuisine from an early age, growing up in an Arabic household. I am an avid traveller and I believe one of the best ways to experience culture is through food. I bring the flavours and tastes of my travels to every dinner party I host and to every meal I prepare for my loved ones. Mama Brown’s is a labour of love. What better way to show my guests my appreciation than by preparing some of my best-loved Arabic dishes at Mama Brown’s?

Flower Headbands 1

LLO: What’s your favourite holiday season tradition and why? Any holiday season pet peeves?
SB: It would have to be the time I get to spend with my family over the winter break. We have a tradition of travelling to a corner of the globe that we have never been to. Last year, we spent a glorious three weeks in Vietnam and Cambodia. It was amazing – totally immersing ourselves in a new culture. Apart from spending time lounging on tropical beaches, we did some really interesting things that we’ll never forget, like planting rice in rice paddies. Pet peeves? I abhor packing and tourist traps!

Communal Table

LLO: You’ve been called “London’s ultimate hostess”. That’s a big name to live up to! What are your top three hosting tips for the rest of us?
SB: A big name to live up to, indeed! If I didn’t love bringing people together, I would never do it. I love to host and I do it very frequently – whether it’s a small intimate dinner with my closest friends or a big party until the early hours.

Top three tips:
1. Food made with love. Everyone loves a delicious meal. It’s what people remember most at the end of the night.
2. Introduce new blood. Always make it a point to bring in a few new faces each time you entertain. It makes things more interesting.
3. Create a fun atmosphere with no stress.

Thanks Suzi!

Mama Brown’s Pop-Up Experience is located at 232 King’s Road, Chelsea and will be open to the public from the 26th of November until the 15th of December (Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00am-7:00pm).

London Art Spot: Hunto

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Italian cubist street artist Hunto has ventured into oil paints for the first time and is about to kick off a week long exhibition at Cre8 Gallery in Hackney. He’s called London home for a while now and was happy to give us a bit of insight into his work and the way London inspires him creatively. Read on to find out about why his show is called Bella Mia, why art is important to him and his favourite London discovery (which sort of ties into his exhibition…)!

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LLO: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
HUNTO: I’m from the south of Italy and I’m known to some as ‘young boy’. I’ve been based in London for a few years and my reasons for being here are many, not just for art.

LLO: In what ways does living in London inspire your creativity?
HUNTO: London has many cultures who mix together. That mixture inspires my work. Different faces, shapes and colours excite me.

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LLO: You have an exhibition this week at Cre8 Gallery in Hackney. The title is Bella Mia. What does this mean and how does it tie in to the work we’ll see in the show?
HUNTO: Bella Mia is a term of endearment in Italy, which simply translates to “my Beauty”. This show at Cre8 Gallery is a reflection of my love and passion for women. It’s a show about love and experience men have with women. My work attempts to show different personalities, characteristics and cultures of the opposite sex.

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LLO: What can we expect from the exhibition? What will the opening event be like. 
HUNTO: The exhibition will showcase another side of me, which I’m still developing. Coming from a graffiti background, displaying in a gallery setting in fairly new to me. The opening will be a surprise to many as people are used to seeing my work in the streets.

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LLO: In this show you’re using oil for the first time. How do you feel about the results? Will you continue this way in the future?
HUNTO: I am using oils as I want to develop as an artist and to free myself from the graffiti tag. The result was as I expected, leaving me satisfied that I am finally evolving. In my mind, I always knew I would make that transition but will always respect my roots. The future for Hunto…. only God knows! Maybe I’ll sing one day.

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LLO: Tell us about your background as an artist. Are you self trained or formally taught? How long have you been painting? Why is it important to you?
HUNTO: I’ve always drawn since I was a child. Graffiti was introduced to me in 1996 and since then I have never looked back. Before friends would tell me I should try using cans and to work on walls, so from then I trained myself and developed various styles. Art simply helps makes me happy and keeps me from trouble.

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LLO: If you had to describe your style of art to someone who has never seen your work, what would you say?
HUNTO: Colourful, vibrant, static. Really, I want people to make up their own minds.

LLO: What is the story behind the name Hunto?
HUNTO: It’s a name I liked the sound of and when I used to do lettering I liked the way the letters stood next to each other.

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LLO: Why is colour so important to you?
HUNTO: Colour reflects my personality.

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LLO: Tell us about another London-based artist that is doing something you admire.
HUNTO: I respect all artists!! i don’t judge or comment…

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery?
HUNTO: Anywhere that has women.

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Thanks Hunto!

Pop over to Cre8 Gallery to check out Hunto’s show from November 21 – December 3. It’s open every day from 11am – 6pm. The gallery is also hosting a cubism art seminar on November 28 from 6-9pm. 

Little City Observations: The Exhibition

The fire is blazing next to me and shoppers are heading past the windows of The Chance Gallery to get a head start on their Christmas shopping. It’s the last day of my photography exhibition, with about four hours to go so I thought I’d share the 18 prints that are on display so that those of you who weren’t able to make it down can see them. It was wonderful to be able to meet some of you at Monday’s opening event and more of you who popped in to say hello during the week.

I was surprised at the launch party by my dad who showed up unannounced and unexpected all the way from New York. It was an amazing night with about 100 people flowing in and out of the gallery, enjoying canapés, wine, fireplaces, photography and good company. Here’s a couple of photos before I dive into the exhibition prints:

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And these are the photos from the exhibition –

CHANCE STREET, LONDON. With bright, colourful walls and a focus on fashion, Shoreditch draws a creative crowd. It’s not unusual to see budding models, photographers, designers and bloggers collaborating to share and spread their talents. This photo shoot was taking place against a new mural by Claudia Walde, better known as MadC, from Germany. She’s worked in many countries and is one of the most well known female street artists around today.

HANBURY STREET, LONDON. Paul “DON” Smith is one of London’s most prolific street artists. He has been painting on walls since the mid-1980s. DON also worked in the film industry for 12 years, which has a heavy influence on his work, as does his passion for music. He uses stencils to create layers and often flicks extra paint onto his finished piece to add energy. This one is on the side of a concrete building on Hanbury Street, across from a shop selling vintage shoes and handbags.

HANBURY STREET, LONDON. The area around London’s Brick Lane is a street art hub and includes some legal walls like this one. The photograph shows the way art interacts with the local environment. Ben Slow’s artwork has since been painted over, but it features a white nationalist from the English Defence League (EDL) and an Islamic Extremist. Ben expected a bit of a backlash but he was surprised how well people have embraced it and understood its meaning. These two figures are worlds apart in their own minds but both represent intolerance, hatred and racism.

SPITALFIELDS MARKET, LONDON. The random message “I miss you + your character” was scrawled across the brick wall at the edge of East London’s Spitalfields Market one Sunday afternoon. It was written in chalk and didn’t seem to catch the attention of many people passing through the gates. Not long after this photograph was taken, the words were washed away with no indication of who was missed or what it was about their character that was so memorable.

WEST VILLAGE, NEW YORK CITY. It was the week of the July 2013 heat wave in New York City when temperatures rose to around 38 C. This photograph was taken in the West Village not far from the High Line. It pulls different elements together into one image that gives a sense of the area’s vibe with street art in the background on a building with peeling paint, trendy shops on the side and a young woman on a bike with her purchases.

CAMBRIDGE HEATH ROAD, LONDON. Stik’s work is highly recognisable, the figures found on many buildings in London and other locations around the world. He was homeless not so many years ago, and now people such as Bono, The Duke of Kent and Antony Gormley own his original art, making his a story of success. Painted with just five lines, two dots and a circle, each figure is meant to represent some human emotion and as this photograph shows, the paintings often interact and play with their immediate environment.

PORT OLIMPIC, BARCELONA. In the creative city of Barcelona, architecture is a major draw. This is a modern example, a ball that appears to teeter on the edge of a building near the Port Olímpic marina where sailing events were hosted during the 1992 Summer Olympics. The photograph itself is black and white to give focus to the lines and forms. It’s about finding balance.

DOWNTOWN DUBAI. Standing near the Burj Khalifa Lake, the tallest building in the world stretching up to the sky in front of him, this man was watching crowds milling around the Dubai Mall (the largest in the world) with a friend. He pointed to the camera, pointed to his artificial eye and posed for a photograph.

HANWAY PLACE, LONDON. London’s Soho neighbourhood is famous for its sex, drugs and rock and roll history. Now, its streets are lined with hipster-filled coffee shops, market booths selling vintage clothing, designer boutiques and tourists wandering in from nearby Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. This is Hanway Place which weaves its way between buildings near Oxford Street. The popular modern Michelin-starred Hakkasan restaurant is on this small street as is the impressive building that used to house the Westminster Jews’ Free School built in 1811.

CHINATOWN, LONDON. London’s Chinatown is full of colour and teeming with life, from local Londoners to Chinese immigrants to curious tourists passing through. There are bakeries selling Chinese goods, restaurants with ducks hanging in the windows and plenty of tacky souvenir shops. This photograph was taken during the city’s Chinese New Year celebrations – the largest outside of Asia. It combines small elements that give a sense of the surrounding area – the bright green bricks, the red sign with Chinese characters and some produce for sale.

SOUTH BANK, LONDON. This photograph shows the detail in one of the lampposts lining the Queen’s Walk on South Bank, looking out toward Westminster Bridge and Big Ben. These are commonly referred to as “dolphin lampposts” but are said to actually represent a type of bottom feeding fish called a sturgeon. They were designed by George John Vulliamy in the 1800s and were originally only on the other side of the river. The one in the photograph is from a series of replicas that were brought to the south side of the Thames in the 1970s.

GRACIA, BARCELONA. Barcelona mornings mean waking up with coffee and a newspaper, watching life unfold in the narrow alleyways below the flat, listening to dogs barking occasionally, workers rolling carts over the pavement and neighbours chatting. This heart was built into the iron railings of a 3rd floor balcony where the day began. The photograph was taken early on a Spring morning that turned into a warm and sunny afternoon.

FOURNIER STREET, LONDON. Fournier Street connects Commercial Street to Brick Lane, ending at BanglaCity, a supermarket, which sells all the ingredients one needs to cook tasty Asian dishes. This photograph is of a house in the middle of Fournier Street at number “eleven and a half”, an unusual address that houses an art dealership. The street itself, which has a stunning collection of Georgian homes, once housed wealthy French Huguenots who lived in the area. It was later the heart of the Jewish East End and is, most recently, the location of the Brick Lane Jamme Masjid mosque. Artists Gilbert and George have lived and worked on the street for years.

BRICK LANE, LONDON. In a city where making eye contact with strangers is uncommon, a smile exchanged between two random people is even less so. This message was written on a bright pink wall on Brick Lane, a reminder that acknowledging a stranger in a massive city like London may not always be such a bad thing after all. It may even turn out to be therapeutic.

LEAKE STREET, LONDON. In 2008, the tunnel that runs down Leake Street, under the tracks and platforms of Waterloo Station, became known as the “Graffiti Tunnel”. It started with the Cans Festival, organised by Banksy, during which talented artists filled the walls of the tunnel with art. Over the years, the space has remained open to graffiti with an “Authorised Graffiti Area” sign at the entrance, though the quality of the work on display has diminished, as is evident from these rubbish containers nearby.

NOTRE DAME, PARIS. There is an eerie stillness inside of Notre Dame. “It was a great cave in the midst of a city,” Henry David Thoreau wrote. “And what were the altars and the tinsel but the sparkling stalactites, into which you entered in a moment, and where the still atmosphere and the sombre light disposed to serious and profitable thought?” The open gates in this photograph show silence, darkness and light and the seriousness of the atmosphere inside the cavernous cathedral.

CAMDEN STREET, DUBLIN. Dublin is a rainy place indeed, so this piece of urban art by Anna Doran is appropriately placed. It’s often seen interacting with the umbrella-carrying locals who pass down this creative street, walking over glistening pavements, past colourful shop fronts. There’s an organisation in Dublin called Evolve, which helps street artists like Anna find legal places to create commissioned pieces of work like this one to brighten up the city.

CITY QUAY, DUBLIN. The angle of this photograph brings to life the struggle represented by The Linesman, a bronze sculpture by Irish artist Dony MacManus. It sits on City Quayside near the point where Dublin’s River Liffey meets the sea. As the linesman is doing here, workers pulling ropes once tied up ships at the quayside. This image offers another perspective beyond the immediate view upon passing by.