London Art Spot: Martin Usborne

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Remember those powerful images of lonely dogs starting out of car windows into dark and rainy nights? That was one of Martin’s photography projects. Now he’s put together another series, this time focusing on East London with the result a collection of books on various topics. One I’m most looking forward to follows the story of 86 1/2 year old Joseph Markovitch who, according to Martin’s Kickstarter page for the project, “Joseph Markovitch has left London only once, to go to the seaside with his mother. He loves Nicolas Cage, has five sugars in his tea, would have married a six foot two Hispanic woman but in the end had bad chest catarrh and never had a girlfriend.” Below, he talks a bit about how he first met Joseph, what to expect from this new project and his most memorable East London smell.

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LLO: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
MU: I’m from North London originally, but now feel very much that East London is my spiritual home. I’ve lived here for about 12 years and can’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s constantly changing and developing.  I love walking our dogs around the area.

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LLO: One of your most well known photography projects is the powerful series of images called The Silence of Dogs in Cars. The images are quite dark, yet look like they’re out of a dream. What is the process of creating these images?
MU: I wanted to create something a little other worldly. This meant a huge amount of preparation, lighting and planning. Each dog had to be matched to each car to each location and then we used up to four lights. This gave it a cinematic feel that took it out of the everyday.

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LLO: Share a story of a memorable encounter between you and a Londoner with their dog that you met while working on Dogs in Cars.
MU: One shot required having four huskies in a car who were incredibly excitable. It took place at 11pm outside a set of council flats and they moved so much they kept hitting the horn. The only thing that calmed them down was hanging some ham in the air and playing Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2U” from another car and at high volume. We got the shot but the neighbours were bemused to say the least.

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LLO: You used Kickstarter to help fund the Dogs in Cars book. Now you have another project – books about East London – also being funded through Kickstarter. In five sentences or less, what is this new project all about?
MU: It’s about making beautiful books that celebrate the creativity and character of East London. There are so many fascinating untold stories here – and so many creative photographers, illustrators and artists to help tell those stories. I’ve always loved books as well as photography and illustration and this is a way to bring it all together. I feel that East London has an appeal far beyond it’s boundaries.

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LLO: Tell us the story of Joseph Markovitch. Who is he and how did you meet?
MU: I met him one day just walking through Hoxton Square. He always likes to talk to strangers. I assumed he was homeless or drunk – he was neither. In fact he belonged more to the area than any of the young media types lounging in the sun. I realised he had a unique and fascinating view of an area that was changing so quickly. We became friends and I charted his life. The book was a by product of this but did so well I thought a publishing company producing books like this would be viable.

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LLO: How did your relationship with Joseph lead to him becoming the subject of one of your books – “I’ve Lived In East London For 86 1/2 Years”? What can we expect from this volume?
MU: I realised he was totally both totally unique but also very tender and funny too. A powerful combination. I started just by taking portraits but then realised his words told as good a story as his face.

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LLO: What other books on East London are in the works? When will they be published? Will you do a West London series as well? 
MU: No, I very much want to focus on East London.  That is what I know and love. We are already planning a book about East London wildlife – a sort of pastiche on early explorer etchings of new creatures – and a book about the people who swim in winter at the Lido (by Madaleine Waller). We are also doing a book about East London foxes.

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LLO: What are the biggest lessons that you’ve learned about yourself and the world around you through your photography projects?
MU: That you have to be your own motor. You only get things done with a lot of self-drive. But also that your own way of seeing the world is as valid as anyone else’s can ever be.

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LLO: When you think of the London that you know best, what comes to mind when I say:
MU:
Sight – Hipsters burning small holes in London fields with their BBQ sets
Sound – Taxis
Smell – Coffee mixed with morning air mixed with a hint of pollution
Taste – Breakfast at the Pavillion in Victoria Park
Texture –  Rough tarmac under my bike wheels

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LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery?
MU: There’s a small observatory up at the top of Hampstead Heath that I went to some years ago. I am not sure it is there any more but it’s run by a volunteer and there is an incredibly old telescope that allows you to see the stars as they might have done many years ago. Very beautiful.

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Thanks Martin!

For more from Martin, visit his website or support his latest East London book project through Kickstarter.

London Art Spot: John Dolan

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If you’re a Shoreditch regular, you’ll recognise John Dolan and his dog George. They’re out on the streets of London every day, John drawing, George keeping him company and watching the world go by. John’s been chronicling the changing cityscape of this area in his sketchpad for three years now and is a Londoner through and through.

As the Hackney Citizen points out, John’s had a bit of a rough past, in and out of Pentonville Prison over the years for petty crime and often homeless. His drawings have since been sold for as much as £15,000. He has recently collaborated with some of the biggest names in street art to produce a series of work for an exhibition at the Howard Griffin Gallery next month.

Below he tells us a bit about some of the artists he’s been working with, shares a story about George the dog and leaves us with a thought to carry through the rest of the day.

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LLO: Start by telling us a bit about yourself, your background and your interests.
JD: My name is John Dolan. I was born in Hackney Hospital on June 8th 1971. I grew up in Islington. I love art. I’m a big fan of Gilbert and George, Jackson Pollock, Robert Crumb, and I love Stik’s work. I’m a big music fan; I love Springsteen. I’m a big boxing fan. I’m a Gemini and I’m 42 years of age.

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LLO: For the past few years, you’ve been hanging out around Shoreditch drawing this area of London. What do you hope to communicate through your work?
JD: Basically what I want to communicate through my work is London. I like the grimy look of London (in parts) and especially the street art you have in London, which is on the grimy parts.

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LLO: You’ve collaborated with some of the best street artists around for your exhibition at the Howard Griffin Gallery. Who are they? Who have you most enjoyed working with on this project? Why?
JD: For the collaborations I’ve done I’ve worked with more than 30 artists. ROA was the first one. Thierry Noir, RUN, Stik, Zomby, MadC (the best lady graffiti artist), BRK, Dscreet, Malarky; there’s loads to name. The best one for me, the most technical artist out of the lot of them is probably ROA, who I admire and respect hugely.

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LLO: Why should we stop in to check out your exhibition?
JD: Well some of the best street artists in the world have checked me out and got on board with this project. Surely that answers your question! The theme is Shoreditch, the regeneration of the city and the incredible street art that’s going on around here. There’s around 50 of my street pieces, of George and the buildings on Shoreditch High Street, and about 25 of the big pieces with collaborations by the street artists. Then there’s about 4 or 5 big originals of different buildings on the street and around the area.

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LLO: Tell us a bit about your drawing technique.
JD: I use pilot pen, blind drawing. I take the pen straight to the paper; I rarely use pencil. I like the grimy looking and old buildings. I spend up to six weeks drawing the big pieces, and the small building drawings that I sell on the High Street take up to two hours.

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LLO: We want to know more about George. How long have you had him? What’s his personality like? Tell us a little story about something he did that was memorable.
JD: I was living in temporary accommodation in the Tower Hill area, and at Christmas I always put homeless people up because of the cold weather conditions and because Christmas is a really depressing time of the year for them guys. I was putting up a couple one particular year and they already had a dog. These two guys were beggars, and whilst they were out on the street some mad Scotsman sold them George for the price of a strong can of lager. They then came to my house with George.  In the meantime they were offered a place in a hostel. They couldn’t take two dogs, so they offered me George, who I took on.

I’ve had George for six years. I’ve trained him to the max. I have arthritis in my ankle and in the winter I’m on crutches and I can’t walk. George is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, he’s got that fighting instinct and he can be a bit of a little git at times. So I’ve trained him to the extent that he listens to every command and obeys every word. I sit on Shoreditch High Street Friday and Saturday nights when people have got drink inside them. They can be quite abusive, and when people that are quite abusive come walking towards me I’ve only got to raise my hand and point towards them and George will start to bark at them. I don’t even have to give him a command, I just point in their direction and he’ll start to bark. That generally keeps the nutters away from me and the people that have had too much to drink.

George’s personality, well he’s a very wise dog; he’s got great wisdom in his eyes. He looks like he’s been around for longer than he actually has. Me and George are meant to be together, I can’t explain it but its kind of destiny that has brought us together. The dog has brought me incredibly good luck. He’s become a part of Shoreditch, everyone knows him. They know his name before they know my name. George is engrained on Shoreditch just as much as I am. George has become a legend in the past few years since I’ve been around Shoreditch. I love him to bits, and he’s my universe. What more can I say? 

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LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, what changes have you seen in the city in general over the years?
JD: I’ve lived in London all my life. I grew up in Islington and saw the changes there. Years ago, Shoreditch used to have a very big Bangladeshi community. They’re moving out now as the area regenerates itself and becomes very middle class. I’m very working class, but the middle classes are bringing a great vibe to the area. It’s great round Shoreditch now, as opposed to twenty years ago.

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LLO: When you think of Shoreditch, what’s the first thing that comes to mind in each of the following categories:
JD:
Sight:
The beauty of the people, the fashion, the street art and the street life.
Smell: The different restaurants with their excellent smells of food beaming out of them.
Taste: I like Dishoom and the Argentinian steak sandwiches across the road.
Texture: The texture for me is my big fat arse sat up on the hard concrete pavement of Shoreditch High Street.
Sound: The music wafting out of the clubs and the laughter and happiness of people enjoying their nights out.

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LLO: Tell us about one or two random but memorable interactions you’ve had while working on your drawings.
JD: There are two amazing things that happened to me on the street. One was being published in Shoreditch Unbound alongside Tracy Emin and Gilbert and George, the first two months of me sitting on Shoreditch High Street. I was sat there drawing one Saturday afternoon when two guys approached me and commissioned me for the book.

The other is when the rock band Heavens Basement bought a piece and took it onto Lauren Laverne’s Radio 1 show. I got a big shout out.

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LLO: If you could leave Londoners with one thought to carry through the rest of the day, what would it be?
JD: Treat others how you expect to be treated yourselves, bastards!

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You can see John’s work at the Howard Griffin Gallery from 19-26 September (10am-6pm), 189-190 Shoreditch High Street E1 6HU.

London Art Spot: Ben Wilson (Part 2)

If you missed part 1 of my interview with The Chewing Gum Artist, Ben Wilson, head back one entry! Otherwise, read on for the rest of my conversation with this imaginative artist who just completed a chew gum art trail along London’s King’s Road for the InTransit Arts Festival

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LLO: Tell us about some of the chewing gum art pieces that you’ve created over the past decade.
BW: I’ve been lying on the pavement for 10 years. I have done everything from smoochy love stories to horror stories, from unimaginable hysteric situations to really complex ones – the whole spectrum of human emotion. You get the school kids who want pink love hearts and stars and “best friends for life”. Then you get the tough guys who want their tags – Toxic and Riddler and stuff.

LLO: Do you have a favourite piece?
BW:
 I like the invention of the actual gum pic. That allows for anything to happen in that space.

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LLO: Is there an example that really stands out for you?
BW: There’s a myriad of different situations. I’m recording the kids growing up for one family, so each year I do a picture. They started on the doorstep. Now they’re on the wall. Every time they have a birthday, I do a picture for them. I’ve done things for them like Spiderman and karate kid. They’re people I’ve really gotten to know now because the pictures are about them.

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LLO: Do you feel that your work makes a difference to the community?
BW: If I’m working in different environments, I see the complexity of social landscape. The pictures reflect social landscape. They are about places and people. You have some desolate high streets, very standardised environments, where there’s more likely to be muggings. Some of these people can’t make a living and other issues arise. Everyone has a different version of problem solving if they’re allowed to try to change things on a grassroots level. So I’m doing things my way, but there’s no one right way or one right answer, but a total of all of these different approaches. You need diversity of actions. The pictures are a celebration of colour and they reflect the sheer beauty of diversity.

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LLO: How do you make a living if you paint full time but don’t ask for money for your work?
BW:
I do sell my work, doing art trails like this one for InTransit. I do shows, exhibit in a gallery in Mayfair. I have to make a living. And actually the whole thing couldn’t have happened if it was about money initially. It wouldn’t have happened because first you had to convince everyone that it was okay. If suddenly I start painting on cigarette butts or anything like that, people would say, “Ew, how can you do that?”. But chewing gum? That’s become normal now. *laughs* You’re breaking norms and finding a way to allow something to happen. I like the social element.

LLO: So if you’re making work for a gallery, do you chew your own gum?
BW:
No, I remove it from the pavement, so it’s still someone’s discarded chewing gum. I place that on a brick.

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LLO: So if it’s indoors, is it always on bricks?
BW:
I do hidden trails inside museums and galleries as well. That’s quite fun. I hide the work. I melt the gum onto foil. I could do, say, 40 pictures and they could just go anywhere. And then I let them know afterwards, contact Time Out and all that. The media will photograph them and then suddenly the public knows and if they find them, they can have them.

LLO: Since you’re working along the King’s Road now, are you going to do a trail through the Saatchi Gallery?
BW:
I could if I wanted to. I can put them anywhere.

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LLO: Where are we most likely to find them indoors?
BW: My favorite place is the Tate Modern. There’s all sorts of metalwork and graphics which work perfectly to hide the pictures. You can do some that look like screw fittings or tiny lettering. It’s a form of camouflage that I really enjoy. They’re signed so people can have a free work of art. I may spend seven hours working on one tiny little river scape which, if it was in a gallery, would go for about £300. But I like the fact that a person can just find it and take it. It is a celebration of art and human diversity. It’s exciting that anyone can find them.

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LLO: How did you choose to work along King’s Road?
BW:
I got funding to do this trail, so I’m being paid. Every so often I get some paid work. Sometimes I collaborate with Garry Hunter from Fitzrovia Noir. He looks up the history of the area and says so and so used to live here. It’s nice to work with another person who has an understanding of what I’m doing. We met a woman today who just came up to us randomly on the street who now wants to do something with the Royal Ballet and the National Gallery. It’s amazing just being out here and the people you meet on the street.

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LLO: Tell us about a few of the pieces we can find along the King’s Road trail.
BW:
It’s nice working here. I’ve done a few streetscapes. Garry researched certain places and I’ve done pictures that relate. He said there’s a sound studio over here called Sound Techniques where Pink Floyd and The Who recorded. There’s a Carol Reed (film director) piece for “The Third Man”. It’s nice to acknowledge certain things about a place. There’s always random people coming up though, giving me a personal story. I’ll do these nearby. For example, there was just a guy passing on a bike and he asked me to do a picture for his two kids.

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LLO: Do you find people react differently to you in an area like Chelsea where there’s not much street art compared to, say, East London?
BW:
I’ve never gotten too into the East London thing. People have asked me to go down there and work but I am generally in Barnet. I’m a Barnet boy! I’m quite happy just to work outside Colney Hatch Lane or on the North Circular. Wherever you are, people just come up and say what they like.  There’s been quite mixed reactions around Chelsea. Some people come up and they get it right away. Other people are like, “Ew, what are you doing”? But I don’t care whether people who come by get it or not. I like the conversations that are sparked by what I’m doing though.

LLO: Any memorable reactions besides people who come up with requests?
BW:
It’s nice to find a little place that’s quiet. You get a sense of how everyone is observing everyone. I have had people say they see me on the bus while going to work and then get off at a different stop on the way home just to spend ages trying to find the picture, to see what I’ve been doing. I met one guy on Piccadilly who said his whole office, way up high, had been looking down debating what I was doing. I was absorbed in my work. You really get a sense though that everyone is observing everyone. We’re all interlinked in this big funny world.

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LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery?
BW: T
here’s lots of things. I love the garden near Jack Straw’s castle in Hampstead Heath. It’s a beautiful pagoda near Hillview Park. It was built by this nutter in the early 20th century. I discovered it when it was semi-derelict. It’s the most beautiful garden. First, the whole thing was all abandoned and the garden was in two sections. There was this big old rich mansion where someone used to live. The mansion was sold and made into a hospital and then a whole section of the garden with all these pagodas and buildings and green houses was all wild and overgrown. Then there was a section that was public and slightly maintained. There’s a temple and an old staircase. People love it. They can climb into it. It’s a secret place.

But generally, I just get excited by the diversity of the people and the creativity of kids. I love little places like squares and old museums and, actually, I really like the Millennium Bridge! Four years worth of chewing gum pictures got destroyed there, sadly. I nearly got from one end to the other. I will be back though. They left one picture, one little happy face. There were loads of requests from people all over the world there. One guy wanted one for his girlfriend. He was in prison and was going to show her when he came out. He just wanted a little love heart. 

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LLO: So you’ve spent a lot of time on that bridge then! Any good stories?
BW:
Yup. I remember a time. It was after I’d been featured in The New York Times. I had these guys come up to me to tell me to stop working and then this group of Americans came over saying, “No, no, he’s the Chewing Gum Man. Leave him alone!” The police said they didn’t care. Then that was it. I just moved on. Then came back later, of course. Another time my bloody mat blew into the River Thames. Some French people were filming. It’s hard to get a decent mat now…

LLO: You must really enjoy what you do since you’ve been at it for a decade.
BW:
Yes, I really do enjoy what I do. It’s relaxing. I enjoy being out here. I like working in the snow or sometimes in the rain can be quite good. There are nice reflections. You have your umbrella so if you’ve got another fucking rainy day, it doesn’t matter.

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If you missed the customised piece of chewing gum art that Ben created for Little London Observationist, check it out. 

London Art Spot: Ben Wilson (Part 1)

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Earlier this week, I wrote about the customised piece of chewing gum art that Ben Wilson made for Little London Observationist. I met Ben last week, just off the King’s Road in Chelsea where he as been working diligently on a trail for the InTransit Festival of Arts and in collaboration with Garry Hunter of Fitzrovia Noir (who contributed some of the photos in this interview). He was sprawled out his paint-spotted sleeping mat, on the pavement, surrounded by colourful bottles and an open toolbox. He was working with his new favourite hue – a bright fluorescent green.

The Chewing Gum Man, as he is widely known, has been perfecting his art of beautifying this discarded substance around the world for almost a decade and I’ve been itching to interview him since my last post about Ben in 2012. Now he’s bring his street art to West London where it’s rarely seen.

Read on for my chat with this fascinating artist and then hop over to the article in The New York Times when for more when you finish. 

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LLO: How long have you been creating chewing gum art?
BW: It will be 10 years in October.

LLO: Is it something you do full time?
BW: Yup!

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LLO: Are you a self-taught artist or do you have a formal art education?
BW: I did an art foundation, but generally I’ve just done my own thing. My father was an artist. My mum did illustration. I would say I’m a mixture.

LLO: What do you enjoy most when you’re not painting?
BW: Gardening. I like mainly flowers, but I can get into veg too. I also used to work in woodland areas, building sculptures. I did a big project in Baltimore.

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LLO: Do you do a lot of international work then?
BW:
A fair bit. I’ve worked in lots of different countries over the years: Finland, Serbia, America (until I got put in a detention center).

LLO: For creating art?
BW:
I had contacts in America but they didn’t sort out my papers properly. They messed up. It’s a complicated story. I got to wear one of those nice orange uniforms and was put in solitary confinement even though they invited me! Anyway, it’s all in the past. 

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LLO: Where did you create your first piece of chewing gum art?
BW:
In Muswell Hill, on Colney Hatch Lane. I live nearby.

LLO: What made you see a piece of chewing gum art and think I’m going to paint that?
BW: I was upset by all the rubbish and sense of disconnectedness where people just affect things in a slightly detached way. When people detach from their environment, that’s when the environment gets destroyed and that’s also when people destroy each other. If you have a love of a place, it’s something which, if you really care, you wouldn’t (*pauses* – sorry, I get involved in the picture and it is sometimes to remember what I’m talking about at the same time).

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LLO: So does this tie in to the “urban tumbleweeds” you were showing me earlier?
BW: Certainly does. People think they don’t impact their environment, but we all do just by being who we are. We have to take responsibility for that. Since I’ve been working on the pavement, I see balls that blow along. It’s all people’s hair mainly, but it can pick up anything as it’s rolling along. It’s relatively light and roughly the size of a tennis ball. It picks up old cigarettes butts, bits of rubbish, Rizlas, anything really. It blows around. When you’re working, you see how hair gets caught in little crevices. This is an “urban tumbleweed”.

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LLO: Would you say you make chewing gum art to put a positive spin on something negative?
BW: I do pictures because people ask me to do pictures for them. I do what I do out of a sense of compassion. You can see a dark side when people are out of touch, but if there’s a sense of belonging then something negative is less likely to happen. I am transforming rubbish. People are bombarded by images with so much consumerism around us. It’s stuff they’re buying or things they feel they have to have. This is different. It’s a small picture and I care for the pictures. I transform something that has been rejected by society. It’s about caring, taking the time and making a stand for something. It can be any degree of absurdness, but it can also be quite serious.

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LLO: How to does connect directly to your work?
BW:
 When you’re working, you go with the place. People come up to me and make requests. I keep a book of requests and the pictures tend to reflect the people. It’s kind of sad how depersonalised some areas are becoming. It’s all being corporatised with big companies who take people out of the equation. They tried to get rid of people who sell tickets in the Underground, but you need a human presence there so it isn’t a frightening place to go. If people don’t invest in people, then there’s no one to care. You need people. There has to be a sense that people can be creative in their environment. I’m finding a way to be creative in my environment and connect with people. I think it’s a right.

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LLO: You must get tons of requests.
BW: I have to say sorry for all the pictures I haven’t done yet. I haven’t been able to do them because my father died last year and around that time, I lost a toolbox I had for years.  I lost about four request books with about 200 requests. So all of those people will think I didn’t care. I don’t ask anything for the pictures when I do them.

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LLO: Tell us about the process you go through to create a piece from the beginning to the end.
BW: Okay. Find a piece of discarded, spat-out chewing gum. Heat it with a blowtorch. Then I apply a lacquer into the bubbling gum. That stabilises the gum itself. Then I put one coat of acrylic enamel on the melted gum followed by a second coat. I make sure the whole thing is dry and rock hard. Then I paint the picture. Then I put a clear car lacquer over the top. Then I apply a heat again. And you have a picture that can be rained on and walked on. It can even be under a puddle of water. It’s an invention. You then have a gum pic and the discarded chewing gum has been transformed.

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LLO: Have you ever had a negative experience while painting?
BW:
 As soon as I started, a lot of people tried to stop me. Then I was arrested, had my DNA taken by force. I was even beaten because someone thought I shouldn’t be working in the city of London. But why can’t I? It’s a right for me to be creative in my environment. I’m doing work that’s for people. It’s about social cohesion. Every time I do a picture for a different person, it’s making links between people. If someone doesn’t like this, then they are also within their rights to remove it. You can’t be arrested for painting on a piece of chewing gum though. That’s very important. Also, it’s transient. It won’t stay forever. I used to creep around at night a fair bit painting on billboards, but then did it during the day in a pair of overalls. If I was stopped I’d say it was a community art project. But then I switched to gum. The arm of law can’t get me now. Nah nah!

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LLO: I see you have a build up of dry paint you carry around.
BW:
Yes, you get attached to certain things. The toolbox and this multi-coloured “muffin” as I call it. It’s in a glass thing for little nibbles. This is number three that I have had. The first legendary multi-coloured muffin built right up. Then the glass broke off. I got knocked over by a double decker bus. Literally. I was running along the side of the road and had my rucksack caught. I went flying and my toolbox opened up. My stuff went everywhere. The glass of the whole multi-coloured muffin thing broke, but it was solid paint so it carried on. Then everyone was in uproar, having a go at the bus driver. This one here is a young muffin, a little amoeba. It hasn’t grown up yet. It’s organic.

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LLO: Where are your favourite places to work in London now?
BW:
 I still do a lot of work around where I grew up like Barnet, Whetstone, North Finchley and Muswell hill where I live. People come out and say, “What are you doing? I’ve been looking at you there for five years!”

Come back for part two of my interview with Ben tomorrow.

Listen to a Londoner: Kyomm Aman

Kyomm Aman Interview

Settling in to a new life in London, Kyomm has made some interesting observations in her first year here – one of them to do with Potatoes! Below she muses on what she misses from her home country of Uganda, her favourite places in London to go out for a meal and her favourite way to pass a Saturday in this city. Kyomm blogs at Vow. Move. Live.

LLO: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you here?
KA: My name is Kyomugisha (Kyomm) Aman and I am a 28-year-old Ugandan with a background in human medicine. I moved to London a year ago to join my husband.

LLO: As an expat, what does the word “home” mean to you?
KA: I believe that home is where the heart is. For me, it is wherever my husband and I choose to live; whether it’s our birth home, Uganda, or elsewhere. Uganda is always close to our hearts though.

LLO: What do you miss most from Uganda? If you were to leave London, what would you least like to leave behind?
KA: 
I miss the people I had in my life. I am grateful for a loving family and loyal friends. I miss being able to see them often and share experiences. I also miss the sense of community, variety of tropical fruits, the endless weddings and ceremonies, the genuine friendships and the sun.

If I were to leave London, I would miss the (mostly) reliable transport system, politicians who are accountable for their actions, being able to have value for money, having variety of everything at my disposal and my lovely neighbourhood.

LLO: Let’s talk food. Have you found any Ugandan restaurants in London? Any recommendations?
KA: 
I have not, I’m afraid! My mother taught me well, I am able to cook several Ugandan dishes. My cousin recommends Exceline Exotic Dishes for Sunday lunch. I really should go try out their food.

LLO: If you’re heading out for dinner or drinks in London, where are your favourite places to go?
KA: We try to go to different restaurants every time. Some memorable ones are Preto (I, literally, crushed in there), Manna (vegetarian for a change) and Bluebird Chelsea (classy).

LLO: Best London discovery?
KA: 
Bus 11; a friend took me on a trip across London from Liverpool Street to Fulham Broadway. I saw a lot of London on that one bus journey and have tried to visit the places I saw along the way.

LLO: Since moving to London, what have been your biggest challenges and most rewarding moments?
KA: Biggest challenges: making lasting connections, opening a bank account and realising that I am no good at picking up accents – not even the BBC one!

Most rewarding moments: finding a church that I love, the opportunity to volunteer regularly at a food bank and starting my blog – Vow. Move. Live.

LLO: What is your favourite way to spend a Saturday in London?
KA:
Window shopping, browsing and actual shopping. I, particularly, like to check out what’s on sale in Zara, The Gap and Mango (in that order). I’ll go into the shops about three or four times, but I try not to if I have company. Few people are able to tolerate this kind of foolishness!

LLO: What’s the best part about living in your postcode and why?
KA: It is so calm, so quiet and so clean. It also helps that it is by the riverside.

LLO: What three little observations have you made about London life that you didn’t expect before you arrived?
KA: 1.) It’s refreshing to see people instinctively queue up for literally everything! 2.) I was shocked to see everyone with their ear phones everywhere. People are missing out on life around them. 3.) Apparently, there are more types of potato than sweet and regular; some are for boiling, some for roasting and others are for baking. Who knew? I once blamed a reputable supermarket for 2.5kg of crumbled boiled potatoes.

Thanks Kyomm!

Follow along on Kyomm’s London adventures on her blog, Vow. Move. Live.