London Art Spot: Good Wives and Warriors

Good Wives and Warriors are Becky Bolton & Louise Chappell


It’s not often you find an artistic collaboration as seemless as this. Take any part of one of the Good Wives and Warriors’ giant wall paintings and it’s likely that even they wouldn’t be able to tell you which one of them painted that section.

They’ve had creative adventures all over the globe from a painting tour of South America, to Australia, to the States and around Europe sharing their talent with the rest of the world. Their colourful designs have been picked up by the likes of MTV, Adidas, Urban Outfitters and Swatch as well as a few design magazines and books. There will certainly be more of that in their future.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Becky and Louisa tell us where the name Good Wives and Warriors comes from, share stories of their South America adventures and talk about where they’re jetting off to next.

LLO: Where does the name Good Wives and Warriors come from and how has your partnership developed since university?
B&L: The name Good Wives and Warriors comes from the etymology of our names. The name Rebecca is Hebrew in origin and means ‘to bind’ and that suggests being a good and faithful wife. Louise comes from the French ‘Louis’ meaning famous warrior and renowned fighter. So together we are ‘Good Wives and Warriors’. It in no way represents our personalities but we liked the sound of it so it stuck!

LLO: Which aspects of London life influence your creativity?
B&L: It has to be the other creative, talented and motivated people that we are surrounded by in London. We share a studio with Nelly Ben Hayoun and Olivia Decaris, two energetic and talented French designers and next-door are Felix de Pass, Alex Hume and Giles Miller who are constant sources of support and inspiration. Also the wealth of exhibitions and opportunities in London make such a difference.

LLO: You’re known for your large-scale wall paintings. What’s the biggest you’ve done so far and where was it?
B&L: I think this has to be the painting we did in Clerkenwell with Space In Between Gallery. The exhibition was called ‘Buckminsterfullerene Dream’ and we spent 11 days on this painting, which is by far the longest we’ve spent on a single wall painting. We also painted the columns and part of the floor.

LLO: If you could choose any wall in London to redecorate, where would you bring the paintbrushes and what would you create?
B&L: The entire outside of the Tate Modern would be pretty good! A big sprawling mass of wonder.


LLO: Which piece of work or professional moment have you been most proud of so far?
B&L: I think we both feel pretty proud of ourselves when we’re in a book! There is something about being in print that really validates what you do. Also, the first exhibition we curated in Glasgow called the Sprezzatura Maze, because we were responsible for every aspect of the exhibition from selecting the artists, building the walls and playing hosts to the French artists that came to stay with us. It was such hard work but really worth it.

LLO: Past clients include Adidas, Urban Outfitters, Swatch, MTV and loads more. Do you have a dream client or project?
B&L: We’ve always wanted to do book covers, so maybe vintage or Penguin, we’d like to do a honey label and the set design for a big theatre production.

LLO: Tell us about your painting tour of South America – challenges, best moments, etc.
B&L: We had an incredible time in South America, but there were lots of challenges! It was really hard to pinpeople down with dates for exhibitions. We’d been emailing for months before but still had no definite plans when we arrived so had to try and make it all happen.

The first painting we did in Cusco, Peru, involved going round with a translated speech about ourselves, and asking if we could paint on people’s walls. Obviously there were lots of Incan walls that we couldn’t paint on, and we had many rejections, but finally a lovely man let us loose on his wall and kept giving us Inca Cola (which is luminous green) and key rings! His kids and the stray dogs hung around us as we were painting and we had lots of attention from passersby. (Most of which we didn’t understand!)

One of the paintings we did in Buenos Aires was throughout the night, starting at 10 and finishing at 7 in the morning. We were exhausted and I (Becky) ended up fainting in MacDonald’s which was really embarrassing as everyone just stepped over me thinking I was a drunk! This painting was a ‘Cock-Rocket’ so it got quite a lot of attention too, which was funny.

LLO: What’s a typical creative day like for the two of you?
B&L: We share a studio with designers in Shoreditch so most days are spent working away there unless we’re doing a wall painting somewhere and then that means long hours of painting in situ. When we’re doing commercial work we’ll be in the studio but doing exhibitions and wall paintings means we get out and about a lot.

We were just involved in an exhibition called ‘Super K Sonic Boooum’ by Nelly Ben-Hayoun at the Manchester Science Festival which involved us making a geodesic dome out of 75 pieces of cardboard, trying to paint and construct it in our studio (which is pretty small) and then attempting to take the whole thing in pieces to Manchester on the train. It was a nightmare and it kept collapsing! We finally managed to make it stay up so people could go inside but it was such a mission. Our brains work much better in 2-D than in 3-D! So we always have periods of exhibition stuff, which is way more fun than being attached to our desks.

LLO: Favourite London-based artists?
B&L: We love Raqib Shaw for his incredibly intricate and sumptuous paintings. To be honest, most of the artists we like don’t live in London!

LLO: What are you working on now?
B&L: We’re going to do an exhibition in Mexico City in 3 weeks time so we’re doing a new set of drawings to take over, so they are taking up most of our time at the moment. They are quite labour intensive. We’re also waiting to hear back from a couple of commercial jobs to see if we’ve got them.

Thanks Becky and Louise!

For more from Becky and Louise, check out their colourful website.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

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Exploring Eel Pie Island

If you take a short ride on the R68 bus from Richmond, alight at King Street and turn the corner, you’ll come to a narrow footbridge arching over the Thames. This leads to the magical and eccentric Eel Pie Island with an off-beat name just right for its off-beat story.

Bridge To Eel Pie Island

This mysterious little slice of traffic-free land has a musical history that tosses about names like John Mayall, Mick Jagger, Cyril Davies, Eric Clapton, David Bowie. Even before their time, Charles Dickens was said to enjoy a beer over that bridge and Henry VIII was rumoured to pop by the island to fill his stomach with eel pies on his way to entertain his mistresses.

Rainbow Shed

The island’s Eel Pie Hotel became the phenomenon that started it all with hundreds of revellers flooding the island to see The Who or The Stones in the hotel, to drink, dance, get high, sleep around. It started with ballroom dancing, progressed to jazz followed by the Mods and rock ‘n’ roll. Eventually, when the party scene got out of control, a mysterious fire burned the hotel to the ground.

England

In his memoir “Eel Pie Dharma” about his time on the island, Chris Faiers explained that the site was briefly re-opened as Colonel Barefoot’s Rock Garden where Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd took to the stage. Then the squatters took over. “200 dossers, hippies, runaway schoolkids, drug dealers, petty thieves, heroin addicts, artists, poets, bikers, American hippy tourists, au pair girls and Zen philosophers from all over the world’, who consumed vast quantities of LSD and opened a sex room for orgies”, he wrote.

Blue Eyes

Of course, that has all has changed now. The island has calmed down and is home to a mixed and creative group of just over 100 people. Some are retirees who live in sweet little cottages near the water.

Paintbrushes in Artist's Studio

Over 20 artists live and work in studios further down the island and there’s another group who work in the shipyard.

Eel Pie Ship Yard

Twice a year Eel Pie Island welcomes the public to visit the artists in their studios. Last weekend was one of those times so I went to explore.

Skeleton in Cage

Crossing the footbridge, I was already in another world. I picked up a hand drawn map pointing out the studios from a stack of papers weighed down by a smooth rock and started walking down a winding path. Lush shrubs and flowers formed the edges of the pathway which was empty besides the occasional dog-walker.

Love Shack

The first obvious sign of what was to come was the Love Shack, with colourful tiled front steps and an alligator on the front of the house about to eat a dangling gnome.

Gator and Gnome

There was a sign nearby on a tree that said “Wrong Day, Go Back”. I walked on.

Wrong Day

A green shed with old advertisements for Star Cigarettes, HMV and Punch stood next to a similar building called The Lion Boathouse.

Side of Ship Display
There are a few shops on the island selling necessities like firewood and paint supplies, but residents have easy access to Twickenham shops just over the other side of the river.

Star, HMV, Punch

The most eccentric part of the island was the artist’s community – an organised mess of colourful painted shacks, sheds and old boats where these people live and work. Barbie doll head on the ground, skeleton dangling in a cage outside a house, a broken kitchen sink, a stack of metal spoons, shipyard tools littering the ground.

Watch on the Wall

The people were lovely – chatty, welcoming, friendly, eager to talk about their work. They sold large paintings, sculptures, handmade greeting cards, jeweller, ceramics and photography.
Rosa Diaz

There’s even costume designer called Rosa Diaz famous for collecting Barbie dolls. Many of the artists have been living on the island for years and years. It’s a brilliant and supportive little community.

Nude and Mirror

After walking the complete trail, I turned and headed back under the afternoon sun. I walked slowly back down the green, twisting path.

I Can't Remember
An old man with a walker stopped to smile and nod in my direction before I headed back out of the psychedelic world across the lazy grey Thames. I bet he has some good stories to tell if he’s been living there a while. The crowds have poured out, but there are stories there, unspoken history, memories.

Home in an Old Ship

The island closed back up a few hours after I left, private once again for the rest of the year.

No Cycling

Links:
http://www.timeout.com/london/features/267/1.html
http://www.eelpieislandartists.co.uk/
http://www.eelpie.org

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London Art Spot: Martin Hoare

Some people love to capture London on film, others in photographs, a few just in memory. Welsh illustrator Martin Hoare takes his sketch book out to the streets. Later, some of these sketches are transformed into more elaborate drawings or paintings. For a while, his pens & pencils sat in a drawer while he concentrated on his day job as a graphic designer, but now he’s set up a blog to revive them. It’s called Martin’s Doodles. If you enjoy his unique catalogue of London life below, pop over and have a look.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Martin tells us a story of frustration as a prospective art student, talks through the process of creating a new piece of work and about the satisfaction he’s recently discovered in a completely unrelated hobby that fills his spare time.

Piccadilly Line

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
MH:
London is an amazing place to live and work. I’ve lived here now for 12 years and there are still always new places to discover. I love the way that each area has its own unique feel, the way you can travel just a short distance and feel like you’ve gone somewhere completely different. It’s always been drawing people and the way the people of London interact with each other and the urban environment. That’s what really interests me. Someone once said: “There’s 8 million stories all playing out at the same time.”  That’s what I’m trying to capture.

Green Park

LLO: Graphic designer by trade, and here you are with a blog full of “doodles”, of sketches and drawings. What’s your artistic background?
MH:
I have always been a compulsive drawer. As a kid, I don’t think I was happy unless I had a pencil and a stack of paper. I left school at sixteen and took a training scheme at the local Ford Motor plant. I think it soon became apparent that I had no interest in producing axles and, fair dues to them, they set me up with an interview at the local art college. But without formal qualifications, they weren’t interested in taking me on, and at the end of the interview they showed me a perfectly airbrushed illustration of a motorbike and told me not to come back until I could produce work of that standard. This really discouraged me from perusing any kind of career in art. It wasn’t until years later that I found out the illustration was from a student’s final degree show.

I did a fanzine for a bit around this time, designed a few record sleeves, t-shirts and gig posters for local bands. Then when the need to get a proper job came along, I became a painter and decorator. So I was working as a painter, but just the wrong type. I still kept on drawing but didn’t think of doing anything with it until I started taking a life drawing class. There were a lot of art students there from the college that had turned me down a few years back and I was surprised to find that I was drawing at a better level than practically all of them. So I thought, what the hell, gave up my job and started a foundation course. I intended to go on to study fine art or illustration, but having discovered the wonders of what could be done on a Mac, did a degree in Graphic Design and have been sitting in front of a screen ever since. The down-side of this being that for a long time I put down my pencils and brushes and it has taken me quite a while to pick them back up again.

Brewer Street

LLO: Where did the initiative to start “Martin’s Doodles” come from and what do you hope to achieve by keeping the blog?
MH:
I had drawings all over the place, in numerous sketchbooks, on bits of paper, and it was hard to keep track of everything. I really needed to get everything scanned in, just to pull everything together. So the main reasons for setting up the blog were getting organised, getting my work out there and moving it forward. After all, what’s the point of producing a load of artwork if it’s just going to sit in a drawer in the spare room?

LLO: Best place in London to shop for art supplies?
MH:
Cass Art in Islington. I spend a lot more there than I need to, I have a thing for buying new sketch books, whether I need a new one or not. I also visit the London Graphic Centre in Covent Garden quite a bit.

North Lanes

LLO: Favourite place in London to sit with a sketch pad?
MH:
Probably somewhere on the South Bank, especially when the sun is out. There’s usually a chilled atmosphere and noone is in a rush to get anywhere, which is helpful when sketching.

LLO: Which piece are you most proud of so far and why?
MH:
It’s usually what I’ve just finished or am working on at that time. I’ve just finished a painting ‘Leaving Las Vegas’, which is Soho street scene. The thing that started me off on this image was the signage, which I just had to work into a painting. And being Soho it just had to be a night scene.

Leaving Las Vegas

LLO: Describe the process of how your artwork comes to life from the moment you conceive an idea to the finished product.
MH:
I’ll spend a lot of time wandering around just looking for somewhere that will work as a drawing or painting. I’ve basically always got an eye on the next piece of work. Once I’ve chosen a location I’ll do a few rough sketches and take as many pictures as I can. I’ll then put all these together in Photoshop, and usually work up a composite image, putting all the elements together. Print this out and make a rough pencil drawing sketch placing all the main elements on the page. Once that’s done I’ll start working up the drawing, with either a fine liner, or ink and pen. Once I’m happy the drawing is done, I’ll either add shading with marker pens, or I might scan the drawing and colour it in Photoshop.

The next stage is to determine which drawings may have the potential to be worked up as paintings. The whole painting process is a lot more involved and time consuming. Unlike drawing where the work can be finished in one sitting, a painting can be very much a stop-start affair, gradually taking shape, depending on the free time I have available. But it’s really rewarding when you finish with something that you’re pleased with.

Oceanic Leather Wear

LLO: What do you get up to when you’re not drawing/doodling/sketching/painting?
MH:
Aside from work which takes up a large part of my time, I have recently started gardening. For the first time since moving to London I have a garden, and have really gotten into growing my own vegetables; there’s something really pleasing about eating food you’ve grown yourself. I tend to go to a lot of galleries. One of the great things about London is that there is just so much art going on; wherever I happen to be, I can usually take a bit of time to check out whatever galleries are around. Being Welsh, I also often end up in the pub watching a bit of rugby.

LLO: Is there a place in the capital you’d love to sit for a day with a sketch pad but haven’t had the chance yet?
MH: Actually having the luxury of a day to sit sketching is not something I’m used to. Maybe it’s being a Graphic Designer, where everything is driven by deadlines, but there never seems to be enough time to fit everything in. I’ve never done any drawings on the tube; maybe I could sit on the Circle Line going round and round drawing people. Perhaps I should try that.

Smoking Man

LLO: Any impressive up-and-coming London-based artists we should keep our eyes on?
MH:
Print Club in Dalston (www.printclublondon.com), has some really good illustrators and artists. I like a lot of the work they produce.

Sundae, Sundae

Thanks Martin! 

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

London Art Spot: Danielle Dewitt

As Dani says herself, you might expect artwork from a native North Carolina girl to be quite “safe” and “homely”, but don’t be fooled. Dani’s illustrations and paintings are anything but, and since she moved to London, they have become even more open and experimental, all boundaries crossed. If you’re easily offended, turn back now. There’s a few safe entries back that way.

If you’re curious about what inspires this Central Saint Martin’s graduate to expose her inner fears and thoughts in such a way that may shock her neighbours back home, read on. She’s taken some time to tell us about why her work is so sexually blunt, how London gives her creative freedom and her plan to move to Oslo later this summer.

LLO: When did you first become interested in illustration and how has your work evolved while you worked toward your BA at Central Saint Martins?
DD:
 I have always been interested in the arts from what I can remember and especially illustration because it requires so much attention to detail and patience. I wanted to be a medical illustrator at first, I am fascinated with medicine and anatomy and still hope one day I can do something within the medical stratosphere. My time at CSM has definitely given me more self-discipline in regards to my working habits. It has taught me to explore my ideas more thoroughly and to formulate clear, well-executed pieces. I have found a love for painting with oils as well, which is something I was never really that interested in before. My work hasn’t really changed much overall, I have just expanded it into a few more mediums.

LLO: Has coming from the sticks in North Carolina to big city life in London changed the way you approach your art at all?
DD:
Art in North Carolina is quite, “homely” and “safe”, well most of it. People seem scared to offend anyone with their work. Coming to London, you see that that safeness doesn’t exist here and you are free to explore and create whatever you like with out fear of community persecution or exclusion. My work is a lot more free now that I’m here, and a lot more chaotic.

LLO: Much of your work is very sexual in nature, very focused on the female body flaws and all. Can you talk a bit about the messages in these images?
DD:
We’re our most vulnerable when we’re naked. Being nude changes the way people behave. Some embrace it, some can’t stand it. All of our flaws are visible and accessible to every human eye and every particle floating in the air. Being nude bonds us with our surroundings. When I draw a figure, I see it in my minds eye in total perfection, nude and flawless. But when it comes down onto paper, it becomes all of my insecurities and flaws, all of my pain and resentment for myself. The sexual outlet is the trusting, giving, ‘exposed’ and freed self and something I want to give to my viewers, the ability to bear the scars of  their life with out fear. We women hold a lot inside of us, and mask our perceived flaws in many different ways it seems. I want to make work that liberates the body of unnecessary social constraints by bluntly stating their existence and trying to deconstruct the need for us to hide from them.

LLO: It’s also very detailed and a lot of it is quite surreal. You’ve got a great imagination. Tell us a bit about what inspires your work?
DD:
My work is usually inspired by events in my life, past and present, the quantum world, or perhaps something that really catches my eye in the media. I go through different phases of what elements I like to use in my work, like certain patterns or styles. My world on a day-to-day basis is quite surreal to be honest, weird things always happen to me, or things I simply cannot understand. I also tend to make up stories in my head about certain people I am surrounded by, or on occasion when I’m walking around I hear harmonies of sounds I suddenly feel like I’m in a musical and that leads to more ideas and the work takes off from there. I also spent a lot of time in hospitals when I was growing up, surrounded by a lot of unique characters. Their world is sometimes completely different from ours and very bizarre at times, these experiences inspired a lot of my work to this day.

LLO: You also do some painting, animation and graphic design. Do you find that changing mediums alters your subjects and style or do you take a similar approach despite the obvious differences?
DD:
 I definitely take a similar approach when painting, not so much when it comes to graphic design. Graphic design is a sort of ‘sanitary’ medium for me where I like to make more minimalist work, while utilizing a broader range of colours. Painting is just a mess, a mash of liquid pixels and I tend to want to make more abstract works when painting, however I always seem to be lured back to creating an intricate painting inclusive of the human form.

LLO: Which piece of work are you most proud of and why?
DD:
I can’t say that I’m particularly proud of any single work I’ve made, I feel satisfied when they are completed, but usually not jumping to show them off. I have a very bad habit of destroying my work long before anyone ever sees it. I am truly resentful of my illustrations and paintings at times and have set alight many of them in the past, tossed them out the window of my car onto the motorway or simply flushed them down the toilet.

LLO: What’s the next step for you in terms of career and how you see yourself moving forward in the next few years? Do you plan to stay in London?
DD:
I’m not exactly sure what’s next. I would like to display my work in galleries all over the world, I would like someone to collect my work, I would like to sell my work, but then again what artist doesn’t! I will probably end up working more on the graphic design side of things or doing freelance jobs or perhaps working in a design firm if all else fails while still doing art in my spare time. I’m getting married in August to a one Jan Schjetne, fashion photographer extraordinaire, and will be moving to Oslo, Norway in July to settle amongst the Scandinavians. I am really excited about this and hope to create loads of new work and add some new mediums to my current work.

LLO: Do you have a favourite London gallery or place to see other artists at work?
DD:
I get really inspired at the National Portrait gallery, the Barbican and the Haunch of Venison. I love the name “Haunch of Vension” and that’s what first led me to this gallery. It’s an erie sounding name to me and this promises many good things contained within. I also like the White Cube Gallery near Old Street, and the Riflemaker Gallery they always have something good on.

LLO: What other London-based artists do you admire?
DD:
I like a lot of the YBA’s, and I love the large fun works of Anish Kapoor.

LLO: Where can we see some more of your work?
DD:
I have a website, cargocollective.com/EHFO, I update it fairly regularly. You can also drop me an email on there if you have any questions, or thoughts you want to share: dewittd@gmail.com.

Thanks Dani!

London Art Spot: Gill Apple

Meet Gill Apple – creative in every sense of the word, but a tattoo artist at heart, which is soon to become a full-time career. Gill packed up home in sunny South Africa five years ago and found herself some 9,000 kilometers away under the grey sky of London. Despite escaping every winter, she’s still here every time the dreaded cold season passes.

It was in a small town called Vereeinging, just south of Jo’burg, where Gill grew up – often climbing trees to look over the big city for her first perspective of the wider world. She met some fascinating people there: artists, goths, punks, skinheads, drug dealers. It had a strong subculture where everyone belonged – a little Camden. Some of her fondest memories were created in a bar nearby called Rafterz where some great musicians began careers. Rafterz never closed, so Gill and her friends never left. Between periods of studying and unemployment, they would all gravitate there, listening to alternative music, playing pool, jumping off the balcony when they finally headed home.

Happiness 1

When Gill’s not tattooing, she’s reading books on Hindu philosophy by the great Sages. Currently, she’s got The World Within the Mind on her bedside table. The books she reads, as well as the diverse selection of music in her collection, tend to relate to another world – much different from everyday life. These things remind her that there’s more than work and money. Ramdom fact relating to both music and another world: Gill plans to have “Return to Sender” by Elvis, played at her funeral. In her free time, she paints and draws emotions, currently focussed on a series called “Study in Happiness” where all of the pictures are ironically sad.

She also writes poems like this on that never rhyme:

‘Push the splints of your disillusion into me
Through me
Holding me
Deep into the earth
Over which fire, water and air find entrapment and redemption
Give to me the very essence of being
The secrets some dare tell
Blow the soul of a weeping willow around what i despise
and then
move me to the foot of a forthcoming end
for i failed to hold the sun
when i could no longer see’

Gill’s London lies mainly in Camden, but on a night out you might catch her dancing the night away anonymously, lost in her daydreams at Slimelight (Isllington) or Electric Dreams (a regular club night at The Purple Turtle in Camden or The London Stone in the City). If you meet her there, she will play up the dream and tell you stories about a life that is not her own. Meet her in daylight, she will tell the truth. For this week’s London Art Spot, Gill’s shared a bit of that truth as you just read and shows off some of her tattoo designs:

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
GA:
 London to me is busy and bursting at the seams with a contradiction of cultures and experiences; it has a million little worlds inside it. Where you move around in it defines how your life will unfold. At times I feel like a voyeur. This strange sense of feeling isolated within one of the busiest places  in the world inspires me to draw and create my emotions. When I create, I am interacting and documenting my time here. I can most vividly remember how I felt in a certain moment when I look at something I’ve created. Obviously, being in a very creative city forces you to push the boundaries.

LLO: How long have you been tattooing?
GA:
4 years

LLO: Which London-based tattoo artists do you most admire?
GA:
Kamil Mocet – I love his bold designs; they remind me of oil paintings

LLO: Best London tattoo studio?
GA:
Evil From the Needle

LLO: Which design are you most proud of and why?
GA:
I guess my newest design – the arm piece on myself. It is a freehand design with red flowers and grey wash backgrounds. The colours work well together and the design flows. But having said that, every piece I do I always see areas I can improve. I’m still in search of perfection… 

LLO: Describe your style.
GA:
Art noveau, organic. I love the flowing freehand designs, patterns that weave and flow. I love using only black or a few bold colours offset with grey shading. Flowers are my current ‘theme’, I guess, with Japanese backdrops or pattern work.

LLO: How do you see your art fitting into your future?
GA:
In the future I plan to only tattoo and create art pieces, so to answer your question, art will be my life in the future (right after I quit my day job).

LLO: What obstacles would you face to get into the business of tattooing full time?
GA:
Mostly getting the capital and confidence to say ‘right thats it, I’m opening up my own shop’. I believe most obstacles are self-created, that we are our own obstacles to success.

LLO: How do people get in touch with you if they’re interested in your work?
GA:
 Mail me – w.gillian@live.co.uk

Thanks Gill!

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.