A Sign in Penge

I don’t often post about Penge because it’s one of those areas of London I don’t often find myself in (maybe I should change that? What’s good to do in Penge?), but I love this image from Karva Javi – an advertisement for a church across the street.

Visions of London

 

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Listen to a Londoner: Lisa Bolton

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

lisa
Lisa Bolton

Lisa is a northern lass from the French countryside who is integrating into London’s Colombian community. She’s trying to get used to overcrowding and living like battery hens whilst growing very fond of cultural diversity, chips and Primark!

LLO: How long have you been in London, where are you from originally and what brought you here?
LB: I’ve been in London for 2 and a half years. I was born in Salford, Manchester but have lived in nearly all my life in a forest in Normandy France which is where I call home. I came here for work and a new beginning. After finishing my studies and working in Spain for 2 and a half years there was little work in France so I made my decision one morning to come to London and find a new job!

LLO: Which area of London are you most familiar with and what’s the best thing about it?
LB: Having lived in various areas in London I really love Elephant and Castle and Brixton. As I said I grew up in a forest 2km outside a village of 467 people. I had a pretty sheltered life to say the least. I had heard so many horrible things about these 2 areas I was scared to death, but there is a really sense of community. Even though I have moved away from the area now I still enjoy going to Weight Watchers every week in Brixton and the Ritzy cinema is brill and there is a lot of different shops. And Elephant is the best place in London as there is so much going on, transport is excellent and you feel as if you are in another world. You can walk into central London in 30 minutes!!!

LLO:  Tell us about your favourite unique London discovery.
LB: Uhmm, quite hard. I think it depends on what you are into and unless you are in that scene you wouldn’t know about it. Thanks to my circle of friends which is made up of Colombians I suppose it would be the Vallenato sub-culture and the private parties, functions, festivals and carnivals.

I would also say that the Fitzrovia live radio performances are a great discovery and brilliant. They often perform at the Globe’s pub The Swan. I discovered this through my friend and ex-flatmate who is an actor.

But of course my most precious unique London discovery is my fiancé Carlos who I met here.

LLO:  Where are your top choices for a night of dancing?
LB: I LOVE dancing but mostly salsa. However, I REALLY like G-A-Y to let your hair down and for cheap drinks! People there are really friendly and will come up and dance with you.

I don’t really like the “Latin” places here. The music is not that great and the dancing is quite the same. I believe La Floridita is great and it has been recommended, but I’ve never been. There is one place in Brixton called “La Mazorca” which is a bit of a dive and there are a few dodgy characters BUT if you go in a group they play great music and have a great dance floor. Otherwise, I have always had the best dancing time at improvised parties in various little bars and open air festivals like “Carnival del Pueblo”.

LLO: Give us an unusual or quirky idea for a date in London.
LB: To be quite honest I have no idea, probably not been on enough dates to know. But I recently met up with a former flatmate who told me he had had a few dates since we had last seen each other and one guy took him to a taxidermist shop! Needless to say he didn’t go out with him again!

LLO: If I only had one night in London and wanted to head away from the tourist trail for food and drinks, where would you send me?
LB: Gosh, this is a hard question as it depends what type of food I fancied. I have my favourite Colombian restaurant, French restaurant and Indian restaurant! But I suppose if I weren’t here I would be living outside the country and therefore it would probably have to be a pub where I could have steak and ale pie and chips. It’s not off the beaten track but the Horneman over-looking the river on the south bank near London Bridge is easy access and the food is quite nice also, but most good pubs could probably do the same.

LLO: If you want to experience another culture in London, what’s your first choice and where do you head to find it?
LB: WOW, the choice is incredible as London in itself is a cultural mish-mash. The first time I went to Whitechapel, I thought I was in some Asian country. It was incredible. Elephant again springs to mind. Latin American and African cultures are predominant and you can get by just speaking Spanish!

LLO: Tell us about a London memory that could only have happened in London.
LB: I am an English teacher on Oxford Street and I have large, very culturally diverse groups of people who maybe have never left their country before. They have strong preconceptions about different nationalities, colours, cultures, sexual preferences and, of course, religion. As a Teacher it is very hard to approach such sensitive subjects especially concerning homophobia and the stigma which every Muslim/Arabic student is viewed with. Some Latin American students have never met a Muslim let alone a woman in traditional dress. But one day in a class in which I had Baptists, born again Christians, Catholics, Buddhists, Russian orthodox, Shintoists and Muslims (from Turkey, Russia and North African countries) the debate turned to religion which I allow as long as everybody respects each other’s beliefs. The students all found common ground within their different religions and traditions using English. They all got along so well and were respectful of each other. I know sounds corny, but I really warmed my heart that despite all the war and hatred in the world, people from  incredibly different walks of life found they were all the same.

LLO: Who is the most interesting Londoner you’ve met and why?
LB: Everyone in London has had an interesting life and a story to tell. But one of my students, Maria, had come from the slums of Lima, Peru, and had been to a school run by nuns and financed by fundraising from Europe. She had worked her way up to become an English teacher and came to England to better her skills.

Doing the job I do has been a real eye opener to see that intelligent, highly qualified people who are psychologists, engineers, lawyers, film directors etc… perform menial jobs due to their legal status and language skills in order to learn the language. It really angers me when you see office workers ignoring cleaners knowing that they are probably for more qualified than them. It cost nothing to smile or acknowledge someone.

LLO:  If you were to move away from London in the future, which five things would you miss the most?
LB:
1) Cultural diversity
2) The choice of different products and restaurants
3) The different events
4) Primark
5) Public transport especially the tube (despite all the strikes, hahhaha!)

Thanks Lisa!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

London Art Spot: Perry Sullivan

Not for innocent eyes, Perry sullivan draws on themes of sexuality, human form and politics to create a body of work that sometimes has a shock value with that can’t-peel-your-eyes-away sort of appeal. Some are disturbing, some may be offensive, but his goal is to draw on real bits of life that people can relate to rather than pretentious conceptual art that’s not always so easy to understand.

Perry is a master of line, light, shadow and form that gives life to the figures in his paintings. He will be showing them off at the Brick Lane Gallery until tomorrow so there’s still time to pop in.

For this week’s London Art Spot, he’s answered all of my (sometimes cheeky two-part) questions about his goal to make traditional figure painting appeal to a more contemporary audience, shares one of the most memorable comments from a buyer and of course gives us an eyeful of images to get a real feel for his work.

LLO: Which aspects of London life most influence your creativity?
PS:
The history. When I go to galleries and museums I think of all the people who have been a part of the city’s culture and I am pleased to be part of that in some small way.

LLO:  There’s sexuality, human form, some religious and mythological elements… Talk us through some of the common themes that flow through your work.
PS:
I would like to think the common theme in my work is humour. Being British I love to take the piss and there is a great deal of tounge in cheek in my work. I started to copy superheros from comic books as a kid. I think if I wasn’t a painter I’d be a cartoonist as I love to have a pop at deserving targets such as celebs, bankers, footballers, the church, politicians, etc. These are themes I return to time and again in my work.

LLO: If we wanted to walk around a recent exhibition of your work with an iPod, which songs would you recommend as a soundtrack to complement the mood of the show?
PS:
The Banana Splits Theme

LLO: You say you want to revive traditional figure painting and bring it into the contemporary world. How do you approach your work with this goal in mind? Which elements are most important to accomplish this?
PS:
Hang on, that’s two questions. Do I get extra brownie points or somthing? I set out to make my work say something to people who may feel that art is just people pushing paint about and slaping themselves on the back for doing so. (Frieze Art Fair). I want them to be able to connect with the painting in a real way, to know what it is they’re looking at and then go on to see deeper into the work. I think that once again humour is a helpful element and of course sex.

LLO: Do you have a muse?
PS:
Me. Sorry, did you mean someone I adore who fills me with love, hope, energy and light? Still me I am afraid.

LLO: One of your other interests is books. What are you reading now? Do you find that what you’re reading tends to have any influence on your artwork?
PS:
At this moment I am reading my Open University coursework as I am just about to start on my history degree. Just wanted to do something fun. You would think I’d say a Nigella Lawson cookbook looking at my work. But apart from those early years reading comics I don’t think what I read (outside Saturday’s Guardian) has any effect on my work.

LLO: Which painting are you most proud of right now and why?
PS:
The last one I did for the Brick Lane show called ‘Lest We Remember’. I am proud of it not because of the painting as such, but of the style. I was running out of time if I wanted to get it in the show so I put the paint on quicker and looser when I realized it had a real freshness and energy. I felt that I was in charge of the paint and it was going to do what I damn well wanted it to do as there was no time for debate. I love Rembrant’s work as it got looser and looser and I thought to myself ‘I get it’. You can’t see a photo of it just yet as it’s still in the exhibition but if you get down to the Brick Lane Gallery before Oct 4th you can see it in the flesh.

LLO: What has been the most memorable comment you’ve had about your paintings? Did you agree with it?
PS:
“How much? You robbing bastard!” No really, it was at one of my exhibitions when a woman came up to me after looking at my piece ‘Soft Cell’ and with tears in her eyes said “Thats how I feel”. Well what could i say? She brought the painting. Don’t think I didn’t notice this question as well as number six was also in two parts. Iam going to put in for overtime here.

LLO: Are there any other London-based artists you admire?
PS:
Luican Freud (is he still alive?)

LLO: What are you working on now?
PS: I am working on a still life called ‘The Beautiful Game’, it’s about corruption, greed and sex within football. So rich pickings there.

Thanks Perry!

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Listen to a Londoner: Fr Stephen Wang

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Fr Stephen Wang

Fr Stephen Wang is a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Westminster, London. He is Dean of Studies at Allen Hall seminary in Chelsea, where he also teaches philosophy and theology. His latest book is Aquinas and Sartre: On Freedom, Personal Identity, and the Possibility of Happiness, published by Catholic University of America Press. He blogs about culture and faith at Bridges and Tangents.

LLO: As a born and raised Londoner, what are the most noticeable ways the city has evolved in your lifetime?
SW:
It’s bigger and busier. I remember a study recently about how our walking speed has increased (they secretly time you crossing bridges etc). It’s more culturally and ethnically diverse. Immigration has enriched London immensely. Random landmarks that didn’t exist when I was born in 1966: the Gherkin, the Millennium Bridge, the London Eye, Oyster Cards, sculptures on the fourth plinth, Boris Bikes, Tate Modern, the ubiquitous CCTV camera. Tragic losses: the Routemaster bus.

LLO: Tell us a bit about your background and your blog, Bridges and Tangents.
SW:
I was born in University College Hospital just off Tottenham Court Road, when my parents were living in Chiswick. I grew up in Harpenden, near St Albans. I’m a Catholic priest and I work in the seminary in Chelsea, where we prepare men for the priesthood. I never imagined I’d start a blog. It happened quite quickly. I was thinking of writing a book, and a friend pointed out that if I really wanted to communicate and share ideas, then a blog would be more immediate and reach far more people. The penny dropped.

LLO: Freedom is your most used tag on your blog. In a recent post, you wrote “Perfect freedom is being able to step off the back of a London bus whenever you want, whatever the reason, and walk into the sunset without a bus-stop in sight.” Are there other London moments that give you a perfect sense of freedom?
SW:
The fact that London is a city for walking around gives me the greatest sense of freedom. Other random moments of exhilaration, freedom and space include: sitting at the front on the top deck of a double-decker bus; looking at the cityscape from the middle of any of London’s beautiful bridges; jaywalking with abandon — in the knowledge that this would be illegal in some countries; walking through the parks; and along the river at South Bank.

LLO: Can you recommend a few places in London to go for a sense of spirituality without stepping foot in a church/temple/mosque, etc?
SW:
Whenever the next Kieslowski retrospective runs at the British Film Institute; standing over the Greenwich Prime Meridian line, knowing that you are at the still point of the cartographic world; walking round the Serpentine; the Jubilee Line station at Canary Wharf.

LLO: As a catholic priest and philosopher, how important would you say religion is in people’s lives in London today compared to when you started out in your career?
SW:
There are various crosscurrents: some people are much more secular, hardened in their secularism, and dismissive of religion. Yet many more people seem interested in religion who are not believers — as if they are more open to spiritual and transcendent questions, more open to the idea of spirituality and prayer. And religion is a bigger cultural and political reality than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Plus the new immigrants tend to be people of faith (indeed anyone coming to London from outside Western Europe tends to be a person of faith!)

LLO: You recently contributed to a BBC Online article about celibacy, sharing your own experiences. The post on your blog includes tags “happiness” and “loneliness”. Is this commitment one you ever regret or are you content in your decision?
SW:
I don’t regret the decision I have made at all. The whole life of being a priest, including celibacy, has brought me enormous happiness. And the celibacy itself has given me a real freedom, a freedom of heart – to be present with other people in all sorts of wonderful ways; and to pray in a way that would be difficult if I had the responsibilities of family life. I couldn’t live this way without the love of friends and extended family and the communities I have lived in over this time.

LLO: Tell us about something, someone or somewhere you’ve discovered in London that you think the rest of us should know about.
SW:
One secular and unknown: The Clockmakers’ Museum at Guildhall, a single room containing the whole history of clocks and watches, including John Harrison’s 5th marine timekeeper made famous by the book Longitude. One religious and very well known, but I’m still amazed by how many Londoners have never been in it: Westminster Cathedral (not the Abbey), an oasis of calm and devotion near Victoria Station, full of amazing art and architecture.

LLO: With Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists and others living side by side in London, what sort of atmosphere is created when people of every religion mingle in this melting pot city?
SW:
The whole world is here in London, and probably every language and religion. It’s good that we can live side by side, and in peace. Perhaps people don’t talk enough: We occupy the same social space, but often stay within our own mental worlds – unless there is something like a school or sports club or whatever to bring people together. London Citizens is a wonderful grassroots example of people of all faiths and none coming together for justice issues and forming real bonds through that common work. When I get back from Lourdes I want to start talking to strangers in London, but very soon I realize I am becoming one of those crazy people that Londoners fear…

LLO: What do you say to people who are suspicious of religion as being manipulative or deceptive?
SW:
It’s true that religion can sometimes be manipulative and deceptive – we have to admit that and watch out for it very carefully. And as a Catholic priest I wouldn’t push the abstract idea of ‘religion’ for its own sake. But religions can also be sources of spirituality, community, liberation and healing for many people. That’s something to be open to and not afraid of.

LLO: What’s your favourite part about living in your postcode?
SW:
Being near the river; living close to three cinemas; the number 19 bus.

Thanks Stephen!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

London Art Spot: Ahmet Barut

Ahmet Berut is a graphic designer, an illustrator, a photographer, an animator, a web designer, a Muslim with a passion for clarifying the misconceptions of his religion and, of course, a born and bred Londoner. The love of design started in primary school where Ahmet was fascinated by the design of storybooks while learning how to read. He graduated from university in 2009, sticking to the same career ideas he had way back then.

The core of his personal work is an effort to peel back the hard rind of negativity that lies between the peace inherent in Islam and the messages of fear and disapproval that have piled up since 9/11 and 7/7 became regular terms in the global media. Ahmet wants a bit of harmony in the world.

Beyond that, he has worked on creative projects with people like Dev.Soul (who is about to release a debut album) and is currently pursuing a 6-month internship at a charity-based organisation called L’Ouverture (www.louverture.co.uk) which he is enjoying tremendously.

Eventually, Ahmet would like to have his own freelance design company.

Dev.Soul, front of album cover

LLO: How long have you lived in London and how does this city influence your creativity?
AB:
 I’ve lived in London since I was born, and the city influences me in many more ways than one. London is a very interesting and unique place to live because of the vast diversity within its people and their backgrounds, be it class, ethnicity or faith. This unique setting conjures up an abundance of influence, which materializes into an atmosphere, which certainly makes you more conscious of the world. This has had an affect on the concepts behind my self-initiated and personal work. I use design to understand the world better and also try to help people understand certain aspects of the world, such as my background in particular. I think there is a need for people to come together in one way or another to try and understand each other better and to help break down walls, even in London, despite the fact that it’s tremendously multicultural.

Dev.Soul, CD design

LLO: What is your working process from brief to finished product?
AB:
 Once I read the brief, I distinguish the target market/audience and I pick out keywords, which I can use in the research phase. Before I start on the research, I jot down some initial ideas. I think the most important part of the working process is the research phase. I mainly undertake visual research into current trends and also I look into existing work, which relates to the brief. After research, I experiment with ideas based on what I have found. Once I’m happy with a certain style, I develop potential final designs. I create a variety of outcomes, which I show to the client to keep them updated with progress. On most occasions during this phase, the client chooses one or two for me to develop further, or sometimes they are happy with what I have produced as a final.

Dev.Soul, page 3-4 of CD booklet

LLO: Do you specialise in any specific field of graphic design and which aspect of design do you most enjoy?
AB:
I specialise in print work, however, I am also keen on specialising in motion graphics and web design. I particularly like motion graphics as I enjoy the working process of it and one of my ambitions is to work in the film, TV and gaming industry. I have also started to get into web design, as I have found that most of my work revolves around the web. There are also a lot of great opportunities once you have good web design skills.

 Dev.Soul, back of business card

LLO: Tell us a bit about your recent project “The Misunderstood Religion of Islam”. How did you come up with the idea?
AB:
I had undertaken “The Misunderstood Religion of Islam” project for my final major assignment at university. The aim of the project was to factually dispel the universal misconceptions that many people have about Islam. In the process this would educate people about the religion and also hopefully open their eyes to something they thought had no positive impact or role in the world’s history.

The final products comprise of an A5 booklet, accompanied by several posters. The booklet contains articles dispelling the 10 most common misconceptions of Islam with quotes from the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith’s (traditional sayings) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him). The posters have vivid images with strong statements and questions, making people think differently about Islam.

A3 Islam, Front Cover

I came up with the idea in response to the unfair negative press Islam is getting in the media, especially in today’s global climate. I felt there was a moral need to address the misconceptions that have been created in all the confusion, which has stemmed from misinformation.

Unfortunately, on some occasions this confusion has led to undeserved hate towards Islam. This hatred is evident and can be seen across the Internet. For example, I would come across informative videos relating to Islam on sites such as YouTube, and around about 80-90% of comments on those videos were extremely negative – threats such as “Let’s kill all Muslims” or “They should all be kicked out of our country” etc. The latter consisted of misconceptions such as “Islam is a terrorist religion” or “Islam oppresses women”.  I feel that education is very important, because it is the only thing that will bring peace and unity.

People can take a look at the project here.

Misconception

LLO: What messages are you conveying through your work?
AB:
The main message I want to convey through my work is that not everything is what it seems. For instance, when you look deeper into something, it usually turns out to be different from what one would first assume. I tried to visually represent this connotation through “The Misunderstood Religion of Islam” project, by creating a notion of confusion and distortion through the typography.  I want to be involved in more projects that relate to these types of subjects that  hopefully make people aware of certain social issues.

Terrorism is not a religion – A3 poster

LLO: Which project are you most proud of so far and why?
AB:
The project I am most proud of is “The Misunderstood Religion of Islam” both ethically as well as aesthetically. I hope the project has cleared up any confusion that people might have had. I also hope that the project can be a platform for people to start discussions and debates. I think that the design style of the work has been successful in communicating the context of the project. It has also inspired me to experiment further with information design.

LLO: Who is your dream client and why?
AB:
I have two dream clients, the first one being Naughty Dog, a computer games company. They have worked on games such as Unchartered 2 & classics such as Crash Bandicoot. The reason why I would want to work for them is because working in the gaming industry as an art worker is one of my goals.

My second client would be an organisation such as Current TV, which is an experimental media company. I am very interested in the work that they do, especially in the documentaries they make about world issues. That is a field I would definitely want to work in. From the clients I have given, I don’t favour one over the other. I want to work towards gaining opportunities to work in both areas.

Summer Saturday performance club poster for L’Ouverture

LLO: Favourite London-based artists and designers?
AB:
I am very fond of a London-based artist/designer/illustrator who calls himself TWIY (Alex Chappell). He has a unique style in the work that he does. He ranges from print design, to illustration to painting. His work can be described in many more words than one, because I haven’t really come across many works like his. Some of the words that could be used to describe his work are unique, vibrant, exuberant, fresh amongst many more. People should take a look for themselves at his site. (www.twiy.co.uk)

LLO: How would you like to see your career develop over the next few years?
AB:
In the next few years, I want to gain as much valuable experience as I can. I also want to keep on developing my style of work, as I will be doing throughout my career. Ultimately, I would want to have enough knowledge and preparation to be able to set up my own freelance design business.

Calling all playwrights competition poster

LLO: What are you working on now?
AB:
I recently finished working on a marketing campaign to promote a website relaunch of L’Ouverture’s partner IdeasTap. I created a promotional video to attract people to the new site. I am also currently working on completing a promotional video to advertise L’Ouverture and their services.

Apart from working with L’Ouverture, I am also working on a variety of other external projects.

My main personal project I am working on is redesigning the style of my website and also updating my portfolio. I try to always update the style of my site (www.ahmetbarutdesign.com) as much as I can. This plays a big part in my training for web design, as I would like to gain a foothold in the web industry.

I have also just finished working with a recently graduated music producer who goes by the name of Dev.Soul. He will be releasing his debut album, so I branded his name and designed him a music album sleeve cover, album booklet and business card. I have already worked with Dev.Soul in the past on another project. This project was called “20th July 1974”. We collaborated in creating a visual audio documentary based on the Turkish Cypriot’s untold story of the Cyprus war in the 1970’s.

I am also currently involved in an ongoing self-initiated project, which carries on the work of “The Misunderstood religion of Islam” project, which hopefully helps people become aware of certain world and social issues and also makes people clear about the teachings and beauty of Islam.

Thanks Ahmet! 

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.