London Art Spot: Maggie Jones

Eight years ago, Maggie Jones left her home in Wales to make a new start in London after a divorce. She was born in Oxford. Four days a week, she works as a nurse in a large general hospital and on her allotment one day. During the other two days, she is traipsing around the streets of London photographing its architecture and capturing its history. A desire to “preserve” these things leads her to take about 200 photos per day, documentary style. She shares a  few below.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Maggie also shares a story about meeting a man who was once considered the most dangerous in  Britian, talks about her fascination with London’s street signs  and doors and tells us about her discovery of a small artists’  colony in near East India Dock.

“Man on the tube. It was interesting to see how barriers were broken by the presence of a small cute furry animal.”

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
MJ:
London influences me because of it’s history. It’s so deep and interwoven with the streets and buildings it’s impossible not to see and feel it. I always feel that I want to ‘capture’ this history and I can only do that with a camera.

“South Bank street performer. I love the expression of the two children who are listening to every word of the ‘soldier’.”

LLO: Favourite place in London to take your camera and why?
MJ:
My favourite place is the East End. I love its grubbiness and lack of pretentiousness. I’m not comfortable in the swanky parts of London; they feel shallow and artificial to me. The East End, particularly Hackney, Brick Lane and the canals have a solid real feel to them. This is where London first acquired its wealth and history. I also think working class people, especially the artisans of the Victorian era are frequently overlooked and forgotten about. An example is Sir Joseph Bazelgette the sewer builder. We hear all about his wonderful achievements but nothing of the vast army of skilled working class men who helped him achieve his goals.

A very old traditional East End  funeral on Cable Street. They still take place today. 

LLO: Share a photo with a great story behind it and tell us about it.
MJ:
Some friends and I went on a self-guided walk showing where the Kray Twins had their adventures in and around Bethnal Green. As we stopped and chatted outside the Repton Boxing Club, where the twins used to train, the door opened and out walked Mad Frankie Fraser! Mad Frankie was a gangster who had been a contemporary of the Krays and was described by two Home Secretaries as the most dangerous man in Britain. He stopped and chatted to us; he was absolutely charming. Frankie was then 84 (April 2009) and told us that he now takes the general public on private tours to his old stomping grounds around the East End in a mini bus for about £45!

Mad Frankie Fraser

LLO: You’ve got 632 photos of London street signs on Flickr. What made you start shooting street signs? Share your favourite one?
MJ:
I started taking photos to help me document where I’d taken the pictures, but then I realised that these street names are clues to London’s history. For instance, Old Jewry EC2 is where the first Jews were allocated places to live and Knightrider Street where knights would lead a procession from the Tower to Smithfield. Some of the signs themselves are also very old and are fast disappearing. Some are handmade and hand-painted.

Keppel Row

LLO: You also have nearly 700 photos of London street art. Who are your favourite London-based artists?
MJ:
I really like Xylo. He always makes intelligent, thoughtful art. He is currently sticking up small plaques of the golden Panamanian frog because it’s an endangered species. He also puts up lots of posters protesting the way we are being observed in London by CCTV. He also has a sticker of the Oyster card marked Voyeur which you can see dotted around in various places. Mike Marcus is another London-based artist I admire. His work is also ‘paste ups’ and is quite controversial. He shows people, mainly naked women wearing gas masks. His work isn’t meant to be seen as sexual – it’s him making a political viewpoint, I think! He also works in Israel and Palestine.

Xylo print near St. Paul’s

LLO: Tell us about your London doors project? What number are you up to now?
MJ:
I’m currently up to door number 69. I find doors intriguing because as strangers we are unlikely to know what goes on behind them and, being a nosey person, I find this frustrating so I take a photo instead! I do find the variety of doors interesting. Are they barriers or invitations to congenial welcome? The grand address, of course, has to have a grand door. It usually has an elaborate and unique design. It has also, usually, been made by a craftsman with good quality wood and frequently has a beautiful fanlight too. In contrast some doors are made of plastic, or cheap wood and have a uniform design made to look just like all the neighbours doors. No individually-designed doors for the poor. A person’s class is even reflected in the humble door.

One and a Half

LLO: Best London discovery or most unusual place you’ve visited to take photos?
MJ:
That’s easy! It is Trinity Buoy Wharf close to the old East India Dock. It used to be where lightships were fitted out for Trinity Lighthouse Boats. It’s now an artists’ colony. There is a bit of a clue as you walk down the single road to the gates. All the lamp posts have been decorated by artists in a unique way. In the former wharf is a 1940’s American Dining Car which is still used as a cafe. The old workshops are now artists workshops. There’s a sound studio there as well were the owner welcomed me with a lovely cup of tea and told me about the wharf and its inhabitants. There are also some homes which used to be ship containers that have been converted for people to live in. They have little balconies where they park their bicycles.

 Trinity Bouy Wharf

LLO: Show us your favourite London image you’ve captured so far.
MJ:
This is almost impossible for me to answer as I have quite a few favourites, but I am pleased with this one. It’s only the Clock Tower of The Houses of Parliament and it’s quite a corny photo, but it’s an unusual shot and it demonstrates my lateral way of thinking and the different view of the world that I seem to have compared to others. It’s not technically very good, but I’ve never been interested in perfection!


Clock tower from the gutter

Thanks Maggie!

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

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.