Recently I’ve had the great opportunity to work as an art consultant for DF Mexico, which is the young sister company to my clients Wahaca. The ethos behind it is similarly to promote Mexican street food but with a informal diner-style experience – taking some influence from North American/Tex Mex cuisine and food associated with DF Mexico – aka the federal district of Mexico City.
As part of their mission DF Mexico are keen to make ties with and promote cultural projects in Mexico City in particular with young artists. In partnership with my wife Olivia Connelly we suggested prints and originals to display by up and coming Mexican artists such as Sanez, Saner, Smithe, Uriel Marin, Neuzz, Daniel Acosta, Daniel Berman, Kwamo and Dr Alderete to name a few… These form the beginnings of a permanent collection.
For our collection we also approached Le Super Demon (who I had worked with at Wahaca Manchester) to produce a special series of 6 paintings on wood inspired by traditional Mexican Loteria cards. Since then we commissioned artists La Piztola to create four original pieces – painted on re-purposed floorboard some of which are now on show at the original DF Mexico at the Truman Brewery.
We are currently looking to expand the collection and are talking to up and coming Mexican artists about new pieces for 2016.
Late last year I was very lucky to work with the fantastic street art duo Lapiztola on a number of projects. Rosario Martinez and Roberto Vega are two hugely talented artists and graphic designers who created the Lapiztola Collective in 2006 initially in response to political events in Oaxaca, Mexico. Primarily using stencils their works is highly politically charged, and has highlighted issues like the disappearance of school children, the cult of drug lords, and the use of genetically modified corn. Their work has a great balance of charm, humour and integrity and so it a was a pleasure to commission them and learn about their work while I supported and managed their programme.
Firstly the duo travelled to Liverpool to create a number of murals for the Wahaca’s latest restaurant. Wahaca produced a short film which explains a little more about the themes in the work.
Next step on the tour Wahaca invited Lapiztola to take part in their Day of the Dead Festival held at London’s Tobacco Dock. The 2015 fiesta was a celebration of Mexican culture and also supported the charity Periodistas de a Pie, which works to defend the rights of journalists and protect freedom of expression in Mexico.
Lapiztola took Periodistas de a Pie as their inspiration to create two murals that took the theme of freedom of speech as well as another on the Day of the Dead as their pièce de résistance. I hope we get to work together again soon.
Now for something festive! This year I have been pleased to have started work with a new client – Christmas at the Spiegeltent. Based in Bristol the Spiegeltent has been a firm favourite on the South West’s social calendar over the years with a fantastic venue at a great location on Bristol’s Harbourside.
As wiki defines it a Spiegeltent (Dutch for “Mirror Tent”, from spiegel+tent) is a large travelling tent, constructed in wood and canvas and decorated with mirrors and stained glass, intended as an entertainment venue. Originally built in Belgium during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, only a handful of these Spiegeltents remain in existence today, and these survivors continue to travel around Europe and beyond – Christmas at the Spiegeltent is lucky to be using the famous Paradiso tent this year.
In my design work for them I referenced some of the features of the Paradiso as well as retro stylings and illustrations of classic cabaret acts; flapper dancers, jazz dance, performance… The print and social media images included separate designs for the inaugural Craft Beer festival and Kid’s Events… It was a pleasure to have such a fun brief. Christmas at the Spiegeltent is open until 19 December – so hurry down!
Painted for the Obra Festival and held in my favourite city I can only wish I was there right now!
It’s great to see their two distinctive styles merging together in this one piece created in good time for Dia de las Muertos.
Talking of which I am currently working with Mexican Street Artists Lapiztola to paint a new Wahaca restaurant in Liverpool and then on to take part in Wahaca’s Dia de las Muertos festival this weekend in London.
News for November – I’m pleased to have been invited to give a talk about Art For Social Change at the Urban Art Biennale 2015 held at at the World Cultural Heritage Site at the Völklingen Ironworks in Völklingen, Germany. Looking forward to talking on this topic and hearing some of the other interesting talks.
I don’t often blog about art projects that I haven’t been involved in but this one is a great example of good practice and is pretty impressive. This new work has just been shared by Boa Mistura, an five person artist collective from Madrid who I featured in my last book Big Art/Small Art, and a group I love to follow… Featuring a leaf design and the word ‘Vida’ this is a vast celebratory work and 5.000m2 has become the largest painted mural in Bogota.
What I enjoy about Boa Mistura’s work is the way they are able to connect with local communities and facilitate projects that highlight social causes even in their role as “outsiders” by the fact they are visiting artists. It seems to come down to good planning and sensitivity that they research their projects many months in advance and work with local people and authorities so they don’t impose ideas but facilitate local ones with their own particular skills…
In their own words here is some more about the project… The Vida piece remembers the 457 families that have been relocated in this new urbanization of social homes. Since a little more than two months ago they have being living together. Each family comes from a different place of the country. They have nothing in common, the ones that come from the pacific with the ones that come from the Caribbean, the amazon zone and the mountain. The only thing in common that they share is, the drama of running away without looking backwards, leaving their lands, their costumes and most of their families, as concequence of the terrible armed conflict that their country lives.
In this context is where the Boa Mistura´s mural appears, with the participation of the neighbors and the inhabitants, to transform the new place where they live and to build new relationships, enforcing the community’s new identity. The work consists in a giant leaf, formed by hundreds of little leafs that are organized in a way that can be read the word VIDA (life). Each one of those leafs belongs to the most significant species of the different ecosystems of the country, making a parallelism with the people that live in this new building with the symbolic representation of their place of origin. It is bringing them a little piece of their land.
Better late than never with this post… Earlier this year I was invited by the University of Bristol’s School of Modern Languages – specifically Hispanic and Catalan studies to take part in their Semana Cultural. I gave a talk firstly on my experiences as an author of the book Graffiti Brasil and my continuing interest in Urban art from Brazil.
On the second day I led a stencil art workshop held in a courtyard on campus where students were given the brief to consider the connections between Bristol and Brazil as a theme. None of the students had ever made a stencil or used spray paint so it was refreshing to work with language students rather than art students in this task and it was great to share in their enthusiasm and what they achieved working in small teams…
Thanks to all at the school for the invitation and to Cass Art in Bristol for their assistance with the workshop.
Raúl Sisniega aka Le Super Demon is an artist and designer based in Mexico City who has fascinated me for a while – I love his use of colourful geometric patterns that are the skeletons of his work that build up into fragmented mythical beasts or folkloric creatures.
Since the new Wahaca site is set inside Manchester’s Corn Exchange it seemed a great idea to reference this in the work. In Mexico corn is seen as the food of the gods and in the mural that he produced for Wahaca his concept was that of a Sun god feeding his children – the Corn.
Wahaca TV made a great film which explains some of these ideas further…
The mural also makes great use of the space telling a story across numerous surfaces. Now that the site is open I was able to take some shots in its first days open to the public….
Trying to catch up on blog posts… In my recent design work for Rich Mix, Talvin Singh graces their latest Autumn Season events brochure. You can see the rest of brochure online via the rather handy Issuu platform – see link
There is always so much to see with a music & arts programme that is ahead of the curve.
I guess the best way to show this is in the film we made about it – produced by Upsides media for Wahaca
Although now relocated to London, where he has been working as an animator, illustrator and painter, Will Barras was one of the original pioneers of Bristol’s urban art scene. He was one of a number of artists who was celebrated at the Crimes of Passion: Street Art exhibition held at the nearby Royal West of England Academy on Queens Road.
Having graduated from Bristol’s UWE University Will’s career began to blossom from his sketchbook doodles, which featured on local club night flyers. He originated his own loose style of drawing which became influential worldwide thanks to exposure in books such as Scrawl and later on the cover of Street Sketchbook. As a member of the “Scrawl Collective” his work took him on worldwide tours where he would create murals and design illustrations for snowboards and other products looking to his fresh style to appeal to a young audience. Most recently Will has been concentrating on his studio based painting practice alongside mural commissions.
Catching up on Wahaca projects again!…
This one was another nice one to do although a logistical nightmare when it came to the painting but in the end it looks wonderful – thanks Ricardo, Softroom and Wahaca..
Ricardo Cavolo is a Spanish artist who has been based in Brighton, UK for some years but is now moving to Barcelona. For many reasons he seemed like the perfect match for the Widegate space, on the one hand there is a big influence of Mexican art in his work, and his work is also popular in Mexico having painted a celebratory Frida Kahlo mural in Mexico City and on a more recent trip painted many murals for numerous clients and education projects. At the same time his work has a big following in London, he recently had his illustrated book, “100 Artists to Listen to Before You Die” published in English by East London based publishers NoBrow.
His bright and bold creations – usually made with traditional techniques and materials such as watercolours, inks and acrylics – depict misfit characters in Frida Kahlo-esque folk art tones and bringing them into a contemporary context with cool details like glasses, tattoos, bikes and sneakers. Inspired by tattoo and folk art his designs have the bold and symbolic aesthetics of tattoo, of which he says, “ I love that tattoos can speak about a life; they are a biography in the skin. More than that, tattoos can be magical symbols or talismans.”
For Wahaca he took the theme of animals painting bold portraits of horses, leopards and tigers as well as more abstract totemic icons.
It’s been a busy year from my art consultancy with Mexican Street Food maestro’s Wahaca – so catching up on our latest installations – here’s one we did earlier…
For the Kentish Town site (above the iconic Underground station) we wanted to support a local artist and at the same time find someone who could work sympathetically with this much-loved former T-shirt Factory space. Our unanimous choice was Goodchild an up-and-coming artist who works on the street and in the studio in a bold iconic style.
Originally from Bristol, having grown up with that cities graffiti scene, Goodchild went on to study illustration in London and has lived in the Kentish Town area for a number of years. The artist describes his work as abstract narratives or wordless stories told through symbols and in this case he tells the story on 5th Column the T-shirt printers, the company that was based there for 30 years and is still going strong but from another location. 5th column was famed through the 80s and 90s for producing protest T-shirts for Peta, WWF and Anti-Apartheid – eventually meeting Nelson Mandela when he visited the UK shortly after his release.
Using limited colours, strong graphic shapes and patterns influenced by underground comics, Goodchild’s murals celebrate this unique space filled with references to this history and the printing process.
With no blog posts for five months it looks like I’ve closed! But its the opposite – I’ve been burning the midnight oil on many art and design projects to be revealed and blogged about in the coming weeks and months; including a new book to be published by Thames and Hudson in Spring 2016, art direction and management on soon to be five new Wahaca art projects and design work for some nice new clients….
But starting the blog report here is how my design work has been shaping up for Rich Mix, with their regular printed brochure building up to strong visual style which I also translated into a new vinyl design for their front windows….
Following from my previous work for Rich Mix, I recently designed a What’s On guide for the month of January in the form of A6 folded leaflet. It’s a nice handy pocket format which has served well however for February and March we have just designed a 32 page A5 brochure which I’m looking forward to seeing printed!
Another late post but towards the end of 2014 saw the publication of Antony Lister – Adventure Painter! It is a terrific book celebrating the work of my favourite antipodean painter, friend and collaborator Mr Lister.
Produced by the inimitable Roger Gastman this the most extensive monograph of the artist to date full of sketches and behind the scenes imagery. Having previously championed Lister’s work and worked with him on a number of limited edition prints with Pictures on Walls I was pleased to be asked to be one of co-authors of the book.
The book is divided into outside street work and gallery work and my text was for the “gallery” section. You’ll have to track down a copy of the book to read my text, but its well worth seeking out the book to discover and to appreciate the painterly skills and force of nature that is Mr Lister!
Having been a fan for some years it was a pleasure to invite the Berlin based dynamic duo (Julio and Sebastian) also known as 44 Flavours to work their paint magic for us. As their website shows they have an amazing versatility and spectacular artistic range from painting, to sculpture and design.
With some guidance as to the things we liked in their work, the artists were given free range to paint ideas that worked with the space and its distinctive features such as its raw terracotta bricks. Using motifs from their sketchbooks, doodles they had made whilst strolling around Cardiff and otherwise free-styling.
What I enjoyed about their work is that they liked to play with forms and break conventions – such as twisting perspectives or reversing shadows and objects to create unexpected compositions. Although the only shots I have are so far are from the last day of the production, the end results looked amazing. Thanks Julio and Sebastian!
News update: The Wahaca Cardiff site was the a UK winner in the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards in the Multiple Restaurant category – congratulations to Soft Room the architects for another fantastic job!
This year it seems that a good few artists I know and have championed in the past have decided it’s time they published their works in their own monograph books…
Consequently I’ve had a few requests from artists to contribute texts – based on my previous experience and appreciation of their work. Finally a number of these books are finally in print and have begun arriving in the post…
First up is this handsome volume for Bue the Warrior…
I first came across Bue’s work when I travelled to Belgium as part of my research for the Street Sketchbook book. Belgium has a particularly vibrant scene often influenced by the strong Bande dessinée culture and in the end Street Sketchbook featured Belgian artists heavily.
Bue the Warrior published by Lanoo is a beautiful object – I was lucky enough to receive the limited edition version which came with a screen print and overall the design of the book (by graphic designer Janine Kopatz) is beautiful …. It features plush pattern details on the front and die-cut tabs on the inside body pages – tasty!
Bue has always been a great traveller – taking his characterful street art to many corners of the world and particularly Mexico which he has a real affinity for and where he also has a big following. The book has Spanish texts to accommodate his following…
For that reason I gave my text a Mexican flavour – titling the piece The Piñata Maker – or El Pinatero… Bue’s next projects include setting up a waffle shop in Mexico City so the Mexican connection continues…
To mark the occasion of the book release in typical Bue style he held a fun-filled (kid friendly) party to celebrate… Check out the photos here…
Rich Mix is a cultural centre in the heart of East London. They always seem to be be putting on music, showing films and exhibiting art that interests me and so it was a pleasure to be asked to design their newest listings brochure for December 2014.
They wanted it to be pocket-sized – folding down to A6. This was a similar idea to a poster/leaflet I had designed previously for them for Joga Bola!
It was printed by the excellent Calverts – a local printers COOP, on a matt paper. Looking good…
Since 2012 I have been working with Wahaca, UK specialists in Mexican street food on an arts programme for each of their new spaces. My work for them is partly a curation role, by introducing to them to interesting street artists from around the world and matching the right artist to a particular space or project. This can involve planning with architects, artist liaison, production and documentation.
The most recent site has revamped and utilised a unique building in the heart of Brixton on the corner of Electric Lane that has been empty for 12 years. The building which is much loved by the locals and was a former Railway hostelry and the site of the old Brady’s pub. Above the building run the overground lines and the surrounding area are the famous Brixton markets…
Rather than destroy the old layers of history our brief was to work with the exterior and interior surfaces we found. In this regard the chosen artists Roid and SatOne did a fantastic job working together to create art that was sympathetic to the architecture and local life. Having grown up in the area local artist Roid took inspiration from patterns such as the dutch wax african patterns sold in African material shops in the market. The respected German artist SatOne had collaborated numerous times with Roid before and seemed the perfect partner for the commission. Here are a few more shots in progress.
To celebrate the work Wahaca TV undertook interviews with the artists as they were finishing the painting. They spoke about their experience first-hand in producing the work – much better than I can explain here!…
The Exposed gallery is a new space and venture in Russia and so this was the first time that I’ve been asked to design using Russian language and to liaise with printers in Russia. In the end the results were perfect.