Blog

Wahaca Brighton - artwork by Mazatl

Catching up on my blogging news it was a pleasure earlier in the year to be able to work with the super talented Mexican artist Mazatl for the creation of artworks at the new Wahaca site in Brighton. Mazatl is a painter and printmaker who lives in Mexico City where he takes part in several collectives seeking social / political / environmental justice. His work predominantly features animals in a symbolic way to depict struggle and the indomitable spirit.

Mazatl painting an Axoltl

For Wahaca in Brighton he focused on a fascinating creature – the Axoltl or Mexican Salamander – whose native habitation is Mexico City, although none are reported to be living in the wild. As part of the project we made a film for Wahaca TV in which the artist explains more about the installations in his own words…

As a printmaker his style is characterised by strong use of detailed black and white designs through relief prints. On the street his work is influenced by the prints but introducing limited colour palettes. With the Brighton site we had the opportunity to display some of Mazatl’s original prints in the private dining room.

Mazatl framed print

As part of my curation work for the dining room I was also able to showcase original artworks from other Mexican artists such as Buytronick who produced an amazing quadriptych stencil piece over four panels of old street signs for us while we also commissioned another famous stencil artist, Acamonchi from Tijuana – to produce hand-screenprinted posters which we used a wallpaper background for an entire wall. It was great to include these artists as well, since Buytronick and Mazatl are both part of the same painting crew – APC and Acamonchi was one of the artists I featured in my first book Stencil Graffiti.

Buytronick & Acamonchi

IMG_2657

I am excited to finally have a printed copy of my new book Make Your Mark. It’s been a long time in the making and I’m really pleased to see the final finish. The cover features artwork by the fantastic Gustavo Ortiz and the equally talented 44flavours created the typography for it.

IMG_2660

I was encouraged to write this book from my role as an educator – I teach Illustration part-time at Plymouth College of Art, where we try to nurture students to develop a personal and original visual approach to their work. Whether you are a student or a practicing artist, ‘making your mark’ is a central and guiding principal in the arts, it is the impression or feeling an artist leaves upon the viewer conveyed through an artwork. It is the passion to create and to express oneself, to bring forward messages and to explore and challenge ideas. Make your Mark is therefore intended to take this central idea as inspiration, firstly in terms of how an artist can develop their ‘voice’ as an artist as well as the practical application in the process of creation, through drawing, painting and various craft methods.

IMG_2662

The book is divided into three chapters – Drawing, Painting and Making – focusing on these basic skills and how artists are taking them in new directions, while also working across disciplines.

IMG_2664

It was a great pleasure to feature artists I had long admired but hadn’t previously found the right vehicle to showcase them before. Artists such as Gustavo Ortiz, Joao Ruas, Raymond Lemstra and Mark Francis Williams had been long term favourites of mine so I glad to create a book where this wide-range of approaches could coexist.

IMG_2667

I have long been an advocate and fan of street art and graffiti for many decades so there is a natural focus for me in this area so this book also gave me the stage to show some great artists that have been coming to International attention in this field in recent years such as Ernest Zacharevic, Franco Fasoli and Pastel to name a few. The book will be available at all good book stores from April 4th 2016.

IMG_2658

 

IMG_2320

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.

IMG_2330

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.

IMG_2340

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.

IMG_8325

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.

IMG_8318

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.

IMG_2383

IMG_8537

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.

IMG_8538

IMG_8833

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.

IMG_8836

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.

IMG_8840

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!

02_AlexisDiaz-INTI_O-BRA festival_SaoPaulo-Brasil_2015_WEB

Two artists I admire and like to follow Inti from Chile and Alexis Diaz from Puerto Rico sent me an update from their latest collaborative project.

05_AlexisDiaz-INTI_O-BRA festival_SaoPaulo-Brasil_2015_WEB

Painted for the Obra Festival and held in my favourite city I can only wish I was there right now!

07_AlexisDiaz-INTI_O-BRA festival_SaoPaulo-Brasil_2015_WEB

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.

00 BOAMISTURA_BOGOTÁ_LowRes_7961

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.

03 BOAMISTURA_BOGOTÁ_LowRes_3784

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…
06 BOAMISTURA_BOGOTÁ_LowRes_7627

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.

10 BOAMISTURA_BOGOTÁ_LowRes_3989

BOA MISTURA PLAZA DE LA HOJA. BOGOTÁ, September 2015.

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.

IMG_5852

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…

IMG_5850

IMG_5854

Thanks to all at the school for the invitation and to Cass Art in Bristol for their assistance with the workshop.