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Category: Art life

Penfold: train spotting her way around the urban art world since 2012.

My love of art was something I cultivated later in life, shortly after I discovered the art of surrounding yourself with things and beings that make you smile. Big fan of changing our day to day landscape of city grey to an awesome array of visual delights.

Collector, small time curator and all round celebrator.

That time when I realised just how awesome Martha Cooper really is

Now don’t get me wrong. I always had a sense of Martha’s all round awesomeness. But I had no real understanding of just how far and wide that awesomeness truly spanned.

I was lucky enough to bag a ticket to see Martha speak at a curated event; Chasing Visual Play, at Central Saint Martins earlier this month. She was one of three speakers, all completely brilliant in totally different ways.

Martha kept it simple. She simply told us about her life and some of what her journey had been so far. She told us of a young person who was utterly captivated by photography and observing the world around her from an early age. That instinctive curiosity saw her travel the world as a very young person; at one stage instead of buying a ticket home, choosing to buy a motorbike and ride solo across a large part of it. For a woman at that moment in time – that really is something quite remarkable.

The bravery with which she allowed her creativity to unfold, is something I am truly in awe of. As a young person, I allowed my creativity to be quashed and the doubts to creep in. She didn’t. She did it. And more power to her. She was captivated by the idea of play. By the idea of people creating opportunities for play in environments where play was not readily available. And so then she found the beginnings of graffiti. Almost at it’s very point of inception. Certainly at the moment in time when the movement was beginning.

She then became a hugely influential and important part of the graffiti (and now also street art) community at large, documenting work that, had it not been for her, none of us would have been lucky enough to see. Her other photography work from the 1970’s and 1980’s also just captures life in its most fabulous forms. Children creating and exploring. The birth of breakdancing and the incredible hip hop movement – one that shapes and forms my life to this day.

What do I so love about the movement? Being part of a group that swim against the tide. Being part of a group where creativity is respected and honoured. Gigs are a great example of this. Hip hop crowds are some of the most respectful and thoughtful crowds I’ve ever had the pleasure to dance amongst. Now clearly there are exceptions – but so many other genres of music have quite a different following of people, where respect for one another and the performer is often the thing that’s sadly lacking. Expression is everything, and this movement encapsulates that.

Also; I have never been embraced more readily and openly by strangers than I have been by the art community, and by that I mean anyone broadly related to art on the streets and in public spaces. I meet new people in this space all the time and the reception is almost always a wonderful one, one that is free from judgement and mistrust. A rare collection of people who are prepared to embrace one another ‘sold as seen’. There’s is such a richness and vibrance to this community, united by our love of visual stimulation.

Martha was not the only amazing human I was lucky enough to see at this event. There were two more;

Tom Oswald was kind enough to share some of the background and all0w us to view the trailer for his upcoming film VOLTS. A film looking at the history of graffiti on the London Underground. I will share the trailer and update this if I can find it. The camera work is absolutely stunning. It truly captures the beauty of the London Underground and the people who are looking to brighten it up. I excitedly await the full release.

And last but by no means least, was a lawyer named Yogain Chandarana, who recently fought and won a case against a graffiti magazine ‘Keep the Faith’, created, funded and developed by Marcus Barnes. Rather shockingly, Marcus was up on charges for ‘encouraging the commission of criminal damage’ and facing hefty jail time if convicted. The win was not just a win for Marcus, it was a win for free speech. There are thousands of similar magazines and books in the world, to prosecute someone for something like this is utterly insane. Read more about Marcus’ story from the man himself here. Without cases like this, even this very blog post could be accused of doing similar.

Thank you to everyone who shared their stories with us at the event and even more so to those who made it happen in the first place. It truly was an exceptional and inspirational experience.

Photo is from Martha’s current exhibition at StolenSpace, which runs until February 28th, 2016. Go and check it out!

That time when I realised that Social Media is kind of a big deal

Social media; some love it some loathe it. I’m the former, as opposed to the latter. For me it opened up my world, changed my perspective and is one of the biggest things that supported my development into the truest version of myself, both personally and professionally. Bold statement huh? Well it’s true.

I was a reluctant adopter at first, forced by a friend to go on Facebook in 2007 and it made me feel massively uncomfortable,  I didn’t really post anything, just occasionally (reluctantly) got tagged in a hideous photo, that kind of thing. I joined LinkedIn in 2008, the next social network on my radar, and the one that’s gone on to become by far the biggest for me.

LinkedIn really was a real game changer from a professional standpoint. When I started out in recruitment in 2001 we still faxed CV’s to companies. Yes. That’s right. FAXED. So when it came to headhunting, that meant picking up the phone and trying to track down folks in roles that you thought might be relevant for what you needed. Trying to pin them down on the phone was murder. Then when you did, 9 times out of 10 they ended up not having quite the right skill set. Finding people on LinkedIn now is, quite literally, night and day.

LinkedIn also gave me a human face for the first time ever. People had to stop seeing Recruiters as creatures from another planet, and finally got to see that we were humans, just like them too. Suddenly they could also see our work history, our career choices, and most importantly; what other people thought about us. That was huge. 

My connections also gave me credibility – people would often connect based on connections in common in the early days and base that decision on how they perceive those people. It’s safe to say LinkedIn was therefore my first true social media love *swoons* and my network continues to blossom. 

In 2011 came Twitter. I’d recently jet propelled myself out of my unhappy life into a brave new world. When you have spent a substantial amount of time living for someone or something else, once you stop, one of the hardest things to do is to work out who the hell you are anyway. When I was a teenager, it was easy to pick my tribe, because I had a view of what all my options were, living in the small but perfectly formed City of Bristol, as I could see them. In 2011 as a ‘grown up’ living in London, I had no idea where to begin.

It was Twitter that gave me the chance to do exactly that. Twitter gave me a platform to connect back to my passions, plus discover a few new ones. Those passions focused around a few central themes; people, art and music.  

SoundCloud quickly followed; a universe of talented musicians and amazing remixes. Using SoundCloud, I was able to discover new music, find new music, make new friends, then share it all on Twitter. 

Then came Tumblr. A wonderful Universe of… STUFF. I mainly used this for art discovery, but some music also. My Tumbling is now minimal, having largely been replaced by Pinterest, which appeals to my OCD side, a brilliant collection of boards full of inspiring stuff. I use it as my go to place for ideas on a multitude of things. 

I spent about a year happily tweeting away, discovering amazing things, sharing those discoveries and connecting with amazing people. Many of those pixelated friends became real life friends, whether I’d actually ever met the person physically or not. 

Through making those connections, I quickly realised (to my delight) that the world was full of brilliantly talented weirdos, just like me. Each of us living, breathing, feeling, making mistakes, learning, growing and finding our own way through, silently rooting for one another, with a ‘like’ here, and a ‘favourite’ there.

Last came Instagram, and with that my love of photography was reborn. My confidence in terms of creative pursuits was truly bashed out of me at secondary school, so what a delight therefore to discover such an affinity with creativity and creative people in my 30’s, for that I am truly blessed.

Once I had found my groove, in terms of who I am in the world, my obsession with social media calmed down. I’m still very ‘active’ by most people’s standards, but I now don’t need to Instagram 8 times a day, or tweet every morning. I share when I feel compelled to and make observations when the mood takes me, rather than record every last minute of everything. I firmly believe though that without social media it would have taken me much longer to work out who I was, what I liked, and importantly, what makes my heart sing.

Social media has opened up my world exponentially, both personally and professionally, and I’m always up for trying the next new app to see what it has to offer. So even for those who hate social media, perhaps it’s worth considering whether your own networks might have been positively influenced by it’s existence, even just a little bit. 

That time when I got on a train to Battersea

It’s funny, although I’ve never lived there, Battersea (and its surrounding areas) will always be a place of special significance for me. My life has held many chapters that have taken me to the area for different reasons. 

At first it was visiting my sister Becky there when she set up home there post University, but then it just seemed like I never ran out of reasons to keep going back. The hotch potch majesty of Clapham Junction station. An inexhaustible amount of trains and people flowing through, with me often amongst them. Whether passing through at speed, stuck as a passenger on the tracks, or meandering around the streets; somehow it became mine too.

I spent the most time in the area when I worked for a recruitment company called Bullet in Balham. That company was such an important stop for me, full of brilliantly passionate and supportive humans. It was under their employment that I underwent the biggest amount of personal change, so that area formed the back drop for some of my most significant evolution, that of being caged to setting myself free. 

I can remember so vividly, once the dust had begun to settle post divorce, viewing the world with completely new eyes, and eyes filled with wonder. My other sister, Jessica, likened me to a child who thinks everything is exciting, new and never been seen before. I think that’s a pretty fair description of what I became, and actually what I still hold on to a lot of the time to this day. I’m always ‘down’ to go and see, hear and experience something new, and make it my mission to do so as often as I can. 

It’s so important to re-visit the places and people that have an imprint on our souls, and Battersea absolutely falls into that category. For me, taking the time to check in on my past, helps to keep me focused on moving even further forward to brighter things.

Tonight I experienced that tenfold. Not just for the area I found myself in, but what I was there to see. A few years back I met a brilliant boy named Sean Mahoney, and one that absolutely left an imprint on my soul. He was performing at Remedy Raw at the Ben Oakley Gallery (courtesy of the brilliant Music is Remedy) and from the moment I met him I was spellbound. This boy vibrates at a frequency that very few can ever hope to emulate. 

An extremely talented and much loved regular on the spoken word circuit, his honesty and straightforwardness were the things I loved about him the most. He’s 100% real.

Tonight he was performing in his very own self penned one man show, Until You Hear That Bell. My only sadness in seeing it now, is that I didn’t see it 2 weeks ago to tell you all about it sooner (there are 2 nights left – GO!). He took us all on a journey through his childhood, in the most humble and charming way. He absolutely held our attention, and produced a performance that really made us feel like we were watching a snapshot of his life, like we were right there with him.

If you can’t make it down to the show, make it your business to try and catch Sean performing somewhere one day. Here is a little excerpt I found to whet your appetites.

Spoken word as an art form, is something that I have found profoundly impactful along the way. It’s like people are sharing a little part of their soul with you, as we experience across many different art forms, but this really can be felt in the most direct way. 

Lastly, try to also make it your business to reconnect with the sights and sounds of your past, both good and bad. Try not to be afraid of them (as I know I have been before), but choose instead to see them as another brilliant part of your incredible life story. Revel in the memories, and make walking through those well worn streets like re-watching an old favourite film. And just like watching that favourite film, you might just discover some new bits that you missed the first time round… you never know. 

That time when I learnt about the recent creative journey of Barcelona

I love MYA Gallery. If you haven’t been already, please go and check out this amazing space.

Under the new creative leadership of the incredible Tina Ziegler, a talented curator, art dealer and gallerist I have been blessed to have known for a number of years, the place truly shines.

A little known fact is that I attended one of Tina’s brilliant courses on curating a couple of years back. Her passion and dedication to the art world is massively inspiring.

I was there to see a screening of  ‘BCN – Rise and Fall’ by Aleix Gordo Hostau and Gustavo López Lacalle. A beautiful look at art on the streets of Barcelona. Once a celebration of creativity, Barcelona had no rules around creating art in the city, and people were able to paint freely. What resulted was a brilliant explosion of life, with art all over the streets and people coming together to create something truly wonderful. This changed in the late 2000’s, when the council changed their stance on this and made it illegal. Any person found painting/pasting on the streets became subject to a massive fine, so what resulted was a period of artistic dictatorship. The walls were wiped ‘clean’, and perceived ‘order’ was restored. There were no legal paint sites.

This drove the scene back underground, a familiar place to many people who make up part of this community. The creative brilliance of collective collaboration ended however, with many artists heading to other cities to paint more freely.

Today green shoots are starting to appear, and artistic projects are started unfold across the city once again. There is hope for Barcelona yet.

For me, art should be everywhere, enjoyed by everyone, whether you are the painter or the admirer. My love affair with the art world began in 2012, and continues to this day. Art in the outside world means reaching and inspiring a whole new audience every day. It’s a chance to inspire young minds to try something a little different.

As a youngster, I was always attracted to and intoxicated by things that embodied any form of rebellion, that went a little against the grain of what society deemed to be acceptable. So I fully understand the need to captivate these young minds in the right way. As a tee total vegan, I am still living out my own form of mass market rebellion 😉

Also, frankly, I love anything that makes this a world a little more beautiful, anything that expands my mind a little further, anything that gives me pause for thought, a moment to be inspired by others through their creative expression.

One of my favourite Spanish artists has to be Pez, with his perfect smiling fish faces – art at its most fun and vibrant of all. I’ve often felt his little fish embody my spirit in artistic form. I dare you to look at one of his smiling little fish faces and not smile. They are superb.

Also from the film, I have to mention the incredible work of Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada. His large scale work is some of the most beautiful work I have ever seen. His giant painting of Christian Guemy‘s eyes at Moniker Art Fair a couple of years back, remains imprinted on my eyeballs to this day. To witness him creating that first hand, was utterly awe inspiring.

Check out a trailer of the film here:

Kaleidoscope, the exhibition celebrating of some of Barcelona’s finest artists, runs until April 3rd, 2015 at MYA Gallery.