styling & text
A COLL ABOR ATION WITH LONDON’S FIN EST AND LE VI’S ® BLUE
The perception is that it’s just East London that’s overowing with creative juices – in places such as Shoreditch, Whitechapel and Bethnal Green – but in fact the whole of London has its share of gallery spaces, artist collectives and scenes. While much of it can be put down to the success of a previous generation of artists – the Frieze Art movement, say, or the ‘Young British Artists’ such as Damien Hirst, Gary Hume or
Chris Oli – the glamour, grandeur and atmosphere of wealth surrounding these Charles Saatchi-championed darlings seem light years away from the reality experienced by the majority of today’s art practitioners. If that previous generation still holds an unwavering grip on the high-stakes international art scene, their value system and creative business model seem dated now, synonymous as they are with the conspicuous consumption and materialism of the 80s and 90s. Although those artists initially appeared to be reacting against late-20th-century ennui and the cultural dumbing down of the 80s and 90s, many of them quickly became consumed by the very thing they sought to undermine: debate was replaced by bold headlines and importance determined in the auction room. The current generation of artists, like bastard children reacting against their progenitor, are far less sensationalist in their approach, and in some ways are much more complex as a result. When we asked one artist to tell us a joke, she simply said, “Damien Hirst”.
We spoke to a few young and dynamic members of this new creative community, each recognised as a talent to watch out for in the near future. Very individual in what they do, they exemplify just what it is that makes art in London such a huge attraction. These artists aren’t taking on the grand showstopping issues of the previous generation, nor are they courting agents and galleries. In keeping with the times, perhaps, their art is like their approach to life in London – a world apart. Laura, a young artist fresh out of college, seems to sum up this new attitude. When discussing her work as an artist, she says: “I love what I do, and what I do is purely for myself. If other people like it, or if they don’t like what I do, that’s entirely up to them.” Her work is a photographybased endeavour which draws our attention to everyday objects and spaces in a fresh and often disarming way. She showed her end-of-year project in London’s Brick Lane this past summer. “It took me a long time to nd the courage to believe in my work and do something that I truly love,” explains Laura. “Exhibiting in London’s Brick Lane gave me the opportunity to
The popular belief in magazines around the world is that, in London at least, today’s artist is the new musician. Where once upon a time everyone made music, either in a band or at home on their laptop, London nowadays is overflowing with artists, movements, happenings, private views and art fairs. Galleries, all white-walled and spacious, are popping up across the city like daisies in spring – in basements and lofts, behind photographer’s studios or in erstwhile factory spaces with big chimney flues in the middle. They’re like hotspots in a huge metropolitan playground, where there’s always something new to see and someone new to play with.
Illustration www.myspace.com/simonsigma V-neck: Levi's® Blue 08524 grey / Jeans: Levi's® Blue 05008 / White Plimsolls: Blackman’s
CODE TALKS TO SOME OF LONDON’S UP-AND-COMING ARTISTS ABOUT WHAT MAKES IT THE PLACE TO BE… OR NOT.
Martha: Arts and crafts www.do-be-do.net Henley T-shirt: Levi's® Blue 04018 0004 Jeans: Levi's® Blue 01041 Riem: Urban Outfitters
show my work and share my passion. When I rst visited Brick Lane, it had a buzz and a real sense of energy. I just knew I had to be part of it, and by exhibiting my work I was.” Whereas the previous generation of artists seem to have ocked to London looking for fame and fortune, to establish themselves on the artist rating ladder, it appears that the current generation are drawn by less tangible, ultimately conicting attractions. Andreas, an artist from Norway, has lived in London for four years, studying ne art photography. For him, London has proved a good place to come to, and a good place to leave as well. As a photographer, Andreas appreciates that living in London has its pluses. “The myriad different nationalities and backgrounds make
“When we asked one artist to tell us a joke, she simply said, “Damien Hirst”. for a very particular phenomenon – random encounters and interesting stories. I can socially be totally anonymous, left alone to observe, etc. Ironically, the lack of private space is a huge issue,” he says. “You have to travel far for silence. I have a need to be loud without the constant feeling of being overheard. I nd that difcult to deal with.” Astrid, a young artist from Canada, has a similarly complex relationship with her chosen city, especially when compared to her hometown of Toronto. “There are a lot of similar styles and characters,” she says, “but it’s so much more condensed here. Sometimes it’s overwhelming.” A highly skilled seamstress, Astrid makes small, compact books from leather, combining the attention to detail of an artist with the expertise of a traditional craftsman. “I think in London you have a better chance to make it as an artist, and you feel the excitement of other people to do well. It’s also fast, so it keeps you going. But everything in London’s like that.” Both Astrid and Andreas are quite happy to dispel some of the great London myths: the received wisdom that it’s a forever fresh city full of cutting-edge artists, undiscovered spots and neighbourhoods with cheap accommodation. To the idea that London is overowing with
Photography fine art www.andreastovan.com Streepjesshirt: Levi's® Blue 06526 / Hoed: H&M / Zonnebril: Vintage Arkiv / Horloge: Tag Heuer
One thing that every artist will agree upon, however, is that London isn’t easy. It’s one of the most expensive cities in the world, with the cost of living exacerbated by the cost of creating. Sinclair gives his take on the matter: “The idea that the London lm industry is better than it has been is a myth, or it certainly hasn’t happened on my watch. The bottom line is, you have to do it all yourself.” For Laura, too, the day when she’s able to dedicate all her time to her art has yet to arrive. “Although not strictly suffering for my art, I do have to do commercial work to help fund my personal projects. The commercial jobs help me indulge my passion,” she explains. Victoria Grant makes and sells hats. One of the few young milliners in the country, she, too, is
taking a traditional craft and elevating it into a contemporary sphere. While the business side is important, and in fact something she enjoys – “particularly the drive of deadlines” – she also believes it’s important to keep them separate. “Creating needs freedom, space, and an open mind – strategy and regiment would stie imagination,” she says. Like the other artists we spoke to, Victoria is keen to distance herself from the previous generation’s approach to London and what happens “when people forget to love what they do and competition and hierarchy become their goal.” If today’s young artists living in London are very different from the previous generation, they’re still every bit as serious about their chosen eld. What makes them different, perhaps, is that their labour is rst and foremost for love and the pursuit of creative expression, rather than for nancial reward. That doesn’t mean, however, that they see being an artist as some form of hobby. As Sinclair said: “I don’t know any jokes about artists, although years ago I was once told by someone to get a proper job. I thought he was joking.”
Milliner www.victoriagrant.co.uk Shirt: Levi's® Blue 06018 / Jeans: Levi's® Blue 01041 / Hoed: Victoria Grant
According to lm maker Sinclair, another great myth, that London is a place which fosters individuality like no other, is also under threat, ironically perhaps, as a result of its huge popularity among artists around the world. “There is a lack of diversity coming through,” says Sinclair. “The fact is that creating art is seen as creating a trend, when the message should be about expression and meaning.” As London becomes increasingly known as one of the world’s great locations for young artists, the danger, he feels, is that it will be judged as an extension of youth culture; a transient, fashion-fuelled environment based on trends and personalities, not content and ideas. “The artist is not important”, he says, “the work is.” Not surprisingly, as “a Londoner, born and bred”, Sinclair produces work that’s urban without the stereotypical elements one might expect from an artist whose work is inspired by the dark, grimy side of inner-city London. Along
with his fellow artists in the collective Plot 23, he produces narrative-based lms using live action and animation. For him, London is not just home; it’s the material with which he works. His inspiration therefore is broad – “my parents’ stories, architecture, comics, computer games, skateboarders and skateboarding circa 1980s.” Sinclair adds: “As a lm maker, I see myself visualising a broad range of creations, deciphering and extracting ideas that I feel I can apply to another text.”
cutting-edge art, Astrid responds: “I’m not saying that it’s not, but there’s amazing art everywhere. It’s just that London is a good stage.” When asked why he chose to study in London, Andreas is no less forthcoming: “London had it all, I thought. I obviously forgot about sunshine, privacy and affordable housing.”
Laura: Photography fine art www.lauranayler.com Jurk: Levi's速 Blue 04039 Ketting: Glitter & Twisted Legging: American Apparel
Independent galleries www.trolleybooks.com and Maverick Showrooms, Redchurch Street London Jeans: Levi's速 Blue 402837 / Zwart T-shirt: Levi's速 Blue 06526 / Hoed: Banana Republic / T-shirt: Alternative Apparel