Celebrating a town’s musical diversity
Last autumn our local Croydon shopping centre, Centrale & Whitgift, put out a call for artists and collectives to submit visual ideas for an immersive indoor art trail with a focus on the borough’s music scene – to celebrate its diversity and creativity, both past and present. The trail would have an accompanying soundtrack so each artwork would need to be inspired by three songs from a relevant genre.
Having a particular interest in the culture of our hometown, and already running two Croydon community-based initiatives, the Croydonist and Cro Cro Land, it seemed the perfect project for 31% Wool to be involved with. So we submitted a proposal, which linked to the punk roots of Croydon as well as connecting to the ethos of our Cro Cro Land music festival.
Our artwork was one of the eight chosen for the project and the trail launched across the shopping centre at the beginning of May with an accompanying Spotify playlist. Via our Croydonist blog we featured all of the eight artworks and their creators, but I was interested in discussing further how some of the pieces were created.
So here, I talk about our process, as well as chatting to four of the other trail artists to find out more about theirs.
Birthplace of Punk
Our artwork fuses together punk, past and present. The past, as Croydon was a birthplace of punk in the 1970s – from the infamous Greyhound nightclub to artist/political activist and creator of the iconic Sex Pistols imagery Jamie Reid (who went to secondary and art school here). The present, as in 2019 our Cro Cro Land festival brought together punk-inspired bands such as Bugeye, The Weird Things, Frauds and Werecats to play in Croydon.
We utilised the typical punk aesthetic of spray paint and the bright pink and yellow punk colours from the 70s and combined it with the graphic icon we originally created for the Croydonist brand (symbolising Croydon’s famous landmark No. 1 Croydon) to design a bespoke modular typeface for ‘birthplace of punk’.
As you can imagine, creating a digital piece of artwork to supply to the printers that was over 2.75 metres by 2.2 metres at 100% size, was no easy task – it involved spray-painting many segments of the piece to get the authentic texture, then scanning them into the computer and piecing them together and refining them in Photoshop. This nearly broke the studio’s Macs as it became such a vast file! The end result was worth the attention to detail.
Croydon: The Sound of a Town
by Gavin Kinch of The Town That Love Built
Gavin is a well-known Croydon artist with some of the most mesmerising futuristic scenes appearing across Croydon over the years. Gavin likes to draw his hometown as he says it feeds his imagination.
Gavin: The most important component of my process is the ideas stage. If you’re working professionally, it’s not enough to explore ideas as and when they come to you – so I set aside an afternoon of books, cinema and even music to find inspiration for the project. In this case it was the artwork of Syd Mead and the history of poster design from the Disney parks, with Blade Runner showing in the background.
The role of technology in my work is to get from the imaginary to the expressive as smoothly as possible. I’ll often build the foundations within a 3D environment which enables me to place myself inside the world I’m trying to illustrate and, once it feels right, I’ll start to draw. This usually means an iPad Pro and pencil to start and a Mac and mouse to finish. Creativity for me flourishes best within a very finite environment, which is especially important when you’re faced with the paralysis of choice that the digital world provides us: the trick is to find the bit that leaps off the page early on and run with it.
If the process isn’t working, I’ll revisit a project that came together fluidly and try and capture some of that spirit. Elements that misbehave in one project often get placed aside only to become the lead role in the next.
‘Electric Stormz’ by Alec Saunders
Alec is a Croydon-born artist and Head of Art at a local school. He strives to inspire and create opportunities for tomorrow’s adult generation, through art, sport and charitable causes.
Alec: I originally painted a design of Stormzy to either replace my original one which was damaged on Croydon's Park Street, or to possibly replace the Churchill piece in Croydon town centre to have an image that better represents our population. This was in spray paint and acrylic (not pictured). When a colleague told me about the art trail I tried to incorporate my original piece into this one.
I digitally edited the image adding the colours and distortion to the piece to tie in with the meaning behind it and link to the music. The shutters were originally supposed to blend perfectly with the piece once it was placed on the windows, but as you can see I had to guess where to put them due to the vinyls going on after the shutter was painted. This was hard as I wouldn't know how the piece would look or blend once completed. The covering up of the surrounding areas where I was to paint took three times Ionger to cover than it did for me to actually paint the colours onto the shutter.
Never Mind The Concrete, The Talent Is Here
by Wesley Baker
Wesley is a well-known Croydon artist, photographer and creator of CDN.
Wesley: The work was based on wheat paste street art. Initially created in Photoshop the process involved collecting the individual photos of all the individuals and composing them in a single document to look cohesive. This involved tweaking the scaling so everyone looked like they fitted in with each other.
I chose to print the compositions at my local internet café which meant due to the limit of printing on A3 paper I had to use guides to create A3 sections across each composition. I’d copy each one and paste it into an A3 document ready to print off.
On site for the installation I cut the images to size and arranged them on the ground ready to apply to the wall. I’d apply wallpaper paste to the walls and place the section to tile in reality to the walls. Once on the wall I would apply another layer over the top to seal the paper to the wall. As I went along I switched the technique up sometimes attaching four or six pieces of paper together to install a larger section of the mural in one go.
by Play for Progress + ATMA
Play for Progress is a charity that uses the power of music and arts to celebrate diversity and fuel community. They run therapeutic music and art classes to support asylum-seeking young people in Croydon and curate and host collaborative exhibitions and performances to encourage positive community bonding. They work exclusively with unaccompanied refugees and asylum seekers aged 15-21 from all over the globe who now call Croydon home.
ATMA (recently featured on BBC for his 200 nationalities mural) is an extensive collaborator having worked with renowned institutions such as the Lazarides Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, Punch Drunk, and in association with Lufthansa, Dulux, Camel and HTC. He believes that mural art is a tool for social justice, it can change perception of a neighbourhood or community and can create a sense of belonging.
ATMA: During our weekly Play for Progress sessions with young people, musicians and facilitators, we play, improvise and create. As music is used as a therapeutic tool, we started to develop a giant drawing depicting the emotions behind music and togetherness, where everyone contributes. It was kind of a giant flow, with one drawing leading to another, creating a chain of visual sounds. Shapes and colours communicate and develop into a final concept, starting with a flute player (playing the NE, a traditional Kurdish instrument), leading to a wave of designs and finally landing as a heart into a receiving hand.
The final design that I created based on these researches, was then drawn and painted with everyone involved. Everyone has painted their own designs, as well as contributing to others.
Thank you to Gavin, Alec, Wesley and ATMA for chatting with me.
You can experience all eight artworks in Centrale & Whitgift until 30 September 2021:
‘Croydon: The Sound of a Town’ by Gavin Kinch of The Town That Love Built (Centrale)
‘Electric Stormz’ by Alec Saunders (Centrale)
‘Never Mind The Concrete, The Talent Is Here’ by Wesley Baker of CDN Creative (Centrale)
‘Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’ by Bareface (Centrale)
‘Living Orchestra’ by Wadzanai Chanel (Whitgift)
‘Birthplace of Punk’ by 31% Wool (Whitgift)
‘Soundscape’ by Play for Progress + ATMA (Whitgift)
‘No Limits’ by Dani Yani (Whitgift)
Artwork images courtesy of the artists and Centrale & Whitgift.