The gallery manager of Stolen Space gallery on street art and graffiti in London.
Interview by Posy Dixon, photo by Owen Richards
I honestly believed I was like the next Michelangelo or someone when I was little. My grandma lived in this tiny little village in Northumberland and used to enter me into art competitions all the time and I always won. Only later in life did I realise it was because no one else entered them!
My love of street art started about 10 years ago when I moved to London and started to photograph the graffiti I saw around me. Then I read the book Beautiful Losers and becoming aware of this whole movement which had been happening in the US really inspired me and made me look at what was happening here in the UK.
In 2005 a friend introduced me to D*Face who had just opened the Outside Institute in Paddington. The first show I saw was a group show of UK street artists and it blew me away. At the time you could feel something very exciting was about to happen and I knew straight away I wanted to be involved in this art movement.
When the gallery started neither the owner D* or I had come from a traditional art gallery background, so we had nothing really to go on except D*’s vision, his experience as an established artist and his knowledge of the genre. We had to grow on our own and in doing so establish our own rules and ways, so for me personally I’ve literally been learning from my mistakes and successes along the way.
I manage the gallery which covers everything from liaising with artists to hanging work, selling pieces, updating the website and dealing with press, it requires a lot of organisation and planning! I love what I do, and even though I have my set routines, every artist and every show is a very different experience. It is hard work but it’s never dull so I think I’m very lucky in that way.
Run-ins with artists do happen but not as often as you would think, most of the artists we work with are very like minded, old friends of D*s or part of the Stolen Space family so we are usually very much on the same wavelength. I had heard rumours that one artist, Miss Van, was difficult to work with, however when we met I found she was simply a strong minded girl who knew what she wanted and wouldn’t accept anything less, which I really admired about her. Of course if you’re a man this is ok, but if you’re a girl you get called a diva, which really annoys me.
I find Coco Chanel and Madonna fascinating and inspiring females, they are both very unique and hugely influential in women’s lives and also in fashion history. They both used what they had to get what they wanted, whether that was their sexuality or their talent and I really admire that.
Good street art can make you look at something differently, make you see beauty in the mundane, take notice of a particular surface or building you may not necessarily have noticed before.
I love pieces that really work with the environment and the surface they are on. Swoon’s work is a beautiful example of this. A piece of hers I saw in New York was around these old windows on an ancient brick wall covered in peeling paint, it fit so well that the whole thing worked visually like a painting. I hate the way some people just stick up a paste or stencil with no thought to where it is or the surrounding environment, to me that’s completely pointless.
I think that now the traditional art world has sat up and started to pay attention to street/urban art there is a danger that the “anti establishment will become the establishment". What started as an underground sub culture, like many before which have become mainstream, will lose its sharpness and clarity. I think the artists that can stand on their own in either art world, in talent and credibility, and don’t follow any particular trend will last.
Street art speaks to me, my culture, my background and my generation. The artists are generally inspired by the same things which have influenced my life like music, tv, movies and politics. I like the way that just walking to work you can see art that can make you think and question certain things or literally just make the journey visually more interesting and brighten your day. In a world where we are constantly visually bombarded with commercial advertising I think we need this.