I’m a massive fan of Malarky so it was great to see him paint this wall in Newcastle in the sun (which quickly turned into a downpour!)
Photos by Ben
I’m a massive fan of Malarky so it was great to see him paint this wall in Newcastle in the sun (which quickly turned into a downpour!)
Photos by Ben
For the last 6 months, alongside partner in crime Malarky, Billy has been producing some of my favourite street art in London (and Madrid). I was lucky enough to catch up with her literally two hours before the duo’s show, Summer Breeze, opened at High Roller Society. Despite her distinct lack of sleep, Billy remained her bubbly self and her passion for giraffes, bright colours, and warm weather quickly became apparent…
“I just like painting stuff and making things look colourful. It livens up the street. And being able to paint your artwork in a large scale is great; I get a real buzz out of that. But I want to ensure that I don’t come across like a badass writer because I’m not, I just like adding colour to dull streets and making my work available to all.”
But when questioned about street art, Billy was reluctant to be labelled a ‘street artist’ due to her background, and believes the label can often be misinterpreted.
“I have an illustration background, I studied graphic design. But I have been doing a lot of artwork on the streets recently, so I suppose if that defines a street artist then I am, but I don’t come from a graffiti based background and didn’t start with traditional illegal tagging. All the work I’ve produced on the street is legal. I just like making my artwork visible to lots of people, in a space that is so accessible. But then again a lot of people prefer to do it illegally for that adrenaline rush.
Plus I think the term street art can be massively misinterpreted by some people. People say the words ‘street art’ and automatically presume you come from a graffiti background but that’s not true. You don’t need to come from that kind of background to be a street artist. Anyone can be one and do something smart on the street.
In fact, me and Malarky have done a couple of pieces for the show, doing a bit of a piss take, mainly out of ourselves but also the scene. One piece is called “Street Life” which came about when we were just listening to some hip hop and taking the piss, saying “Oh we’re so street!””
Billy, certainly raised an interesting subject with regard to the necessary qualities you need possess to be considered a ‘street artist’. Having recently read the book Abstract Graffiti by Cedar Lewisohn, I took a quote that stood out to me – “Some artists now seem to be more interested in such things as craftsmanship and drawing… It’s almost a shift from graphic art to fine art on the street” – and asked if she agreed.
“Oh yeah, I definitely think some artists are. But due to background, for me it’s just about drawing, always. That’s how I’ve developed my style; I’ve just always been really into drawing. And then just being able to take and make it big is the way I’ve come across street art.
I think there are definitely shifts and trends, and things coming out of fashion, or maybe just people jumping on bandwagons. Or they are more interested in just developing their style and technique.
And of course, there is nothing wrong with being influenced by other people and what they’re doing, when you see someone doing something really cool. Like in Madrid, 3TT Man was plastering concrete onto walls and engraving into them. And that’s just a sick idea. Obviously if you went and did that you would be biting his idea but there is nothing wrong with drawing on his, and other people’s ideas, and doing things in your own way.”
Much of Billy’s street work has been completed in collaboration with other artists; Mr Penfold, Sweet Toof, Mighty Mo, 45RPM, Richt, and of course Malarky. Having asked a bit about their working relationships and how they prepare for a colab piece, I found out it often comes down to alcohol intake…
“It’s all about our mutual love of just going out and painting, our work ties in really well together and people just get good vibes off it. Working with people like Sweet Toof and Monkey has been wicked, you learn new things, it’s got me more exposure and this show has actually come off the back of contacts through them. It’s just nice to vary it up and when you work with them it kind of opens your eyes to how other people paint.
The work we produce, kind of depends on what we’re doing and how many beers we have drunk. Sometimes we sit down and do a little sketch. I think we always have some kind of idea but it does sometimes get a bit silly and it ends up changing into someone else. When we collaborate with other people we always know what each other draws, like Mr Penfold and his characters with their weird noses, it kinds of just works. I’ve never been like “This is your part of the wall, this is mine”, its quite fluid, we mix it up a bit. And I’m learning about working with people all the time.”
As the conversation progresses, Billy explains that she has been lucky with regard to the increasing levels of buffing in London prior to the Olympics. In her words it’s been “so good, so far” and she hasn’t had any of her pieces removed. Although she admits it’s certainly going to happen one day and so taking photos and documenting her work is important.
Much of this street work has been in the form of shutters and vans, I asked about her choice of surface, which she prefers, and asked who chooses the brilliantly bright colours they use.
“I think the response we have been getting from doing shutters has been quite funny because it’s so easy; all you need to do is go into the shop and say “Can we paint your shutters?” And there are so many to paint, tonnes and tonnes in London. In certain areas every single shop has shutters. They are just easy to paint and walls and roof tops are harder to come by, it’s hard to get permission.
Malarky got into vans in Barcelona because you can’t paint shutters there anymore legally. Even if the shop lets you, there has been a law passed where the council no longer allows it. And there are tonnes of trucks there, they all park up on the side of the road and they are usually covered in tags already. It’s much harder to find a truck here that you can paint. I’ve only painted a couple but the wicked thing is about painting them is that they move around the city during the day.
The thing about shutters is they are wicked too but people don’t really see them unless its night time or Sunday. And a lot of the ones we do paint open to silly o’clock too, off licences and stuff, and so people don’t really see them. We have got lots of exposure but if they were down all the time more people could see our work.
In terms of the surface, painting a truck is just so much better. It’s so much flatter. When I first started painting a really appreciated the shutters because I could be really loose with my style. I’m really getting into doing shapes and stuff but it’s hard to get a really crisp line on a corrugated shutter. When you use a shutter it’s a bit more about doing pieces with a bit more impact with bold outlines.
Originally the colours I use come from when Malarky and I went to paint together. We used to go buy paint together and use the same colours. And then we based it on the Posca Paint Pallet. All 94 colours are quite bright and nice to work with. From there it kind of just developed where we would just get the same sort of colours each time. But I quite like mixing it up a bit – the work I’ve got in the show is toned down a bit, still bright, but not quite as in your face.”
Having popped into the gallery prior to the conversation and seen how the duo’s street work had progressed when moved inside, I was eager to ask Billy about what influences her style. And before she had to return to finish hanging her work I managed to quickly ask a bit about the show and to why it’s called Summer Breeze.
“A lot of my work is influenced from South Africa, where I used to live when I was younger, and consequently I’m really inspired by tribal and caveman paintings. I’ve got some really good African books about old artists and sand paintings that I enjoy.
But then also it’s influenced by other places I’ve visited, other art, and just all sorts of things really – song lyrics, animals, anything. To be honest this necklace I’m wearing is a massive influence. It’s got all sorts of animals in it, especially giraffes. And then there are the patterns and the animal prints, they inspire me too, and drop shadows, they are cool.
The show has sort of evolved from the time I met Malarky. When we first met it was really cold and snowing, but as we have painted more and more shutters the weather has been getting better. We even went to Madrid where it was really sunny, and here it’s just been getting progressively nicer since we met.
When you paint outside and its freezing cold that’s probably the worst situation to paint in, it’s so horrible. Your hands freeze around the can. It’s kind of just a progression into the summer. And then it also relates to the song ‘Summer Breeze’ by Seals and Crofts which I think was later covered by the Isley Brothers. It’s really just about those things and our artistic styles.”
Summer Breeze continues at High Roller Society until 3rd July, if you like Billy and Malarky’s street work then I urge you to check it out!
And if you like cakes get following Billy’s sister, Rosie. Forget Delia Smith, Jamie Oliver, and Gordon Ramsey, this girl can cook! Her little cherryade, coke and lemonade cakes went down a treat with everyone who attended the opening night. I was a sucker for the cherry ones… amazing.
Note from RJ: This is the first guest post from Ben, a young street art fan from Newcastle. Also, thanks to HookedBlog for documenting Malarky’s work so well. Most of the photos in this post are by him.
Malarky’s colourful characters have begun to adorn the walls and shutters of East London and Barcelona in recent years. His instantly recognisable style soon got him known and he has recently exhibited alongside fellow street artist ‘Billy’ at High Roller Society. As the dust settled from an extremely successful opening night, I caught up with Malarky to ask a few questions.
Ben: Tell us a little bit about yourself – when did you first start painting and why?
Malarky: My name is Malarky; I live sometimes in London and sometimes in Barcelona. Things I like to do include:
• Painting outside
• Painting inside
• Drinking Beers in the Sunshine
• Eating Sandwiches in the Park
I got into alternative art through skateboarding just all the mad deck graphics and stickers and real low brow illustration stuff. I started doing hand drawn stickers and just putting up as many as I could, that sort of pushed me into the graff scene. I have always lived in the centre of whatever city I was in so I never really got trains anywhere, I always enjoyed metro and trackside missions, but it sucks not seeing your piece again, so that sort of pushed me to start painting shutters because people at street level see them every day.
Certain characters seem to reoccur in your work such as your fox – what the story behind them?
I used to see foxes on my way home in the small hours and just loved how they run the streets in the night-time, when no one else is around, just chilling on the corners. Then when I started drawing them, I just loved the colours – the orange and white together and how instantly recognisable an animal it is from just that. Then when I started painting shutters it all fell into place, they both stay hidden in the day then just chill on road though the night.
Tell us about your new show with Billy entitled summer breeze?
Just a crazy medley of mad colours and characters crammed into this cool space, it’s been super fun to do I don’t know what to say, go and see it!
Are your methods and techniques of painting on the street the same as when creating pieces for your show?
Well my colours are definitely influenced by the paint I use on the street; I mix up the paints or inks to match my cans. On the street I like keeping some of the background texture like brick or metal shutters, I use a similar vibe with my paintings on wood so my paintings are like little miniature Japanese versions of my street stuff.
If you could use one medium for the rest of your life what would it be?
MTN 94 all day every day
Recently your street work has involved collaborations with other artists such as Sweet Toof, and What Collective, do you prefer to collaborate with others or work alone?
It’s strange, I love to do both and obviously it’s more fun to paint with someone so I just take it as it comes. Collabs can work well because of all the ideas flying about, but then sometimes you have a big piece planned for a truck or whatever and it has to be a solo piece to work. I guess it’s more satisfying to paint a big piece on your own, but more fun to do a collab and I love the fun times!
On your website it says you live in a ‘magic place between South-London and Barcelona’. You seem to do a lot of painting in Barcelona, what is it that attracts you there?
Barcelona is just a magic dream land of shutters, trucks, sunshine and beers. I just can’t stay away from it, the energy, the people – everything is chilling. Sun and beers all day, paint and beers all night. You could paint a shutter every day and it would take 20 years to finish them all, I can’t speak highly enough of it.
Are there any of your street pieces that you are particularly proud of?
I love the rooftop on roman road with Billy, it’s so prominent on that street and the colours and pieces worked well together. Sometimes everything just comes together nicely, that’s was one of those times!
What is the strangest/most unusual thing that’s happened to you when you’ve been out painting?
There’s been crazy Policia that have bounced me off shutters, and all the classic ‘nearly fell 50ft to my death’ times. My favourite time was when I was painting at this abandoned civil war bunker in middle of nowhere up a mountain overlooking Barca. A band appeared out of inside the bunker and started playing songs and handing out beer, then more and more people started appearing and it turned into a crazy block party up a mountain, it was sweet!
Do you collect art and if so, what art do you have on your walls?
I don’t really collect but I have some prints/paintings up on the wall – some Mr Penfold prints, a Nylon painting, a Sweet Toof print, some sick Hedof prints and a Cloud Commission print.
Any plans for the future we should hear about?
A couple of top secret projects but aside from that, paint more streets colourful, hit some other countries and I think maybe make a small comic.
‘Summer Breeze’ is a must see and runs from the 11th June until the 3rd July at High Roller Society.
Last week, Billy and Malarky opened their first show together, Summer Breeze, at East London’s High Roller Society. Their colorful and cartoonish styles are anything but standard for Londoners doing street art. Maybe they fit in with some of the present and former Burning Candy crew members (they have collaborated with Sweet Toof outdoors), but there’s definitely a lot less of a graffiti vibe from these two. Summer Breeze is the first time I’ve seen either Malarky or Billy’s indoor work, and I really enjoyed it, particuarly Malarky’s paintings. The whole show looks like something I’d expect to see in California, rather than London.
Summer Breeze is open now at High Roller Society through July 3rd.
Photos by RJ Rushmore
Billy and Malarky, whose collaborations have recently been ending up on roll-down gates around London and Barcelona, have a two-man show opening on Friday June 10th at High Roller Society in London. Summer Breeze is sure to be a fun show, so stop by the opening from 7-10pm on Friday or check it out by July 3rd.
Photo courtesy of High Roller Society
If you looked at Vandalog this week, you’d think it was a slow week in street art. That’s not so, but I’ve been locked down working on Up Close and Personal (opening pics here). So here’s some of what I missed covering this week:
Photo by Sabeth718
Getting back in the swing of things at school this week. Fair warning, today is the first meeting of a class I’m taking about conceptual art. I’m excited and the professor seems awesome, but just fair warning: That class could bleed over into the rest of my life and lead to an increase in bullshitting from me here on Vandalog. Unfortunately, I haven’t sorted out a proper internet connection yet since getting back to school, so I’ve been a bit lax this week. Here’s what’s been going on:
Photo by Elfo