©Urban Dandy Ltd
©Urban Dandy Ltd
©Urban Dandy Ltd
©Urban Dandy Ltd
North Kensington in West London changed forever following the Grenfell Tower fire disaster of June 14th this year. Already known for its street art, the area’s walls have become a canvas for tributes to those lost in the fire, a space for free expression and to vent rage, without a media filter. A semiotics expert and local resident, Chris Arning, looked at the possible meanings and genesis of a striking example of post-Grenfell North Ken street art…
What is Semiotics?
Semiotics derives from the ancient Greek word semion, meaning ‘sign’ and is a subject devoted to evidence-based analysis of signs and meaning. It is a field that encompasses culture, communication and meaning and includes logos, branding and street art.
North Kensington is replete with street art. Of course there is always a flurry of artists before carnival every year, but since Grenfell in June, a lot of other types of pieces have appeared: the modified London Underground Love sign and a great Grenfell RIP on the corner of the Acklam Road on the left as you turn off from Ladbroke Grove towards Portobello – done, I think, by Code FC. Street art is the medium and message of anonymous resistance. It is done to show that whatever the official story, the streets is watching and people know what is going on – sgraffiti means ‘scribbilings’ (from the Italian sgraffio, to scratch) something that goes back at least to ancient Rome.
On the way home a few weeks ago, I happened upon a strange sign on a wall off Powis Square. It sort of stopped me in its tracks because there was an uncanniness about it, both familiar and eerie. I’m writing a book on semiotics at the moment, as you do, and I was intrigued so thought I’d take a pic and have since pondered what it might mean. I deciphered the letters tangled up together as RBKC. This is the old logo of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. You can still see it on some of the street signs of the borough.
I have reproduced the street art above, alongside an embossed version on a local street light.
After meeting The Kitchen Table Collective as they completed their array of Artistic expression, we stayed local and spoke with artist Junior Tomlin about art, the area and his own unique cyber style, which is on display at Vinyl Cafe, 273 Portobello Road until early 2016.
UD: What was your intention with the exhibition at Vinyl Café?
JT: I knew the owner Jake 20 years ago. We were looking at each other like we knew each other, and when I told him my name, he said ‘That’s it! You did a party flyer for me’.
After that, he invited me to show my work at the venue.
I sometimes call this particular set ‘From Paints to Pixels’. It’s not quite a retrospective because the much older stuff isn’t displayed; it’s all the digital stuff.
I started out working on game packaging artwork, went on to designing rave flyers, then art for music and digital colouring for cartoons.
This is the first time I’ve shown in Ladbroke Grove, where I live. There have been a few pop up galleries in the area, and a show at Selfridges of the original rave flyers. I put this art on display in Wales, at the Kickplate Gallery in Abertillery. I’ve brought it back home.
UD: Was art your first love?
JT: Yes and it’s nice to make a living from what you love. Sometimes I want to draw more, but I have to make a living too and making money depends on how many people see and love your art. Sharing the work is one thing, selling it is something completely different…
When you have a fan base, other people get to see the work and become interested. Local support and committed art lovers both help.
UD: What is the scope of your expression?
I can paint, gouache and acrylic, as well as my drawing and my digital work. With painting you start with a blank space, and then you gradually obliterate the white with your ideas.
Sometimes I get so transfixed on the computer that I forget my paints are right there waiting for me. But I got so tired of doing art for people and not getting it back from promoters, so I prefer computer because all I’m sending them is a file by email and I can keep what I do.
UD: How do you like to categorise yourself?
JT: (Smiling) Digital/Artist.
When you’re in a freshly made building, it hasn’t become its own building yet and you can tell. It needs time. It can be the same with art. Using a computer can create things that look great, but I like to leave traces of pencil marks, so you can tell I’ve done this, it’s not just a computer, it’s not one dimensional.
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