The Urban Art of Friendliness and Fun

18 Jul


…bit late sharing this (four days after the event, but anyways).

So I really enjoyed reading Brixton Blog’s account of last weekend’s Urban Art Fair on Josephine Avenue.  And I totally agree that the standard and diversity of the art and the artists exhibiting was incredible.  I was particularly into the colourful, optimistic, super textured paintings of Alce Harfield, the enchantingly imaginative work of children’s storybook illustrator, err, let’s call him Wilf (I can’t find his card anywhere, sorry Wilf).  And it was so refreshing, among a sea of screen printed maps of London areas (I love a locally themed screenprint, but there are a lot of ’em around these days is all I’m saying) to see Angelique Hartigan’s vibrant paintings which use her trademark explosions of colour to create optimistic, dream-like representations of some of my favourite local areas; Crystal Palace, West Norwood and of course, Brixton itself.

BUT.  As well as all of this I wanted to give an account of the other side of the Urban Art Fair.  The side that saw little Nancy and I skip away happy, inspired and feeling reassured of why we continue to live in London (obvs. I can’t be sure that this is what Nancy was thinking, but it certainly seemed that way) on what was one of the hottest, most oppressive days of the year when we could’ve easily been feeling like this instead (I’m not tropical, I am not a toucan, after all).

We probably spent a couple of hours there on Saturday afternoon, and from the minute we left our steaming oven of a car, we felt the vibrant buzz of Brixton as families and groups of young people came and went from Brockwell Park, headed for a cooling drink at the Effra Social or making there way, like ourselves, to the Urban Art Fair.

As we turned the corner onto Josephine Avenue we were struck by Alce’s powerful paintings of bright florals and calming seascapes and the artist herself sitting in the door of her camper van.  We had a lovely chat with her about her life in Somerset and how that compares to London, about her work and about how Nancy immediately started seeing ‘Nonnies’ (translation: lollies) in her paintings.  Clearly her way of telling me she was hot!

As we walked down the road, we had more chats with the artists and the residents of Josephine Avenue.  One asked Nancy to spot the tiger in one of her paintings, another who had a six month old baby herself and was happy to be located under a tree, asked Nancy’s name and helped me located the nearest ‘nonnie’ shop.  We stopped for a while at ‘Chat among the pigeons’, a kids’ area set up by Josephine Avenue residents on the green space outside their houses.  There Nancy and myself attempted hula-hooping, were shown an interesting expanding ball (Nancy was fascinated) and were invited to do some jewel sticking.  When the need for a nonnie was too much we set off to find Sainsburys and on the way met other local residents serving food, playing music and happily picking up litter.  On our return we had no less than four enquiries as to the type of lolly we were eating (it was a Fab) and a huge barrage of compliments from one artist to explain to us how beautiful my daughter is (I agree).

So my point being that it wasn’t just an amazing display of awesome art, but also of how these incredibly warm, generous, creative and diverse communities exist within London and how they can come together to create a wonderful weekend full of colour, fun, creativity, kindness, laughter and (a lot) of sunshine.

I just cannot believe that you can get this in the country or the suburbs – I’m staying.


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