My creative process is to try to grapple with and express complexity and journey.
My personal practice (where I work largely on my own) and my community practice (mostly working with others) influence each other. In each I grapple with complex issues and attempt to draw strings together. A lot of research, curation, collaboration and sense making goes on. There is a lot of contradiction and discovery.
Samplism is my attempt to visualise that, by attempting something that takes me on a journey through materials. The beginning in particular can be quite painful or a struggle, before - like life - things suddenly make sense. I want to express how complex we are and how complex everything is. Nobody can possibly fathom how complex we are in our lives, where every single moment is an infinite story crashing into another.
It is immense. And yet we have this culture that sometimes tries to insist it is all so simple. So black and white. Binary illusions pasted over our complex realities. So if you look at my work and can see someone looking out at you through the mess and complexity, or if you see the person then notice more and more fragments and the way they connect, then that is good.
For London Brew I went on a journey that still resonates with me.
I'd known of the project for some time but did not invest myself in it until I knew I had the commission.
I don't do very many personal commissions at all. Although I am involved in many 'community commissions' with my community arts group. So with my personal practice I focus heavily on my own creative journey without seeking diversions into the demands and desires of other people!
Needless to say, this was on a different level - something that could well be a once in a lifetime thing for me - and it had me on a vibration from the moment I heard about it. I immediately felt an immersion subconsciously even though I remained consciously detached.
I was also blessed to have access to the music way ahead of release, so from time to time I would very purposefully shut myself off with that.
I live complexity and collaboration and all the struggles and beauty they bring, so once the commission was confirmed I jumped into learning what had happened to bring about the project.
I spoke with Martin and Bruce (two of the driving forces behind London Brew), I read about the original Bitches Brew and about Mati Klarwein's original artwork, as well as about Mati himself and his inspirational practice.
I am a believer that everything goes into these incredible bodies of ours...and everything comes out.
So I enjoy that immersion. And that is one of the ways that Samplism occurs. As with hip-hop music in particular, as a visual artist I can sit with so much material and find forms.
But I can also go into deeper spaces, where synchronicity, patterns and connections take over. The things that exist beyond our conscious or visible existence. Where science meets spirituality. Where you might say the truth comes out.
Time was not on our side throughout, which is a particular blessing and curse. I can suffer from that cliche condition of creative doubt or artist block. A sharp deadline can be great for moving beyond that. It can be helpful to be pushed into a space where your subconscious - and therefore your innate skill - can take over.
This can be particularly helpful for Samplism, as it can be very demanding on my conscious choices. The basic fact of trying to create a detailed and accurate portrait with fragments of other pictures is a challenge! It constantly requires me to look and place and re-place and reconstruct and re-look and refine. It is important that it looks right to my eye.
But it is also a process that engages with the subconscious and synchronicity. I see things and find things that are constantly taking on or constructing meaning and sparking discovery. And I sense when something is where it needs to be. There is also knowing and feeling.
I did a few things I'd never done before with London Brew, which is of course fully in keeping with Bitches Brew.
I produced the '13 Rings' artwork, cut from hundreds of printed images taken by photographer Nathan Weber during the sessions at The Church studios. It was one of the few occasions I've ventured outside of basic portraiture with Samplism, also using paint for a background. I love the final piece and the time spent surrounded by the images and film of these great musicians really took me into the harmony and connection they create. It was a chance to explore how individuals connect and form as one whilst simultaneously remaining as distinct individuals. Creative power being shared by the collective and the individual is something I explore in my community art also.
It was also one of those instances of things being discovered subconsciously, because if you look closely you can see some recognisable eyes looking back through the mist and rings. They were not something I'd planned for, yet they appeared.
Sections of the rings can be seen in the final artwork, 'Miles' Eyes'.
FINAL COVER ARTWORK
I produced 'Miles' Eyes' with another even shorter deadline at my back.
I felt I couldn't afford the time (or expense!) to repeat the process of physical printing and cutting. And so I moved away from analogue into the digital space, just as Bitches Brew had done. I took a journey across London and across the London jazz scene, from Peckham to Camden, from Deptford to Hackney, from Marylebone to Southbank, from Kennington to the City.
From underground clubs on hallowed ground and nearly invisible spaces to hallowed institutions and the most mainstream or recognisable venues. The London Overground and Underground, literally and figuratively.
Historic London is also present. Images related to Notting Hill Carnival, the Covid 19 pandemic and the Grenfell Tower Fire place it on our cultural timeline. The piece is firmly grounded in the early twenty first century.
Moving through all of that brought encounters of all kinds. Special encounters that are now embedded within me and within the artwork.