Client: The Douglas Fir, part of Gipsy Hill Brewery, 144 Anerley Road, London

Brief: To curate an exhibition of artworks in bar space between May 4th – June 7th 2023

Process: Site-specific vibe response through artistic elements

Elements: Mural design / Fine art / Interactive

I’m more of an inker than a drinker, so when I was approached to deliver this brief, I was at first open, then abit reluctant as I just didn’t connect with the idea or motivation to go ahead, mainly as a non-drinker and my initial view of drinking culture as a whole in London, the messy side of it, plus ‘yet another Hipster spot, same ol, same ol’…I kept putting it off, but then something kept bringing me back & saying just do it, make it work…

When I walk into any space, I try and feel it out, capture the vibe of it. So one evening I walked into The Douglas Fir, the space looked super cosy & warmly lit from the outside, the wooded out interior really captured this sense of outdoors but homely with it. It was busy-ish, but not crazy, and I perched near the bar bit, which is this stretch of raw wood found by the founders of the establishment, also used as a nice side leaning perchy bit for elbows & drinks. I observed the vibe over an organic Gingerella beer. The two main areas to execute were the black chalk board and opposite decked wall. I found the beer coasters scattered all over the bar wall & ceiling pretty cool, along with the random artworks behind the bar.

The longer I stayed, the more I felt the vibe. People weren’t loud or disrupting folks, they were just having a drink & chillin’, whilst a bangin’ playlist serenaded the room. I think whatever my perception of certain bars was before, had now kinda changed a tad…still not a fan of the ‘You must drink to fit in’ culture, but thought, if you can have a bevvy & not act like a wasteman, carry on…

I saw chalk markings, lots of chalk markings of drinks etc on the black boards as you typically see in a bar / pub. I’ll have some of that. This would form the ‘Chalk The Talk’ mural, a series of words, phrases, puns inspired by the space mixed with some of my own philosophy. This worked out pretty cool, not only as I realized I found writing with chalk on board super therapeutic, but as the month went on, the lower part of the mural text would get smudged by customers perhaps leaning bags / elbows / jackets / whatever on the shelving. This created an interesting effect of the artwork fading away organically. I married up this wall piece with one of my first ever linocuts, Diversity, as it had a similar chalk like texture to it, and popped nice bang in the middle.

For the opposite decked wall, I decked it out with existing artworks I already had including an original acrylic on canvas, a silkscreen print & a series of giclee printed blocks. I like to show a range of mediums with a range of price points to make the whole ‘purchasing art’ element more accessible to wider pocket sizes.

As the venue allowed children to be present until 7pm, I thought it would be cool to run a coaster painting session during the half-term period, with pizza provided by Yard Sale Pizza & discount on selected drinks by Gipsy Hill Brew. This worked out great as the coasters provided a canvas used in another way as what they were made for using & the pizza went down great *As expected 😛

Special mention to select ‘big kids’ who got involved in the painting too – it never ceases to amaze me when a big kid let’s go of the ‘I’m too old for this or my friend might laugh at me’ vibes & actually just get back to raw expression for a moment or two.

On the whole, a project which I wasn’t initially motivated by, turned out to be an interesting one fusing site-specific elements, which connected nicely in the end…

*The chalk mural is currently still on display & will hopefully remain until it fully fade’s out – go ava read 🙂


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