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Sophie Stevens bathroom design. Image courtesy of The Queen of Hoxton

Situated in the shadows of Shoreditch, The Queen of Hoxton boasts the best interior designs, from the UK’s most talented artists.

Outside the venue a spray-painted sign reads on the door: ‘Welcome to the Queen of Hoxton, a youth club for adults’. Pink graffiti-style drawings adorn the sides of the building, and you can tell from the outset that this bar does not contain a single trace of magnolia paint.

As part of their first birthday celebrations, The Queen of Hoxton ran an online competition asking various artists throughout the UK to put forward their ideas to illustrate throughout the venue. A complete re-vamp ensued, resulting in customers stepping into an artistic space, making it so much more than your typical East-End pub.

Designs range from window stencils by graffiti artist Pure Evil who interconnects the theme of humans and conflict with the softer images of rabbits, butterflies and polar bears to individual bathroom designs, pleasantly know as the “washroom galleries”. One of the washroom galleries illustrators Sophie Stephens describes where her ideas come from:

I wanted to do queens from past and present, and I really wanted to do the female toilets because I liked the fact they were a bit grotty. Eventually, it evolved into a boudoir scene” she said.

Tip Toe Collectives' installation art

The creative process

Her 60s monochrome design oozes the glamour of a real-life powder room, and never before has a trip to the bathroom resulted in an almost unwillingness to leave.  A fashion illustration graduate who started her freelance career by launching a series of T- shirts for celebrity fashion designer, Henry Holland she describes what inspires her to produce such intelligent, quirky designs, pausing she says:

“I try not to have creative heroes. “I am inspired by people, fashion, humour, weirdness, the macabre and history. Jealousy fuels my inspiration to work harder and inspires me to make better drawings. I find Alejandro Jodorowsky’s films very encouraging. And I’m very jealous of Aurel Schmidt- she is far too talented.”

On the Ground floor, a large-scale installation by Tiptoe Collective’s Mark Whittle, James Nicholls and Ian Caulkett infuses colours that give the feeling of a frantic, yet wonderful runaway circus.

“We have never doubted that we have the ability to work in the creative industry; it’s just having the determination to keep going” said Ian.

We draw inspiration from pop art, Warhol, Caulfield, right through to the way Banksy has made the medium his own. But there are some great contemporaries out there, Blu for instance. The creative process for any artist is individual in itself. English Socialist Graham Wallas presented one of the first models of the creative process in his 1926, work the “Art of thought”.

In this, he outlined that the process involved five stages: preparation, incubation, imitation, illumination and verification. Explaining their personal steps towards the creative process, Ian said: “When a project first comes in we tend to sit there and look at each other for a bit, waiting for an idea to form, which never seems to happen. An idea usually hits us when we least expect it, from which point on, generally speaking, we’re all on the same wavelength” he said.

When asked if they have any advice they would like to give to young artists, Ian said: “Don’t forget your paintbrush.” The Queen of Hoxton, although youthful in age, serves as a canvas for the showcasing of the best talent in Great Britain. So, the next time you visit this club, remember the names, you might just see them at the next Tate exhibition.

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Copyright of Claire Noble

Peckham has long been associated as an area of high crime rates and crumbling Victorian architecture. But, beneath this shoddy exterior lies a bubbling art community that is rapidly declaring its takeover of East-London’s hedonistic art scene.

A chatty crowd assembles outside the doors of Auto Italia. It seems that punctuality is a necessity for members of this club. They are an hour early. And, as the doors open, the crowd pours in. Ladies wearing tea dresses, the majority sporting tomato-red hair, pick up their paint pots and begin to weave their drawing onto one of the eight shop windows. While men, donned in plaid shirts and battered plimsolls quickly find a pane and get creative.

This is Auto-Italia, a project lead space that aims to explore and support the ideas of a growing peer group of artists. Situated in a disused car show room in South-East London, their values are simple; non-hierarchical powers, that allow all ages, all humans and styles to take part in a communal art space. Today hosts Sumi-ink, an ongoing drawing collective by LA based duo, John Finshbeck and Sarah Anderson.

Project coordinators of Auto Italia, Amanda Dennis, and Kate Cooper explain the concept behind Auto Italia as being: “All about inspiration”. “The building was donated; we have no overheads and can concentrate on putting our money into these projects. It’s a fantastic place for young people to express themselves” said Amanda.

Copyright of Claire Noble

“Auto-Italia has been going for over two-and-a-half years, we’ve had over 30 projects here and some in the Tate, but Sumi-Ink is the first of its kind in London. I haven’t seen it done anywhere else.” said Kate. She gestures with red-nailed hands: “Grab a pot and get stuck in”.

Friendships

Paintings range from witty slogans like “don’t milk over spilt tears” to portraits of social issues, nature, the quirky and bizarre.

In the words of Pablo Picasso: “The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”

This quote could not be more relevant to today’s art session as each painting portrays a hilarious, distorted view of reality as they see it.  Hannah Tindle, a fine art student at St Martin’s College is drawing a rather manic looking Edward Norton inspired stick character, she giggles: “I only live down the road from here, I should come more often.”

But these drawings are far from off-putting. In fact these paintings, all shared by strangers help to establish friendships, as while admiring each other’s work, they begin to chat like friends. The concept of sharing each other’s ideas and encouraging artists to work together is a core factor of what Auto Italia represents. Kate Cooper looks around the room and smiles at the large crowd that has now assembled inside, she plops her paintbrush into her plastic pot and says:

“Our primary focus is not allowing the artist to work alone; we all engage and interact with each other.” It helps to bring the art community together. You would think they were a snobbish crowd that is the main perception. But look around you, there not at all. I went to art school for four years and never picked up a paintbrush, now’s my chance.”

Copyright of Claire Noble

The Sumi-Ink club has seen shows in, Chicago, Malmo, Paris, New York, Tokyo, and Bahal, India.

Peckham Pavillion

Sarah Anderson is floating around the room, busily painting each piece of clear pane she spots. As co-founder of the Sumi ink club, she describes its formation as a way of: “Gathering with friends”. I lived in Providence, Rhode Island and we would always meet in the street. It was our only way to get expressive, and draw our emotions. We could draw whatever we wanted, without constraint, this is what we pride ourselves on today, and it’s non-hierarchal,” said Sarah.

This low-key artist run space has been making the headlines not only in the UK but also in America. The New York Times recently ran a story documenting that the East-End art scene is no longer more and that if you want art, it’s right here, in Peckham.

It heralded the South-East London art scene as a ‘countercultural challenge’ to the ‘established north-of-the-river world of the Frieze art fair and the gentrified East End’.

Auto Italia is just one of the many artist led spaces that are emerging around South-East London. The Hannah Barry Gallery, home to some of London’s most talented artists, and project space Area 51 are beginning to make their mark on the art world. The Peckham Pavilion, an exhibition organized by the Hannah Barry Gallery, propelled her work to fame at the 53rd Venice Biennale, a major contemporary art exhibition held once every two years in Venice.

With this commendable set of values, the South-East London art community can only continue to flourish. And maybe, just maybe, tease East Londoners South of the Thames to see what all the fuss is about.

Copyright of Claire Noble

The following article was written for my Magazine production class, at the University of Westminster. Together with my colleagues, we are in the process of designing and creating our own glossy style magazine called MUSE,  that will be available on April 30.

I’ll upload my own contributions to the magazine, and also share with you my In-Design layouts.

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