Interview: Street artist Cityzenkane

By Louisa Emery on May 10, 2012 4:07 PM |

cityzenkane142.jpgFed up with the elitism surrounding exhibiting artwork in galleries, Cityzenkane took his work to the streets.

Now the secretive artist, whose work can be seen throughout east London, has launched his first solo show at Rich Mix on Bethnal Green Road.

He said: "My show in the gallery is not just about street art - I do other things as well. There is a big battle between the old school street artists who believe street art shouldn't be in galleries and the newer artists who believe there shouldn't be those boundaries.

"One reason I got into street art was because of the protocol, restrictions and limitations and the difficulty getting work into mainstream art galleries, but I realised the old school codes of street art were much worse. I prefer the progressive stuff where anything goes."

Visitors to Brick Lane may be familiar with Cityzenkane's striking work - his sculpture of Lord Jagannath hanging just before the railway bridge is particularly eye-catching.

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Using bright often clashing colours and glitter, crystals and metallic paint, his work is a prominent part of the area's artistic landscape.

He said: "I used to do stencils years ago but when I moved to London from Brighton a friend introduced me to the Shoreditch street art scene and it blew me away. That was about five years ago. I used to put the work up at night but I got arrested and kept in a prison cell over night so now I do it in the day so it looks like I'm meant to be there.

"I just started putting them up around the streets. There are not too many left now because people take them. I try to put them up really high to try to deter that but I think they have realised they tend to break when you take them down because I use really strong glue.

"My biggest fear is one falling on someone's head. I've started making bigger ones and hanging them lower down, which allays that fear a bit."

He makes three types of work - sculptures produced from moulds, two dimensional drawings and one-offs made from polymer clay.

Much is based around themes of symmetry, ancient Eastern imagery and aliens but he said there was no conscious process and he didn't think about what he was making, he just made it.

He said: "Anyone who follows my work will see pieces on show that are on the street but there are a lot of new pieces too and it will be possible to see how my work has progressed.

"I work as a television cameraman but I'm 50 now and want to become a full time artist. If this takes off hopefully that can happen."

Cityzenkane, Richmix, Bethnal Green Road, until May 13, Free, richmix.org.uk.

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