"I chose Muralism because it involves a process of integration with people who also do and think about the artwork, the neighbourhood and the needs of the space. In contrast with Street art where artists work as if they were painting in their own workshop with their own creative process, but on the street”
Patricio Forrester arrived in England as one amongst many artists, who made paintings to hang on the wall -what he now calls "collectable artwork"-. But after studying a master's degree at Goldsmiths he changed his approach:
“it became clear to me that I was interested in art, and the world, and not so much the art world”.
So he started looking for ways to take his art to the streets without having to ask for permission. He painted overalls and jackets, and went out dressed in artwork following the punk tradition of putting the artwork on. It was a way to occupying the public space with the ultimate freedom of deciding what to wear. However he now, reflecting back, thinks: "in dressing up the pleasure was all mine, and didn’t create enough value for others"
After this experiment he returned to painting (his first love) from a newly found Artivist attitude.
“Artivism is to use one's work to help generate changes in society instead of decorating the walls of an art collector. The Artwork then comes from an intervention that responds creatively to the context, taking into account where it is made and the present situation, unlike collectable paintings which are detached from the space they live in".
His first mural Deptford Pearls (2001) used the shape of the wall as a starting point for the narrative, instead of imposing something external. "What can we do with those chimneys?”. Patricio wanted to update the tradition of Muralism from a more conceptual place, giving space for the imagination instead of contributing to the visual clatter of the city. The result is big pink wall with few key elements that quickly flip its original configuration with a humorous tone. That artwork changed everything because it became an icon of the borough, attracting tourists and activating the economy in the area. Patricio says:"That's where I started generating value”.
In 2003 The Council offered him a Course for Entrepreneurs to help him have a sustainable practice and develop Artmongers, an organisation that participates in society through art, both as a creative service for institutions, and as an independent body that regenerates problematic public spaces. Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. Mongers is a dealer or trader: i.e. fishmonger or a person that precipitates change i.e. warmongers.
“Artmonger makes the type of art that interests me: an art that is on the street, being part of a service system, and at the same time precipitates change. I have an urgent need to integrate myself as an artist in society and I believe in the value of inviting others to participate in the process, empowering them. The public space is more meaningful when transforming something together"
Artmongers' body of work started taking place in 3 square miles around the place where Patricio arrived, near Goldsmiths, as a strategy of integration as a migrant artist. His commitment of 10 years making art for the borough made people have trust in his work and him. Today there are 15 murals of his murals in Lewisham: “I have an interesting combination between what others want and what I want that improves the public space. The end product tends to generate that spark, initiating questions that make people speak... and people speaking generate community".
Now, after 20 years, there is a whole generation that grew up with Artmonger’s murals in South East London, people who are going to join his next project, which is the Lewisham School of Muralism starting in October 2020. “We are generating 36 free places to integrate local people, some coming from deprived areas, and students from all over the world that have come to study at Goldsmiths. The aim is to make people from different backgrounds develop ideas together, learn how to engage community groups to make participatory artworks, and eventually paint 6 murals in the Summer of 2021"
“I am inspired by others, by images, how imagination can change our lives and that of our communities. Art can be a tool for social transformation, especially if it arises from the communities themselves, or the communities feel in some way participating in that movement.
I am inspired by problems, I am inspired by the hardness of certain situations, the resilience of humans in situations of adversity. I am inspired by togetherness and the potential of what we can do with people who want to work with us and us want to work with them”.
In 2019 Artmongers made 12 community participatory artwork murals in different countries: in Argentina (San Isidro neighbourhood in Buenos Aires and the Quebrada de Humahuaca), Lebanon, Scotland, Spain and here in London.
"My focus was, and continues to be, art in situations of adversity and not art as excess","with the current situation of the Covid-19 and isolation, I think that we have all begun to value public space more, realising we need the outside and others as much as we need our privacy".
Patricio and his work with Artmongers inspire us because it makes us listen to others, ourselves and look out to our context. It help us broaden our perception and create in the world a way of engaging through art together. It invites us to think about everything we can do together if we connect; and like he says:
"Let's imagine together what we didn't know we wanted"
Check out www.artmongersaction.org, Instagram and Facebook and Lewisham School of Muralism. And when time comes and we can be out again…try to see the murals on its own environment.
You can take part of the movement by clicking and making a donation to LEWiSHAM School of Muralism. They are almost there!!
We are pleased to announce we are soon releasing a limited edition of alfajores in collaboration with Artmongers.