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6 Ways to Attract More Love Into Your Life

February 16, 2016
Photo: Kristina Litvjak

Photo: Kristina Litvjak

Now that the spotlight on our love relationships (or their absence) has passed for another year, it seems a good time to think about ways in which we can spend the next 365 days so that our relationship satisfaction is improved by the time Cupid next comes around, wielding his lethal crossbow.

Apply the practices and attract more love into your life!

 

GRATITUDE: Be grateful and express gratitude, real time

Appreciation helps focus attention on the positive.  By focussing on the positive, we are able to see more of it.  Turning our attention away from our problems, we begin to feel happier.  Happy people are not always grateful, grateful people are both happy and able to maintain that happiness in tough times.  Happy people are magnetic.

Being appreciated feels good.  People tend to gravitate to those who make them feel good about themselves. Being appreciative, and happy is one of the simplest ways to attract people into one’s life.

Already in a relationship? Appreciation, as we know, is one of the long term predictors of relationship success.  A couple that regularly appreciates one another is more likely to survive the knocks and twists of life.

Begin with a gratitude journal. Start noticing all the things that people in your life do to enrich your world.  Appreciate them.  Be as specific as possible about what it is that enriches your life and why it matters to you.  Do this also with new people and strangers.  Begin to see if, instead of waiting to journal your appreciation, you can notice and appreciate strangers in the moment.

And once you are able to appreciate strangers in real time, take a risk.  Write a letter to someone dear, reflecting not only on what they have done for you today, but throughout your relationship and what it meant to you to be on the receiving end of their kindness.  Read them the letter, face to face and give it some space to sink in.  It is likely that afterwards, there will be a shift in the relationship and it will be easier to feel and express appreciation, in real time, for the small things as well as the big moments in life.

 

JOY: Spend Time Doing Things You Love

We know that happy people are magnetic. Doing what we love makes us happy. If you love windsurfing, take lessons.  If music is your passion, go to concerts, sing in a choir or take a course at the community college.  Set aside some time every week to take yourself on a journey into what makes your heart sing. It may be browsing in the bookstore, or listening to an author read from a new book.  Whatever it is that floats your boat, do it!

And, while you are becoming a fabulous love magnet, you just might meet some new people who share your passions.  Every new person you bring into your life brings a network with them.  You never know who you might meet!

 

ONENESS (1): Make Connection

Loneliness is not only the result feeling disconnected and unloved, it is also the result of feeling there is nobody to love.  Making connections and building a community provides a sense of belonging, which is an essential ingredient for happiness.  (And happiness is a love magnet, remember!) By becoming involved and engaged with a group of people provides us with a group with whom we can develop bonds of caring, affection and love.  The greatest feelings of love are not experienced second hand by being loved by another, but by having a heart full to bursting, for others.

Join a club, a class, a spiritual group.  Engage with activists in the community on issues that matter to you.  Listen to friends, rather than waiting to talk. Ask questions of others and be curious.  Whether in a relationship or single, keeping connections strong and creating new ones is an important part of building support networks and resource for bad times, as well as the good.

 

ONENESS (2): Spend Time Alone

The most attractive person in a room is the one who does not need the company, but chooses to be there.  Unless we are good company for ourselves, how can we hope to be good company for others?  If you find yourself feeling bored, alone, it may be because your life is boring.  Spice it up! Become a more interesting person: read books, travel to a new part of the city, learn a new skill, watch Ted Talks, do yoga, meditate, draw, take photographs or walk in nature and try to identify the different plant varieties you see.  Do something fun, but most of all, get acquainted with yourself, and become the interesting person with whom you’d like to spend time.

If already in a relationship, time alone is essential to keeping separate identities and keeping the relationship fresh, as well as growing as an individual.

 

SERVICE: Do Things For Others

Aside from the confidence of being not only comfortable but delighted with one’s own company, the only thing sexier and more attractive to others is kindness.  Kindness and altruism make others feel better, and by acting from a sense of kindness and purpose, we feel good as well.  Through the phenomena of emotional contagion, the whole community becomes a happier place.  Being the source of good vibes makes one charismatically attractive.

Volunteer with an organisation or organise the community towards a goal.  Aside from doing good and feeling good, more connections with like minded people will be made.  If you’re single, your future partner may be in that crowd, and if you are in a relationship, taking on a volunteer role outside of the relationship helps maintain individuality and take the pressure off of the relationship.  We know that nobody can meet all of our needs.  Working together for a cause can be a bonding experience, but it can also provide the space for the two partners to pursue their own passions, independently.

 

MEANING: Make Peace With The Past

We all have a past. Some of it was wonderful and some was not.  We all had hurt, betrayal and abandonment at some point in our history.  This is the hand we were dealt.  It is up to us now to determine how we play it.  There is little that is more unattractive in a person than bitterness and resentment.  The choice is ours: get better or grow bitter.  The latter is a recipe for a life of loneliness or a miserable match with an equally bitter person.

We must be vulnerable enough to go into those hurt places and heal them.  We must admit what hurts, why it hurts, and accept any responsibility we may have had, while forgiving others for hurting us.  Only then, having processed and healed our hurt, can we be free.

A word on forgiveness: to exercise compassion and understand that everyone is susceptible to hurt and trauma which can lead to bad behaviour or to understand that a mental illness caused bad behaviour does not mean that the bad behaviour is acceptable.  We can understand the other person, understand how they came to a place where they could hurt us so badly and we can even forgive them for their behaviour.  But the behaviour can remain wrong and punishable.

Holding on to our anger, bitterness and resentment does not give us justice.  It robs us of our joy.  Justice may or may not be served upon the person who wronged us, but what an injustice we do ourselves to let the past rob us of any more of our present or our future.

This can be a difficult – perhaps Herculean task – to undertake alone.  Seek out spiritual counsellors, friends, uplifting texts on forgiveness, a doctor or a therapist.  Making peace with the past, and finding the transcendent meaning in our suffering, empowers us to move forward.

 

To attract more love into our lives, it really is that simple: First we must be willing to demonstrate love to others.  Making peace with our past, we can be vulnerable enough to admit how much our loved ones mean to us.  They are not our all and our everything, for we have a full life filled with purpose, connection, self assuredness and  passion.

 

We attract love by being love.

 

 

Art, Articles, Community, Happiness, Intimacy, Joy, Oneness, Service

WRDSMTH: Aspiring to Inspire – Every Day

February 12, 2016
image

“Happy in London, UK” by WRDSMTH. Photo by @D7606. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH.

We continue our series on individuals making a difference in the world, with the skills they possess.  As a Valentine’s Day special, we feature LA based street artist WRDSMTH.

Each day, WRDSMTH touches hearts around the world with a new WRD – spray painted images of a vintage typewriter, topped with his messages of motivation, love and humour.  WRDSMTH mixes a sense of nostalgia with pop culture in his art and for a world lost in the complexity of the “extreme present,” his WRDs evoke a simpler time – perhaps imagined – when we were all a little kinder to ourselves and one another, and when love was a committment for life.

Every piece, in its own way, feels like a love letter, sent out to the world, from the artist.

"Hate Love" by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

“Hate Love” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

WRDSMTH calls his WRDs “indelible messages” which he “tattoos on walls” in cities around the world. WRDs can be found in Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Diego, West Palm Beach, London, Paris, Edinburgh, and Melbourne. His art is best experienced in its public context where its position in the surrounding environment adds another layer of meaning. However, for those unable to see it in situ, clever use of social media enables worldwide followers to participate in the daily experience, with photographs of his work appearing on his Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts.

Hoping to achieve a modest following of 500-1,000 followers, WRDSMTH currently has over 75,000 followers on Instagram and the number continues to grow, daily.

"Instagram" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Instagram” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

We emailed WRDSMTH in LA, to ask him a little more about his work and his motivations for being a force for positive messaging in the world.

 

TTDOG: In a recent article you were quoted as saying: The aim of art is “to inspire, entertain, or woo other individuals” Are you trying to woo us, Mr. WRDSMTH? As my father would say: What are your intentions for us?

WRDSMTH: No and yes. I recently used the word woo mainly to refer to the romantic WRDs I put up all over the world, as opposed to the motivational ones which inspire and the funny ones which I hope entertain. However, yes, I am trying woo people with my words. My intention is to affect. Period.

"Shine" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Shine” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

I hope my work makes people ponder, smile, and maybe laugh. The notion that people turn a corner and see a piece of mine or are driving by one and my WRDs affect them in a positive manner, makes me happy and, in turn, adds fuel to the creative fire. If a percentage of those people notice the name attached to my pieces and at some juncture look me up, fall into the rabbit hole that is the my body of work, and possibly become followers/fans, then my wooing was successful.

 

TTDOG: Why do you think positive WRDs from an anonymous stranger are so important to people and why is that craving so universal?

WRDSMTH: When I began WRDSMTHing, I just felt that this city (L.A.) and the world needed some positivity. I think it’s easy in this day and age to feel negative toward current events, politics, and even most of what’s deemed entertainment these days. I shy away from those heavily debated topics and instead choose to focus on the individual – the person that happens upon my WRDs – and, again, I aim to affect them in a positive manner.

"struggle pays" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Struggle Pays” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

And even though my messages reach a wide audience, I think people find the words compelling because of that one-on-one experience. I often am told people feel like my WRDs are speaking directly to them, which is a huge compliment, in my book. And the mystery of who is putting all these WRDs all over the world definitely works in my favor, which is a big reason why I retain my anonymity.

"two believe" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Two Believe” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

Born in Ohio, WRDSMTH moved to Chicago, where he crafted words into slogans designed to sell dreams through consumption. Realising that time waits for no one, he risked all to chase his own dream of being a writer and moved to Los Angeles. Following a very successful run, in 2013, he again turned his craft to selling a dream, with his WRDs. This time, it was the most cherished but often abandoned dream – fulfillment.

"Dream Bigge(r)" by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH

“Dream Bigge(r)” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

Despite his startlingly rapid rise as an international street Artist, WRDSMTH remains dedicated to his first passion: writing. He writes, every day. For solitary people of letters, his WRDs offer not only a dose of motivation but a sense of community.

"Create Every Day" by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesty of the artist.

“Create Every Day” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesty of the artist.

 

TTDOG: One of your most famous WRDs says: “Aspire to Inspire Others and the Universe Will Take Note.” In what way do you feel the universe has taken note – for yourself as well as for those who have been inspired by you?

WRDSMTH: ‘Aspire’ has definitely become a mantra for WRDSMTH, but that’s because those words are so in line with what I aim to do and aimed to do from the get-go. I began this endeavor speaking to all the creative individuals doing time in Hollywood. However, I quickly realized it wasn’t just about those doing time here, but those doing time everywhere. Everyone has a dream – whether it be a creative one, a productive one or a romantic one.

"Aspire To Inspire" by WRDSMTH. Photo by Playboy. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH

“Aspire To Inspire” by WRDSMTH. Photo by Playboy. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH

We all aim to inspire others and if that intent is truly altruistic, I firmly believe the universe will take note. And hopefully good karma ensues. My success has been unexpected. I actually started WRDSMTHing for me because I needed an active hobby. The fact that my WRDs are resonating with so many is thrilling on a daily basis, which is why ‘Aspire’ is a mantra. The messages I get from fans and followers are amazing and are always welcome. I love hearing how I have inspired and motivated others. I also love hearing how my romantic WRDs have helped bring people together.

In a city and in an era where ‘authenticity’ is simply an attribute for branding, the nostalgic warmth and sometimes gut wrenching honesty of his art hints at the character of the man behind the WRDs.

 

TTDOG: Is the open hearted, playful, and vulnerable quality of your WRDs an extension of your professional writing, or is the anonymous WRDSMTH an alter ego that doesn’t get space for expression in your other writing? Why put yourself at risk, in a renegade medium? What impact does the medium and your anonymity have on what you communicate?

WRDSMTH: Both. I think the most compelling stories in any medium are open-hearted, amusing, and vulnerable. At least my favorite novels, movies, TV shows, and music have those characteristics. My professional work includes novels and screenplays and I follow that path, along with a strong belief that “less is more” in all my writing. WRDSMTH is such a merger of worlds for me. I used to work as a copywriter in advertising, so I think I understand how to be effective and affect with as few words as possible. However, WRDSMTH is not like advertising in that I have the creative freedom to say what I want with no agenda or boundaries. That is refreshing and addictive. As far as the risk in a renegade medium . . . isn’t that a vital ingredient in most success stories?

"trump" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Trump” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

While affirmation is a great drug, I was not seeking it when I started WRDSMTHing and I always say I’d still be doing what I do even if I only had 500 followers. I will always say what I want to say and will always express myself in a myriad of personal and vulnerable ways because that’s what writers do. Hemingway once said “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” I love that. Another mantra of mine that I penned is, “Do it for yourself and hope that what you do resonates with others.” I guess where Hemingway and WRDSMTH intersect is where my WRDs are born. The medium of street art seems to add a level of cool to my words.

"f ck out of u" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“f ck out of u” Original artwork by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

The action of putting pieces up at all hours of the night while dancing a line of legality romanticizes the words to a great degree. There’s a difference between potentially reading “You got this. You know you do.” on a motivational poster or “You are amazing. You deserve amazing.” in a greeting card, versus seeing those words on a wall on the corner of Sunset and LaBrea. And the action of taking a picture of those pieces and Instagramming them or sending them to a loved one is more meaningful in this day and age of texting and social media. However, while I am aware of all this, it doesn’t change or alter what I put out there. My WRDs come from my life and my experiences, not from the expectation or hope that they will be Instagrammed or forwarded.

Specific laws, enforcement and penalties for street art vary from city to city and from country to country. In some cases, artwork is specifically commissioned or ‘permissioned.’  WRDSMTH’s installation at SYNDCTD creative agency in LA, and in Lululemon’s shop windows are recent examples of such work. Without such permissions, the question of legality is always a concern for artists painting in public spaces.

"Tell Stories" - photo courtesy of WRDSMTH

“Tell Stories” by WRDSMTH, on the wall of the SYNDCTD offices in LA. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH.

While second guessing what the law would consider ‘acceptable placement’ for his street art, WRDSMTH has stated that he never paints on private property in order to have his WRDs seen. Sensing what he terms a renaissance occurring in street art in Los Angeles, he points to promising changes on the horizon. Some city council members have begun to work with street artists to attempt to provision public spaces for art, as part of urban rejuvenation and beautification.

"Face The Facts" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Face The Facts” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

Not to detract from the LA cool of WRDSMTH, the street artist, his midwestern kindness goes beyond messages of love, humour and inspiration.  A proponent of the Pay it Forward philosophy, WRDSMTH gives of his time and notes that most of his sales have some component of charitable giving attached to them.  In 2015, he gave time and artwork to several causes including after school programs for LA children, local youth centres, the city’s homeless and for breast cancer research.

 

TTDOG: You help and inspire many people. Who has helped and inspired you, along the way? Who helps you these days, and what inspires you to stay positive and keep going, even on those days when things look bleak?

WRDSMTH: I am inspired by a lot of things: Friends. Family. Love. Music. Sunsets. Sunrises. Wanderlust. A really great burger. Cookies and mint chocolate chip ice cream. Honesty. Laughter. Great conversation. Really good wine. Art in all its forms.

"Wanderlust" by WRDSMTH. Photo by Dean Sunshine, provided courtesy of WRDSMTH

“Wanderlust” by WRDSMTH. Photo by Dean Sunshine. Photo provided courtesy of WRDSMTH.

Someone once said, “Life is a struggle. But every now and then, we stumble upon something magical and it just makes everything all right.” My list includes things I often stumble upon – and they just make everything all right for me. Maybe for some, my art is something stumbled upon. At least I hope it is. And I stay positive by immersing myself in the things I love, by surrounding myself with people who challenge me, and by finding the good hidden in all the bleak on this big blue marble we are spinning on.

 

TTDOG: Many people want to make the world a better place but feel that they alone can’t make a difference or that they don’t have the skills, talent or opportunity. What would you say to them?

WRDSMTH: Find a way. There’s always a way.

"give take DTLA" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Give Take DTLA” by WRDSMTH. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

 

TTDOG: What do you wish people would ask you about yourself or your work, but never do?

WRDSMTH: I like when people ask me my name instead of calling me Word or Mister Smith. I enjoy when fans inquire about my other writing. I like when they ask about my muse(s). I love when they ask if they can buy me a drink. I’d like more single girls to ask if I am single. I also wish people would ask me what my favorite palindrome is. The answer: racecar.

Heads up, ladies: WRDSMTH is single!

As is our practice at TTDOG, there is one final question for the artist:

TTDOG:
For what are you most grateful and where do you find your greatest joy?
"joy of life" by WRDSMTH. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Joy of Life in New Orleans, LA” by WRDSMTH. Photo by Scott Allen Perry. Photo provided courtesy of the artist.

WRDSMTH: 
I am most grateful for my life – the amazing and baffling opportunity to spend some decades living and making a mark in the world. And my greatest joy is knowing that my work, words, and WRDs are reaching and affecting people all over the world.

WRDSMTH’s original artworks  have been sold at Julien’s Auctions, Art Share-LA, In Heroes We Trust, Q Art Gallery, The Gabba Gallery, Stone Malone Gallery, and LabArt. He currently has prints, photos and wearable art for sale at Paper and Fabric.

To learn more about WRDSMTH and be inspired by his daily artwork, follow him at:
WRDSMTH on Instagram
WRDSMTH on Facebook
WRDSMTH on Tumblr
WRDSMTH on Twitter
Email WRDSMTH at: WRDSMTHinLA@gmail.com
Art, Articles, Community, Compassion, Gratitude, Oneness, Service

Matthew Del Degan and Lovebot: Heroes of Compassion and Love

February 9, 2016
Lovebot. Art by Matthew Del Degan. Photo by @Pinkstarpix

Lovebot. Art by Matthew Del Degan. Photo by @Pinkstarpix

You may have noticed stickers of a retro-styled robot with a vibrant red heart popping up across your city.  If you have, chances are these are part of the Global Love Invasion.  Next in our series of people making a difference – with the skills and talents they have, where they are – is Toronto based artist and designer, Matthew Del Degan, creator of Lovebot.

TTDOG reached out to Matthew Del Degan to discuss the spread of compassion and kindness through the icon of Lovebot.   If you haven’t seen the character on the streets of your city, you may be wondering: What is Lovebot?

“It’s a cold concrete object in Toronto with a big heart, or warm center,” says the artist, “It’s a metaphor for the robotic interactions of people in our city…” 

Lovebot was Del Degan’s design response to the way urban commuters were failing to engage their emotions, particularly their compassion, when interacting with one another.

PEOPLE HAVE UNIQUE LIVES and THEY ARE ALL SPECIAL!” He ardently asserts. ” That grocery store clerk is probably going through some things, just like you.  You have feelings and the ability to love, and so do they! Maybe I’m an odd ball, but when I get groceries I ask people how they are doing, what they have been up to and if they feel good today, so that it’s not a robot interaction.”

 Lovebot, with its faceless solidity and seemingly incongruous vibrant red heart “lovingly disrupts the robotic routines of humans and reminds them that there is love in their cities and kindness around every corner.”

The artist’s design appeared on the streets of Toronto in the form of a Lovebot sticker and paste-up, which won the hearts of street art fans, and quickly made its way around the world through volunteers eager to spread the disruptive visual message of compassion, kindness and love.

All I ever wanted them to do was to make people smile,” says the artist.

And he did.  Not content to rest on his success, the artist expanded beyond the quickly changing art gallery of the street. He took the visual language of the project to a wider audience through a more permanent type of installation that engaged the entire community.  The aptly titled “Love Invasion”,  saw the artist embark on a series of trials and errors to create a 250 pound, 2 foot tall concrete Lovebot.  This unusual sculpture and several models of various sizes were installed in the footfall of commuters to encourage city dwellers to reflect on their surroundings and their participation in the culture of the concrete jungle that typifies a big commercial city centre.

“If I can make a cold hearted person smile then good, and if a child stumbles upon a concrete robot in the city, then I’ve caused magic or wonder in someone else’s life.  It’s about creating true value, and for me that’s a positive change in someone else’s life.” 

Matthew Del Degan’s “Love Invasion” went beyond the messaging of a single artist to a wider community.  By using his Lovebot in the service of illuminating and amplifying kindness and love, the character became the image of a global art-based social movement for love and kindness.

Working with a team of friends and volunteers, Matthew Del Degan created and self-financed an army of 100 Lovebots.  He called on the people of the city of Toronto to help recognize individuals and organisations who had engaged in outstanding acts of kindness by nominating them to receive a concrete Lovebot sculpture.  This act not only recognized the kindness and love that already existed in the city, but stood as a reminder that small acts of kindness can be monumental because they contain within them the potential to be exponential – inspiring more compassion and kindness from those who witness or remember them.

“Attaching a sculpture or small monument to kind acts caused, well, kindness to seem monumental.”

 

 


 

“I’m not thinking that a concrete robot can inspire someone to love…the stories behind them may.”  

 


 

 

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) prepared this introduction to his work:

Matthew Del Degan belies the well-worn stereotype of Millenials as selfish, disengaged individuals with a sense of entitlement and solely preoccupied with sex, partying, video games and music.  Whilst Matthew is a skydiver with over 130 jumps, a motorcyclist, active public artist, and is a notoriously avid gamer –  an aspect of his aesthetic that is reflected in the retro feel of the Lovebot – he is a man on a mission and living from a sense of purpose.

His mission to be vulnerable and to share his love feeds his purpose to make the world not only a kinder place, but one where love and kindness is amplified.  A muscular man sporting a platinum-blonde mohawk, he not only thwarts stereotypes of his generation, but also of his gender.

“In North America we have an idea of what manly is:  big, strong, brutish, often overbearing, tough, and aggressive. To me that sounds like a large baby.  I am a very physically strong man.  I kickbox, and I lift concrete robots often, however, I recognize that compassion and love is what makes a man a true hero.  A hero, is someone who fights for good, who is loving and giving .  A true man looks after others and their safety.   They are powerful, yes, but also supremely gentle.

I guess I just had the perfect father who was all that and more.  And, my mother was also just spectacular.  The women in my family are top notch. I owe a lot of my love to my grandmother, who was my best friend and took me everywhere.”

As head of the Love Invasion project, Matthew awarded the first concrete Lovebot sculpture to his grandmother, in recognition of all her kindness and love.   To borrow from the American journalist Hodding Carter, the artist’s family has given Matthew Del Degan the roots from which to take wing with his dreams.

 


 

“…compassion and love is what makes a man a true hero.”

 


 

 

And in like fashion, the father of Lovebot gave his creation its own wings to soar.  Taking a back seat, he provided the platform through which the kind deeds of others could shine, deepening the meaning of Lovebot and the committment of Toronto citizens to its ethos.

“I’m not thinking that a concrete robot can inspire someone to love,” he says, humbly, “but, the stories behind them may.”  

By recognizing acts of kindness, compassion and bravery, the Love Invasion not only raises awareness of all the good that is being done in the community but acts as counternarrative the media’s unrelenting message of bad news and trouble in the world.

“Love became my focus because this world is missing it. It’s a sad world.  You know: starvation, animals going extinct, pollution, corruption, beheadings…people wasting their lives on Facebook laughing at cats and fail videos of people falling off things.  This world is a sad world, but I’m not going to sit…and watch it be that way. So, because I know how to love, and this world needs it, that’s what I do.”

Subverting the zeitgeist of disaster, disconnection and disempowerment, Matthew Del Degan’s work for love, kindness and compassion becomes an avante garde occupation.  As has always been the case for society’s vanguard, the way is not always easy.

“I cry. I bleed for my work. I suffer,” admits the artist.  “People don’t see that part. I never asked for this to be easy, and I’m not surprised when it’s hard. I receive hate.  It’s unbelievable.  But, at the end of the day, I have something to fight for and I’m living my dreams…Sometimes I question everything… But now there are too many people who respect what I do, and who support it or have contributed to it and like I said, this world needs more love. I just choose not to stop or give up.”

The Love Invasion of Toronto is mapped out on the Lovebot website to encourage visits to the monuments and reflection on one’s own memberships in communities of friends, families, coworkers and neighbours.  For those who are inspired by what both Matthew Del Degan and those who receive the Lovebot honour have done to bring love, compassion and kindness into their community of the city of Toronto, but who are perhaps at a loss as to how they can make a difference in their own communities, he has this advice:

“If you sit there and do nothing, this world will only get worse. ..Get up and do something. Be a small part of the fight for love. You don’t have to change the world, but if you make one person smile… you change their world… 

It’s perspective. Change your attitude and your world changes. My perception or circumstance is seen though my lens. When I change that lens what I feel is very different, but the circumstance may be the same….I’m only heading towards better things and now I’m biting off far more than I can handle… but that’s how I got this far…Work and bite off more than you can chew, then swallow… that’s how you grow…

Just don’t give up on this world or yourself. We all deserve better than that…Don’t waste your life. Do what you want to do. “

When the artist is not creating concrete sculptures, he is busy creating new projects and art for sale.   He recently launched the first Lovebot toy, and is busy molding his special edition Valentine’s Lovebot which allows fans to have a piece of his art in their home.  As well, he is currently organizing an art event ‘spectacular’ showcasing some of the finest art talent in Toronto.  But Matthew Del Degan remains committed to his vision of making the Love Invasion a global art-based social movement.

“I’m also working on a new sticker package designed to be shared globally. Lovebot fans often want to share the love when they travel or in their respective countries. So I’m designing a larger, cheaper, package for them to do just that.  I’m also building my group of volunteers around the world.”

 

Matthew Del Degan recently shared more about the kind acts which have merited a Lovebot monument with MTV:

 

 

TTDOG sends Matthew Del Degan and Lovebot much love and best wishes for continued success. As is our practice, we asked the artist one final question:  For what are you most grateful and where do you find your greatest joy?

 

“I’m thankful for my life, and I’m thankful for everything I had been given and what I’m managing to do with it.

I find joy in living. I’m not waiting for heaven, that would be so stupid when it’s right here, right now in front of me.”

 

 


 

“Just don’t give up on this world or yourself. We all deserve better than that.”

 


 

 

 

To learn more about Lovebot, to volunteer for the Global Love Invasion or to support the art and design of Matthew Del Degan:

 

Websites:  Matthew Del Degan, Lovebot
Instagram:  Lovebot, Matthew Del Degan
Facebook:  Lovebot
LinkedIn: Matthew Del Degan

 

 

 

Art, Art, Articles, Nature, Oneness, Service

Louis Masai and His Tribe: Shepherding Consciousness Towards Animal Welfare

January 20, 2016

We kick off 2016 with the first in a series of articles featuring individuals who are making a difference in the world – where they are, with the talents they have – through Service.  Our first interview features the UK artist Louis Masai, who uses his skills as a contemporary fine artist and muralist to give a voice to the voiceless and promote environmental conservation.

The global climate summit COP 21 concluded last month and Louis Masai traveled to Paris to add to his works with the environmental NGO, Synchronicity Earth, on endangered species.  In advance of the climate talks, he painted a coral mural outside Paris which is part of a series of murals he is painting in several countries.

In September, Louis Masai began the series by creating the largest mural he has painted to date, in London.  The painting depicted a coral reef with various reef dependent species to highlight the biodiversity of marine ecosystems and corals under threat.  The work was the artist’s first interactive piece, with members of the public suggesting species to include in his design as he painted, and the work received tremendous media attention.  The artist has gone on to paint smaller coral follow-up pieces in Ireland, South London and Paris.

 

#LondonLovesCoral Mural by Louis Masai with Synchronicity Earth, in London

#LondonLovesCoral Mural by Louis Masai with Synchronicity Earth, in London. Photo by Tania Campbell

 

Marine ecosystems are vitally important to life on the planet.  Oceans cover more than 2/3 of the surface, and plankton in marine ecosystems provide 50% of the world’s oxygen as well as food and livelihoods for vast numbers of the global population, particularly for the world’s poor.  As part of the marine ecosystem, coral reefs are home to a multitude of marine life but with climate change, coastal runoff, overfishing and marine pollution, 75% of the world’s coral reefs are currently under threat  with some environmentalists projecting that 90% of the worlds reefs will be under threat by 2030.   The worlds largest coral reef, the Great Barrier Reef, barely remained off the UNESCO endangered list in 2015 and remains under a severe threat watch for the next several years.

These threats have serious implications for mankind.  Seagrasses and mangroves have been lost with the worsening health of marine ecosystems.  When coupled with coral losses and degradation, this has promoted the growth of disease spreading algal blooms in coastal waters which threaten to change disease vectors for masses of populations of humans and terrestrial wildlife.  The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) scientists responsible for projections about the likelihood of climate change and the risks and impacts of that climate change  confirm in their 5th Assessment report the vulnerability of coral reefs.  The existing and projected degradation of coral reefs exacerbates the threat of sea level rise to coastal systems and low-lying areas and this will persist, even if the world manages to stabilise temperatures.

The environmental threat from degradation of the world’s reefs and marine ecosystems is extreme and it will take the concerted effort of the world’s population to improve our combined destiny.  Digesting this grave information is not easy but  Louis Masai has teamed up with Synchronicity Earth to help raise awareness by making all the frightening statistics more accessible and personal.

 

Louis Masai workng on his mural #LondonLovesCoral. Photo Courtesy of London Calling Blog

Louis Masai working on his mural #LondonLovesCoral. Photo Courtesy of London Calling Blog on Instagram: @ldn_calling_blog

 

Whilst the COP 21 Climate Change summit was underway in Paris, we had the opportunity to connect with the artist via email for an interview.

 

TTDOG: You have shied away from the term activist in the past, but I know that you care deeply about the rapid wave of extinctions of species and of biodiversity loss. You have expanded beyond individual species and animals now to a much wider crisis – that of the vanishing coral reefs and, therefore, of entire marine ecosystems. You have painted in Paris at the start of COP21 where all the world’s leaders gathered to set the agenda that will affect the world’s climate which is arguably at a tipping point.  What does this wider vision and forum mean to you and how do you hope your work will impact on leaders, environmentalists and individuals?

LM: Well, to be honest, I doubt very much that politicians that aren’t already engaged in the thoughts of environmental issues will become altered by stumbling upon my coral hearts in Paris or by the other paintings that I have done.  In fact, they are probably blissfully unaware that I am doing it.  There are other art projects happening in Paris that might reach them, but even still, I don’t personally believe that visual language can reach an unethical mind.  However, I do believe that the people that vote governments in to power will be affected by visual language and I also believe that these images can inform the general public and, hopefully, unite the people to encourage the right politicians to lead countries and represent us at environmental summits.

Environmentalists love my work for the simple reason that it addresses issues that they are concerned with;  It depicts them in an attractive way, and it helps to reach the wider audience.  And, as individuals, I think 1 in 10 people will take note and allow for the message to override the actual image itself.  I hope so, anyway.

 

TTDOG:  You have said before that you inject a human element in your work.  Have you done this in your recent series of coral paintings with synchronicity earth? In what way?

LM:  Well the big coral mural I did in London doesn’t depict human juxtaposition in the way that my other work does, but if you look into the centre of the shape, there is a heart shaped hole which I have coined “the keyhole” which means the  biodiversity that I have created is a padlock.  Every keyhole has a key.  

 

Detail from London mural #LondonLovesCoral by Louis Masai with empty heart "keyhole"amidst the biodiversity padlock. Photo courtesy of Instagrammer @m_frenchie

Detail from London mural #LondonLovesCoral by Louis Masai with empty heart “keyhole” in the upper left circle.      Photo courtesy of Instagrammer @m_frenchi

 

The coral hearts that I painted in South London, Paris and before in Ireland are the keys.  This idea of keys and lock symbolises that to unlock a sustainable ecosystem, like the coral reef, we must all have a key to invest into its survival.  The keys become metaphors for the human itself, and thus, the juxtaposition of human and animal becomes a little bit more obvious.  Essentially all my coral paintings are connected together in some way because of the heart, which by the way is not shaped like I have painted them, this shape is a human interpretation.

 

Coral Key in South London by Louis Masai. Photo by Tania Campbell

Coral Key in South London by Louis Masai. Photo by Tania Campbell

 

TTDOG: Your work seems to focus on environmental crisis. What drives you to give a voice to those who do not have one within your paintings and then to engage and include so called marginalised people who are not otherwise part of the environmental discussion through interaction with your art?

LM: I haven’t ever stopped to figure that out, it’s just something that happened naturally, over time.  I guess I’m just creating large real life jigsaw puzzles.

 

TTDOG: Your name is “Masai” and it is a word that seems both sacred and integral to your painting. Would you be willing to share how you gained the name and how it’s meaning infuses your work? What does it mean to you to call your followers “Masai Tribe?”

LM: I have fond memories of wild tales from my Opa about my dad in the Cameroons (now part of Nigeria and the Country of Cameroon) and it is those stories twinned with the Archeological treasures we had at home that steered me in the direction of tribal cultures. I soon discovered an amazing book called Africa Adorned (By Angela Fisher). I became fixated with a tall tribe bearing spears and shields, dressed in beautiful red tartans.

I later understood them to be the Masai warrior tribe.

I have a particular interest in the idea of one’s creation and the way that a person can shape and define who and what they are perceived to be by the general public. Being that I am an artist and one that engages in the public domain on a daily basis, I realised that my love of graffiti and the ideology of fame through a moniker or alter ego was, in many ways, no different from the inventions of the band names and frontmen that I was listening to, on my records. It’s also not uncommon for fine artists to invent their own names. Man Ray, for example, even took it a step further and his name became the art itself. Again, I found this very interesting and something that I wanted to incorporate with my own work.

With these factors all combined and running around my busy head some 8 or 9 years ago, I decided that I wanted a powerful name that I hoped could one day become as important as the work i was creating. I feel it’s starting to approach that place now, especially as my work is about raising awareness for endangered species and threatened ecosystems. The Masai are shepherds which is a nice link to the idea of an artist collecting consciousness amongst the peoples for animal welfare.

The reason for using Masai tribe in my social media is as a way to remind my followers that we are all unified in the success of one mans objectives. If mine is to spread awareness then it’s the tribe’s to move it from my page to theirs and further. I feel the word tribe removes any superiority amongst us.

 

TTDOG: I admire the way you have worked so incredibly hard and collaborated with activists to both make a living as an artist and to make a difference in the world. Both the art world and the world of socio/environmental/political change are really challenging.  People often fear that they alone can’t make a difference. What would you say to them?

LM: Well, to start with, it depends what that one man standing solo is trying to achieve.   You can’t play football on your own, but you can play a game with that ball on your own.  So I guess what I’m saying is that if you want to make a difference and you feel isolated and alone then change the way you address it or go and knock and some doors and get a full team of football fans to play with you.

For me words like “original”, “unique” and “individual” are misused words because someone else has done it before, thought it before, and there will be many to follow.   What i mean is that there are many more “you”’s out there and they care just as much, so find them.  Your mission is to create the links, make a tribe and spread the message further.

 

Throughout his career, Louis has been evolving, creating connections and spreading his message.  Although not always connecting his painting with specific conservation projects, he has long had a special ability to paint character-filled animals.  Painting for several group and solo contemporary art gallery exhibitions, he also honed his skills with public murals in London and in several other countries.  Louis’ evolving relationship with visual communication between animals as subjects and the public as viewer matured through several series of works, and began to focus on raising awareness of endangered species.  His earlier work with Synchronicity Earth marked the passing of the 50th anniversary of the IUCN Red List for endangered species.

Shortly after this project, TTDOG  had the pleasure to meet the artist at his solo exhibition “Batteries Not Included”, in London.  There, Louis spoke about his work with Synchronicity Earth and of the importance for the public to understand and act now on the IUCN Red List for endangered species.  His deeply moving connection with his subjects and his conviction to try to make a change was palpable to all in attendance.

A film by Synchronicity Earth was launched at the opening of the exhibition and provides a glimpse into the passion and purpose of Louis Masai and the Synchronicity Earth Team.

 

Whilst busy creating several other series of paintings for gallery exhibitions and as public art, Louis Masai teamed up in 2014 with fellow artist Jim Vision to turn their skills towards an urgent issue – the collapse of pollinator communities across the UK.   Engaging with the public to educate and raise awareness, the pair created a series of murals in London.  The project culminated in a day of community consciousness and awareness raising around the delicate ecosystem and the threats to the food chain, and textile crops from colony collapse.  Local beekeepers, Friends of the Earth, Hiver honey beer, Thompson Morgan seeds and Rockwell House joined the artists’ cause, to help make the project a success.
The project to save the bees caught the attention and inspired the imagination of the UK public.  A short film by Emil Walker helped deliver the message of the dangers to humanity of the collapse of bee colonies to audiences beyond the UK.

 

 

The project has been featured in social media by environmentalists such as Greenpeace, and Ecowatch, activist sites like Films for Action and the trend setting site Bored Panda as well as mainstream media.  As the debate around banning neonics continues in countries like USA and Canada, and as Europe and the global South works to revive the pollinator population, the project provides a perfect example of how communities are both impacted by and can impact upon bee colony health.

 

Although the global climate meeting of the Conference of Parties 21 concluded late last year with a landmark climate agreement to end fossil fuels use and limit carbon emissions, implementing this agreement and limiting the other greenhouse gasses which threaten the climate will be a complicated process involving unpopular political policy and major lifestyle adjustments for the world’s population.  We know this work cannot be done by governments alone.

As the world struggles to back away from climate disaster,  Louis Masai’s paintings, as real life jigsaw puzzles, help remind even a fraction of his audience that we each hold the key to unlock the preservation of biodiversity.

 

We asked Louis Masai one final question:

 

TTDOG:  For what are you most grateful, and where do you find your greatest joy?

LM:  I just give thanks for the life I live.     For me,  joy is in nature,  so I hope to find ways to preserve it.

 

 

For further information on the work of Louis Masai:
Louis Masai’s Website
Louis Masai on Facebook
Louis Masai on Instagram
Articles, Oneness

Sometimes I Don’t Know How to Live in This World Anymore

December 8, 2015
Photo by NASA

Photo by NASA

Like many people who see the world fall deeper into despair, I admit it: Sometimes I don’t know how to live in this world anymore.

I feel like a child backed into a corner, watching her parents argue.   With her hands over her ears, she screams:

“Stop fighting!”

But screaming does nothing.  My heart aches.

With the EU humanitarian failure to refugees, the Paris attacks, the bombing of Syria and all the racist and fascist fallout that this has generated, the 21st COP has launched in Paris and violence has overshadowed our focus on saving this world of ours.

Screaming in our corner is distracting us from reality.

My heart aches.

Sunday I ventured out into the world and in the heart of Mayfair, I witnessed a car hit a cyclist, the cyclist (shaken but unharmed) stand and scream at the careless driver who returned the screaming and slammed punch after punch into the unsuspecting head of the woman in his passenger seat.

I froze in horror.  I struggled to find my iPad to take down the license plate and then a second round of punching. The car sped off, hopelessly pursued by the cyclist, leaving me holding my iPad and wondering why hell was being unleashed on that woman.

Screaming changes nothing.

My heart aches.

Sometimes I don’t know how to live in this world anymore.  Since Paris, I have been walking around as if in a dream…or perhaps it is what we call “the real world” that has revealed itself to be nothing more than an elaborate illusion. Nothing in the world has made me want to be out socialising or revelling and participating in the illusion.  Everything seems like the matrix, and I am no longer able to pretend to be a part of it.

Sometimes I don’t know how to live in this world anymore.

I isolate, but like holding my hands over my ears and screaming, it changes nothing.  I know that this greed, war, fascism, violence and hatred is not who I am.  There is a reality beyond all this illusion and I never forget it.  I think what is so disturbing is that so many around me have forgotten.

The darkness is spreading at an accelerating rate. Stabbings, shootings, domestic violence, poverty, homelessness,war, environmental degradation – it is all around us.  When the British Parliament was voting on Syrian air raids, I tried to send light to parliament. It was impenetrable.

My heart aches.  And it is right that my heart should ache and I should not want to live in THIS world anymore.

There is much work to be done and screaming changes nothing.  The only thing that can dispel darkness is light.

In the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estés:

“Do not lose heart. We were made for these times…One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul… Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do…”

Sometimes I am able to stay fully lit for others but sometimes I am the struggling soul, relying on the light of others to re-start my pilot.

The only way we can learn how to live in this world, anymore, is together.

 

Articles, Community, Compassion, Oneness

When Social Media Becomes Anti-Social

November 20, 2015
Photo by Ivan Kerasev

Photo by Ivan Kerasev

I have been a defender of social media. It has been my substitute for face-to-face social connection when I have been unable to engage due to illness.

I am not as much a fan, anymore.

I have very intelligent friends – highly educated, successful, articulate and artistic friends. And yet, the lowest common denominator surfaces and gains a voice time and time again on social media. Rather than bringing “friends” together in a time of crisis, social media seems to be polarizing and breaking down “community.”  When consensus does emerge on one or two ideas, is it because we have given the issue due consideration or is it the product of harried individuals who do not wish to appear apathetic and so, succumb to peer pressure?

I suspect it is not through considered deliberation that consensus has been formed.  In the days following the Paris attacks, how did solidarity with one group come to mean that one has no compassion for another group? How did compassion, prayer and meditation come to mean that one must be either a hashtag activist or a Zionist? When did we become so tired and lazy in our thinking that we allow such reductionist and judgemental conclusions of those we call our “friends” and how did we become willing to engage in shaming them in front of our entire “community?”

We are influenced by our surroundings.  What that influence will be depends on our choice of surroundings.  There is a theory of proximity that suggests that through a kind of intellectual contagion, we can make exponential leaps in collaborative innovation if we are in close proximity to other creative thinkers.  This is, I suspect, the theory behind TED conferences and Silicon Valley clustering.  There is also evidence of emotional contagion in adults.

Emotional and intellectual contagion can uplift or destroy our communities.

I long for inspiration and collaboration and that spark that comes from engaging with others working on very different pursuits but whose ideas and techniques fuel my imagination. I know I have a great network out there, and, like me, that network makes up a largely silent majority, just trying to make sense of life and do more meaningful work, in a meaningful way.

I am observing the people that I admire, this week. They are not engaging in social media polemics. They occasionally post something which may promote thought but they don’t debate.   I have no idea how they are spending the hours they don’t devote to social media, but, I suspect that they are not wading through their news feeds to become offended or depressed.  I hope that they are producing more of the work that I admire and living their lives in the way that I admire – engagingly, compassionately, thoughtfully and creatively.

And so, while I value proximity and I long for inspiration, I have decided to turn off my social media channels for awhile.   I will follow the lead of those I admire, and post only what I hope is food for thought.

I am going to use my time to make more work with which others might wish to engage. If you are interested in non violent, non judgemental, creative exploration and dialogue and in committed action towards an artistic, spiritual and/or social or environmental goal, then let’s connect.  I would love to learn from and be inspired by you and to share my own ideas and energy with you.

Perhaps we can find our way back to the meaning of friendship and community, together.

 

Art, Articles, Meditation, Music, Nature, Oneness, The Practices

Why I choose Art in times of crisis

November 16, 2015
Inside the Musée D'Orsay, Paris France. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Inside the Musée D’Orsay, Paris France. Photo by Tania D Campbell

In 2001, I was living and working in Lower Manhattan. My boyfriend, my social circle, and my spiritual community were all in Manhattan. It was home.

My home came under attack.  I was consumed by the news.  It ate away at my insides.  And then, I turned it off.

Two days after the attacks on New York in 2001, my boss closed the studio and we went to look at art on the upper west side. I can’t even remember what art gallery we went to that day, but I do remember being on the roof and in the presence of incredible sculptures and seeing a sky not filled with smoke, for a change.

That day began my experience of communion, through art.

The very nature of art is to interrogate our perceptions of reality, to question what makes us human, to strip away all that is unnecessary in order to find the essence.  The ultimate aim of art is simply one thing only: Truth.

 

Truth, it has been said, is the preserve of the artist, the poet and the mystic.

 

Some would say that Truth is also the preserve of religion and the press.   The spin doctors of political agenda use the media to incite and divide the public.  Our press is owned by corporations with profit motives that dictate certain agendas.  Information is delivered in reductionist snippets and hashtags. There is neither discourse nor freedom in most of the ways we consume “news” from the press.  How can a media so constructed deliver the Truth?  I question whether it can ever even deliver the facts.

I have not lost my faith in the power of the word. I do believe in discourse and the power of the word to persuade. I believe in being informed and taking reports from a wide variety of sources. I believe in listening to scholars and experts and in discussing what is being said. But all of that simply delivers opinion.

Oh I do believe in words.  Words, like all art, can approximate the Truth.  But it is not their content which provides our insight.  Words may only have the power to approximate Truth through the ambiguity of the spaces between those well chosen words.

As in music, it is the silences that give words their meaning.

 

As for religion, it has long been the organising force around which wars have been fought.  Religion became the rallying force for a political agenda driven through the media. Since 2001, the combination of religion and the media has lead to wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, and violent acts of terrorism in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America.

It remains so, now, as crusade and counter crusade strike a chord of familiarity in our collective unconsciousness, whose shared history is one of bloodshed and violence as much as peace and progress.  Currently, there is a lot of talk about the crusades and apocalyptic thinking of a certain group of terrorists.

I am an Interfaith Minister and I chose that path because I believe in the Truth of Oneness that lies at the heart of all of humanity regardless of belief.  It is a rejection of the divisive power of Religions to embrace all faiths and all paths of light whose aim is to seek the Truth  – including the paths of atheism and of science.    There are some that call this a nonsense path in the face of opposing ideologies born in the Middle Ages.  They are entitled to their beliefs, as well. And beliefs are simply that: they are not facts and they are not Truth.

And the argument goes: But how can we stand aside and do nothing when one side has already set up camp on the battlefield?  It is a good argument, if we look at the logic and the rhetoric and if we choose to believe that our God takes sides.

And yet, setting up battle camps on either side of this line, will surely, with today’s technology of killing, usher in a bloody war that we may well wish would unleash the apocalypse.

 

The mystic knows that in every religion, there is one way to know God. It is not from the pulpit nor on the battlefield.  God, in all religions, is revealed in the silence of the heart.

And if we choose to kill God and all concepts of God, we find that it is in the silence of meditation, contemplation, and communion with art and with nature that we can experience what we might call Oneness.

 

As the world struggles to make sense of an outer existence that has once again shown itself to be chaotic, distressing and unpredictable, I choose to turn off the media barrage and seek the one unchanging Truth of Oneness.

I meditate, I send healing to the hearts of family and friends of the dead and for the passage of the souls of the dead, and of course, I cry.  I make inquiries of friends who have been impacted and I listen.  I select my news and I engage in discourse with a variety of sources.  And, with a meditative stillness, I turn to contemplation and communion with art.

On Friday evening, as events were beginning in Paris, I was leaving the Giacometti exhibition in London.  It was an uplifting and deeply moving exhibition.  In describing his own process, Giacometti referred to the material from which he formed his sculptures as the illusion, itself. He sought to pare down the superfluous to reveal the presence of the living essence of being – not of any particular person – but of us all.

In the spaces between the words, in the silence of our hearts, in quiet contemplation with nature and with art, the Oneness of being calls to us constantly because we are a part of it.  We can choose to enhance its light or to shroud it in darkness by what we bring into our collective unconsciousness, our very essence of being.

 

What will you choose, this week?

 

 

Art, Art, Articles, Community, Oneness

Doing Lines: Hyper Collaborative Art Madness

November 7, 2015

Doing Lines, BSMT Space‘s third and final Street Art Exhibition of 2015 opened last night in Dalston.  The brain child of Captain Kris, Tony Boy Drawings, The Real Dill, and Obit, Doing Lines promised to be “hyper collaborative art madness” and “an immersive experience,” according to Captain Kris.  The show delivered on the promise.

"Doing Lines" at BSMT Space. Photo by Tania D Campbell

“Doing Lines” at BSMT Space. Art © by Doing Lines. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Stepping into the space, one is surrounded on all sides by black and white illustration of the character based genre. The individual illustration style of each artist is present but they merge and interact in ways that create vignettes in true improv fashion.

 

From different vignettes, character by Captain Kris (Left) and Tony Boy Drawings (Right). Art © by Doing Lines Photo by Tania D Campbell.

 

An overarching story begins to unfold as one examines details of a sea scape, a naughty sexual encounter on one wall, a haven to intoxicants in another corner and a foodscape on yet another wall which provides for the inevitable munchies that will result from a wild night of partying.

 

An intoxicating corner. Art © by Doing Lines. Photo by Tania D. Campbell

 

The visitor feels as though they have walked into a larger than life comic book where a party is underway.  The text is written in reverse, telling us that we have left our everyday existence and entered inside the world of the story that the images are creating.

The party continues with DJ Seeds on the decks spinning wicked tunes and white balloons covering the floor.

 

Entering the space, reversed text makes the visitor feel they are "inside" the story that the illustration is telling storylines

Entering the space, reversed text makes the visitor feel they are “inside” the story that the illustration is telling.  Art © by Doing Lines. Photo by Tania D Campbell.

 

It is clear that the artists, Captain Kris, Tony Boy Drawings, The Real Dill and Obit have created a fun time for the visitor, improvising the piece, despite the three days and nights of hard work it took to create. The improv does not end with the artists. We are meant to become a part of the story.  The white balloons lay strewn upon the floor and markers lay at the ready for visitors to draw themselves into the story as merry party goers.

 

A visitor "draws himself" into the story. Photo by Tania D Campbell.

A visitor, artist 616, “draws himself” into the story. Photo by Tania D Campbell.

 

And it isn’t just by drawing that one can enter the storyline. A voluptuous naked woman is positioned in a waiting pose for a sexual encounter.  She is drawn exactly at the height where a gallery visitor might be inclined to position himself or herself to enjoy the encounter – were the illustration a real woman, or were the visitor made from illustrator’s ink and able to step out of this world and onto the wall.

 

AVolutuous woman by Obit with face and stabby creature by the Real Dill. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Voluptuous woman by Obit with face and stabby creature by The Real Dill. Art © by Doing Lines. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Masters of mixing performance art with street art, the energy of the piece continued at the opening with live drawing.

 

Live drawing. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Live drawing. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

All in all, an evening of community and mirth was created between artists, and gallery visitors.  A small number of works are available for sale, including a limited edition signed print, and several canvases which had been carefully hung and concealed on the blank walls at the start of the jam.  Keeping to the promise to be different from the usual “paintings on walls” shows, the canvases for sale from Doing Lines were completed as a consequence of being part of the blank wall for the improvisational 3-day illustration jam.

 

A massive amount of fun, the immersive party atmosphere continues at BSMT Space with the Doing Lines walls on exhibition through 14 November.

 

 

Art, Art, Articles

Stinkfish Sets Off an Explosion of Colour on Bonfire Week in London

November 7, 2015

Colombian based and Mexican born artist, Stinkfish, has returned to London with his exhibition, Crossroad Portraits at Pure Evil Gallery.

Art © by Stinkfish at Pure Evil Gallery. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Art © by Stinkfish at Pure Evil Gallery. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

An explosion of colour characteristic of his vibrant portraits, the fireworks of bonfire night was the perfect backdrop for the opening of an exhibition by one of the most energetic and vibrant artists to have painted on London streets and graced the gallery scene in awhile.

 

"Agga(?) Family Values © by Stinkfish. Photo by Tania D Campbell

“Agga(?) Family Values © by Stinkfish. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Visitors to the opening were able to chat with Mr Stinkfish about his work and see the photos of people who have captivated him in his travels and subsequently become the subjects of his portraits.

 

Image of unknown mother and child whose image Stinkfish used as a model for his mural painting. Photograph from wall of images at Pure Evil Gallery, now on display. Photo of images by Tania D Campbell

Image of unknown mother and child whose image Stinkfish used as a model for his mural painting. Photograph from wall of images at Pure Evil Gallery, now on display. Photo of images by Tania D Campbell

 

Within each portrait is contained a tale of the momentary captivation of heart and mind, captured in a photograph, and carried in the heart of the painter through to completion of his portrait. Often unaware of the photographer, these interesting moments with intriguing strangers are immortalised in a combination of stencil and freehand paint on canvas.

 

"Phoenix Girl" © by Stinkfish. Photo by Tania D Campbell

“Phoenix Girl” © by Stinkfish. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Many times, Stinkfish has been asked about his choice of colour palette and over again, he replies that it has come organically. Perhaps by considering the indigenous and folk art of Central America, including Colombia and Mexico, one can see that in the context of this art history with their vibrant reds, oranges and yellows, the equally vibrant palette of Stinkfish, a man of the streets, is organic to cultures from which he comes.

 

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“Barrio Girl #1” © by Stinkfish. Photo by Tania Campbell

 

These delightful portraits, refreshingly dazzling to the London public are very accessible to aspiring collectors, evidencing the truth of Stinkfish’s  ethos of wishing not to exploit his success but merely to be able to continue to make art available to as wide an audience as possible, particularly through the public gallery of the Street.

 

The exhibition runs through 6 December. Pure evil gallery at 96/98 Leonard Street is open daily from 10-6.

 

 

Art, Art

Graffictti Exhibition – Said Dokins, Mazatl, Fusca, Ácaro

November 7, 2015

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Wednesday night, Graffictti, a group show by Mexican artists Said Dokins, Mazatl, Fusca, Ácaro opened in London. A short exhibition, the show runs through Sunday at the newly opened Hoxton Gallery at 47 Old Street.

Just three months old, the gallery is a large space in a converted grocery store, set in the heavily trafficked Old Street footpath between Whitecross Street and the Old Street tube station.  Well lit by day with large windows providing ample light, the gallery invites visitors to a voyage of discovery.   Although the ethos of a pop-up exhibition is to be a rough around the edges and “underground” vibe, it was admittedly hard work to find a gallery staff member to provide information.

Despite the gallery experience, this is a must see exhibition.  They works are a delight, living up to Hoxton Gallery’s promise to:

“…act as a point of artistic exchange between Mexican artists and the London street art community, showcasing emerging talents…(that) reflect the changing landscape of contemporary Mexico and its deep relation with traditional techniques”

 

Said Dokins

The beauty of Said Dokins’ calligraphy on walls in London is matched by the works in the gallery.

Art © by Said Dokins. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Art © by Said Dokins. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Photographs of works of writing performed with long exposure photography and the tracing of light through space is beyond compare.

 

Art © by Said Dokins. Photo of image in gallery by Tania D Campbell.

Art © by Said Dokins. Photo of image in gallery by Tania D Campbell.

 

Without an explanation of the work, one might presume that the work has been photoshopped rather than produced by photography and meditative focus.  In essence, Dokins has managed to leave a trail of perfectly formed letters with light, despite the letters being seen only in his mind’s eye.

 

Mazatl

Precision of line and detail is reflected in the prints of master carver and painter, Mazatl. His works remind one of the long tradition of graphic art seen in woodcuts dating back to early medieval times.

 

Art © by Mazatl. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Art © by Mazatl. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Beautifully rendered images of death, birth and political repression are conveyed via the natural world and connect with the viewer in a visceral way. A truly gifted artist and craftsman,  his images are immediate and engaging. One is entranced by both the detail of line and the overall realism generated.

 

Fusca

Juxtaposed against the precise detail of Mazatl, is the delicate terra cotta blush on the three faces of the woman from whose heart emerges a powerful horse.  Her illuminated, sun kissed skin offers both warmth and a complex set of imagery that seems at once both familiar and foreign.

 

Two prints left for sale.

A post shared by Fusca (@fusca667) on

 

Like Frida Kahlo, Fusca mixes what has been termed surrealism with symbols from indigenous and folk art.  Fusca’s work evokes the art of the Pueblo people both in the choice of colour palette and in imagery.

 

Detail collaboration with my brother @graficamazatl in London.

A post shared by Fusca (@fusca667) on

 

The above street piece of the masked figure who has tamed Mazatl’s wild boar is reminiscent of masked Hopi snake dancers, and the horse emerging from the heart reminds the viewer of the central role of the horse in indigenous culture of Northern Mexico and of the role that the Pueblo people played in the development of the horse trade in Northern Mexico and what has become the American Southwest.

Beautiful, captivating and dream like, Fusca’s art takes one on a journey of myth and legend both historical and beyond time.

 

Ácaro

With political imagery and detailed line reminiscent of Mazatl and a surrealist treatment that gives primacy to the natural world, Ácaro completes the show by evidencing a wide artistic range in the works exhibited.

 

Detail from Art by Ácaro. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Detail from Art by Ácaro. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Art prices range from accessible to that suitable for a more serious amateur collector. The group show closes Sunday and while one should be prepared to really work for an inquiry with gallery staff, the show is one not to miss.

 

 

 

 

Art, Art, Articles, Community, Oneness

BSMT Space – Celebrating Community Through Street Art

November 4, 2015
Lara Fiorentino with Art © by Meeting of Styles, UK. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Lara Fiorentino with Art © by Meeting of Styles, UK. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Just six weeks after launch, BSMT space in Dalston has wrapped its second contemporary Street Art exhibition, Death in Dalston.

BSMT launched the space with a first contemporary street art show, Underhand.  The show was a smash success with art by a range of international street artists.

A third exhibition of Street Art, Doing Lines, with Captain Kris, Obit, The Real Dill and Tony Boy Drawings, opens this Friday, 6 November.

In an art community that is often suspicious of the gallery world and is rife with stories of artists failing to be paid for their sales, what makes this gallery able to command such talented artists in such early days of their positioning in the art world? It appears to come down to credibility as fellow artists, good intentions and a sense of community.

 

Good Vibrations

Lara Fiorentino, the gallery owner, is an artist herself, with more than a decade of both fine art and professional decorative painting on her CV. Understanding the art work as well as the disposition of the artist gives her the ability to forge relationships with artists from a wide range of styles and backgrounds. It is her high-end decorative painting skills that helped her transform a dark and dank basement into the beautiful and inviting gallery it is today. But it is perhaps her intuive skill as an artist and a business owner that has served her best.

“I just felt it when I saw this place,” Lara Fiorentino, the gallery, owner said of the BSMT location. “There was no staircase, we had to enter through the landlord’s premises, there was water dripping down and you couldn’t even see the whole space. The walls were bare. It was a mess.” When asked whether it was her ability as an artist to visualise the potential of the space she said: “Yes, I suppose. But I just felt it. And it all comes down to good energy.”

Friends of Lara have said of her that she possesses a rare quality – she embodies the gestalt of the art of the time. It is this good energy which she brings to her endeavours and which makes them a success. An artist herself, she aims to provide a positive creative space for ideas to come to fruition.

“I couldn’t do it without Greg,” she hastens to add. “And Greg couldn’t do it without me. We are a great team.”

Lara Fiorentino and Greg Key at the launch of BSMT Space in Dalston. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Lara Fiorentino and Greg Key at the launch of BSMT Space in Dalston. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Community Making

Greg Key, her partner, is a Street Art curator with a background as an entertainment and hospitality industry professional. He has spent the past several years building relationships in the Street Art community and gaining the trust of the artists whom he and Lara now represent, at the gallery.

I spoke with Greg before the first group show, Underhand, about his motivation for putting on the show and for donating the gallery commissions for that show to the homeless charity St. Mungos.

“It’s about giving back to the community,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out on the street with artists, as they paint, and I’ve seen how people suffer on the streets. It’s only getting worse.” Regarding the artists, he said: “I want to give back to a great community of artists that has embraced me and accepted me as one of their own. They’re my friends. I want to do something special for them.”

Greg Key and Lara Fiorentino with Art © by Ekto. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Greg Key and Lara Fiorentino with Art © by Ekto. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Visiting The Gallery

Entering the gallery, there is a sense of ease and community. One is welcomed warmly by the curators and left to engage with the works of art alone or to engage in spirited dialogue with the curators, as one wishes. One gets the sense that the gallery, although a business, will succeed only by helping the artists to succeed in selling their work and by drawing in buyers to a world that is, in many cases, foreign to their own.

BSMT Space, located underground at 5 Stoke Newington Road in London has also filled 620 sq ft space, two alcoves and additional newly renovated room for the launch of a contemporary art collective and social movement, Food of War. The magazine, Funhouse, also launched at the space in October.

The recipe of good vibes and community seems to be working, with back to back bookings through to the end of year, foreign buyers clamouring for pieces, and celebrity gallery visitors like Gilbert and George making appearances at openings. This cozy space, creating community in the heart of Dalston, is well worth the visit.

 

Exhibition Reviews:

Read about BSMT’s  first exhibition of Street Art, Underhand 

Read about BSMT’s second exhibition of Street Art, Death in Dalston

Read about BSMT’s third exhibition of Street Art, Doing Lines

Read about the launch of Food of War

Art, Art, Articles, Community, Oneness

Death In Dalston – Street Art Remembers the Community of the Dead

October 31, 2015

Death in Dalston, BSMT Space’s second Street Art exhibition curated by Greg Key opened this week in London.

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Flyer Courtesy of BSMT Space. Design by Captain Kris. Artwork by Tommy Fiendish

 

Dubbed “A curious collection of skulls,” the exhibition offers a sometimes sentimental, often whimsical, and sometimes shocking view of physical mortality and of psychological death.

The exhibition coincides with the pagan celebration of Samhain, the secular celebration of Halloween, the Christian marking of All Saint’s Day and the Mexican tradition of welcoming the community of the dead on Dia de Los Meurtos.

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Art © by Lennie Lee. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

That is a lot of death and ghosts to pack into a 600 square foot gallery!

 

Art © by Gary Alford. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Art © by Gary Alford. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Yet the visitor is greeted with sight of the whimsical “Disco Ate My Brain” by Alfie Black, a massive disco skull made from a sculpted form covered in hand-cut mirrored glass.  Given the scale of the piece, it should not surprise that it took over 300 hours to create.

 

Detail from "Disco Ate My Brain" © by Alfie Black. Photo by Tania D. Campbell

Detail from “Disco Ate My Brain” © by Alfie Black. Photo by Tania D. Campbell

 

Skeleton Cardboard offers up a wall of merry skeletons complete with his own shrine to commemorate the season.

Art © Skeleton Cardboard. Photo by Tania D. Campbell. Top: "Empire State Skele(L), Chrysler Skele (R) Bottom: Altar, "Nothing Matters"

Details from Art © Skeleton Cardboard. Photo by Tania D. Campbell.
Top: “Empire State Skele” (L), “Chrysler Skele” (R)
Bottom: Altar, “Nothing Matters”

 

Nick Flatt’s painting of a skull with gold teeth against a hot pink background offers another thumb of the nose at the Angel of Death.

 

Art © by Nick Flatt. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Art © by Nick Flatt. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

 

The cow bone and human hair “shrunken skull” of Donald Trump from the collection by Burt Gilbert is a wink to visitors to acknowledge the dark voodoo desires this will evoke in most people in the run up to the U.S. Election.

 

Art © by Burt Gilbert. Photo by Tania D Campbell.

Art © by Burt Gilbert. Photo by Tania D Campbell.

 

Skulls are a common motif on the streets and one might wonder why this theme has captured the imagination of so many Street Artists. We must recall that the skull is a motif in art across the world, from Hamlet’s soliloquy to the skull of his departed friend reminding us that our precarious existence is a choice, to the use of the skull as a reminder of our mortality in the Vanitas paintings of the Dutch Golden Age of painting, to the depictions of Kali wearing a necklace of skulls in Hindu and specifically, Tantric magical iconography.

Triumph over the illusion of life and death in Tantric practice is ritualised by drinking and eating from human skulls, and meditating or making love in burial grounds while the illusion of life without end is challenged by the Vanitas paintings and the words of the Bard.

There is a long tradition of skull imagery in art, yet there is special attraction to the skull in the street art world.  Perhaps it is partly a totem that signals street sense and toughness, as it seems to do for heavy metal fans.  Perhaps it is that, in a world where graffiti and throw ups must be done quickly, the skull, as a universal symbol, offers an immediate and rapidly delivered message to the viewer.

An affront to the denial of our immortality in a culture that glorifies youth and discards the elderly, the use of the skull by Street Artists of London dismantles our illusions of reality and questions the meaning of our altogether too short existence.

Resistance to the death of independent thought and of our very humanity within in a world where we work to consume like automatons caught in a macabre capitalist system, Street Art challenges our perception of the meaning of life, and particularly, the walking death of our modern existence.

In a world of information overload, the depiction of the human form devoid of flesh flips the message inside out allowing the subtext of the message to smack the viewer in the face and scream: “Wake up, while there is still time!”

This urgency is conveyed by the threads that surround the wonderful threaded skeleton by Perspicere.

Art © by Perspicere. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Art © by Perspicere. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

Wrapped in a shroud, the viewer is reminded that only a thread separates life from our inevitable death.

Drawing on our cultural references of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven and Hitchcock’s The Birds, Ali Hamish’s suited and booted man is already dead.  His skeletal face smiles at the world as his bony hand reaches out, as if to strike a deal.  The subject continues to walk through his empty life, complete with his elite corporate job.

Art © by Ali Hamish. Photo by Tania D Campbell.

Art © by Ali Hamish. Photo by Tania D Campbell.

 

In a more sentimental vein, the painting of Alex Illusra Feccia takes as its base, the X-Rays of his brother’s skull, acknowledging for the viewer that we actually suffer the least from our own death. It is the death of our loved ones that causes us grief.

Art by Alex Illustra Feccia. Photo by Tania Campbell.

Detail from Art © by Alex Illustra Feccia. Photo by Tania Campbell.

 

Most poignant of all, perhaps, is the installation by Morgazmik/Morgandy, in memory of two family members lost during the year.

 

Art © Morgasmik/Morgandy. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Art © Morgazmik/Morgandy. Photo by Tania D Campbell

 

The only piece lacking a skull, the raven conveys death, the crisp autumn leaves evoke the inevitability of the cycle of life and death and the personal mementos of the dead allows what is the artist’s personal loss to touch the viewer and trigger our own pain of loss.

The message hits home: In order to honour the community of the dead we must wake up and live.

Other wonderful pieces by talented artists complete the exhibition designed to meet all of one’s ghoulish needs.

 

Death in Dalston offers a quick trip through the underworld and runs at BSMT Space only through 2 November so don’t miss out.