We had the pleasure of attending the Private View of Oakland Gallery's current exhibition "Colourway" last month and putting a face behind the beautiful artworks of identity-aware street artist NERONE. All-in-all, a fantastic evening and exhibition - congratulations to all involved - if the delicious sponge cake was the gallery, the artworks the yummy cream and jam filling, then the cherry on top was definitely meeting the artist's muse, Frankie.
Nerone and Frankie in New Brighton, 2021
"What better?!", we thought, than to not only speak with the artist about his works, but also to his muse - for a different perspective on this incredible body of works, read on!
(N For Nerone, F for Frankie)
Let's start at the beginning - tell us about how you first got into the art world and defined yourself as an artist.
N: I started doing graffiti pretty young, when I was eleven. Back in the day, I remember chilling in abandoned spots, picked up old empty cans on the floor to do my first tags. I was absolutely fascinated by the atmosphere of these areas. After this entry in the hip hop movement, I started to paint trains, subways, street, so everything I could. Then, a few years laters with some friends we moved to Paris and we have created Le Coktail, a collective doing numerous projects that included street art, graphic design, paintings, set design and decoration. After that, I moved to London to develop my own career.
From your point of view, when did Nerone really start getting traction as an artist? Was there a defining moment or anything significant that you thought "ah ha! He is on his way!"
F: It has been a slow process and I'm immensely proud of him and how far he has come since we moved in London! After a few months painting in the streets and putting his name out there, he started to be contacted for his very own style by companies and festivals so we knew that it was the beginning of something BIG!
The prominent subject matter across your body of work is flowers - they have become your visual signature and they ensure you work is instantly recognisable - is there any significance or meaning behind them?
N: I just love painting positive subjects and I love how nature can produce organic and graphic things.Everything started when I arrived in London. It's an amazing city, creative and dynamic but we miss the sun and light. Painting flowers was a good way to bring flashes of light in the dark streets.
Super Walls Festival, Italy.
The prominent subject matter across his body of work is flowers - do they hold any particular significance or meaning to you? And/or to Nerone?
F: Painting flowers is all about bringing positivity and good vibes. It's also a great way to express his high sense of colours.
Why do you think he chose to paint flowers in the first place and do you yourself have a personal favourite flower?
F: He started painting flowers after moving to London to bring life and colours to this beautiful ( but so grey sometimes ) city. I'm also obsessed with flowers myself. As a vintage lover I have a huge collection of floral blouses.
Your colourful murals can be found worldwide - from Paris to New-York, Cartagena to Bangkok, and in Berlin, Marrakech and Seoul. Which has been your favourite city to paint in so far and why?
N: It's so difficult to choose ! Travelling is life and I had great experiences for all of them. But if I've to choose... I would say South Korea, Frankie and I painted her face on a big structure in Seoul for the International Flowers Festival.
International Flowers Festival, Seoul, 2017
His colourful murals can be found worldwide - do you tend to accompany him whenever he travels to another country to complete a mural? Which has been your favourite city to visit with him for work so far and why?
F: I do! We both love traveling and discovering new places and it's the best feeling when you can express your creativity around the world.
I assist Nerone on big projects and love painting and learning new skills too. After all these years we know how to work fast and efficiently!
So hard to choose from as it reminds me of so many adventures! I would say our trip to Seoul, Korea, for the International flowers festival. We were working outdoors in a beautiful park surrounded by gardener artists, the culture , the people, the food... It was an amazing experience and a completely different world and we loved it so much!
International Flowers Festival, Seoul, 2018
Tell us a little more about that particular mural? The set-up, your process etc
N: It has been imagined and designed in my laboratory in London, created on 3D in South of France by a friend and assembled and painted in Seoul. The Seoul International Flowers Festival is a huge event, I went in 2017 and 2018. You can find all the nationalities and I was proud to represent France.
Which is your favourite of his murals?
F: Not easy to choose from but the very first one was in Istanbul in 2016, and is very special to me.
Not only working on walls, you also produce works on canvas - do you prefer working in your studio on canvas? Or working outside on walls? Tell us why
N: Painting on walls as I love travelling, discovering new places and meeting people. It can be a wall in Shoreditch or on the other side of the globe. I'll always come back home with crazy stories to share; especially when you paint in the streets. For me it is the most important part because we are losing our human side.
Of course, painting at the studio during the endless and cold winter when it's dark at 3.30 is super comfortable.
I love graphic design as well but it's another game. You can work on a commission without ever meeting or speaking to the client.
From your perspective - do you think he prefers working in the studio on canvas? Or working outside on walls?
F: I would say outside for the next few years but I could totally see him painting in his studio/atelier for months.
People of the UK can view your latest body of work at your current exhibition "Colourway" at Oakland Gallery in Wallasey, North-west England (its on until the end of January 2022, people! Get yourselves down there!) - how did it come about that you and furniture designer Populuxe would exhibit your works together?
N: Rob from Oakland gallery asked me early this year to do a show in his gallery after doing this mural in April for New Brighton Street Art. He suggested Populuxe as a partner for making it happen.I didn't know him personally but I loved his work for a while. I'm happy with the collaboration, our works work super well together.
I brought Nerone & Populuxe together for the first time for the Colourways exhibition at Oakland Gallery - I love how surprising it is that their works compliment eachothers so well. I’ve enjoyed curating this show and it was a reaction to the hard time we have all just come out of, that is why I tried to bring a bit of brightness and colour into the gallery.
Robert Jones - New Brighton Street Art
Whilst we are on the subject of your current show, I noticed that some of the canvas works feature lightening bolts as well as your signatory flowers - what was the influence there?
N: My work is very much inspired by the energy and vivid atmosphere of the street, I live around Dalston and I love this area. The vibrancy of the city and its crazy nightlife, with the never-ending labyrinth of neon lights and music clubs inspire many of my paintings.Neons and tags are both done to be viewed! So, mixed together it produces a great impact.
Also, two works that include the female form feature in the show - we wondered if these were a nod to your muse, Frankie? Tell us some more about her and how she inspires and influences you and your work?