CRYSTAL PARIS (2020–2023)

“Graffiti is like boxing.

The people who do it “professionally” tend to go round in circles pulling the same old moves all the time.

The real entertainment takes place on Amateurs’ night. That’s when you get to watch the bitter and twisted unleash all their pent up frustrations on an unsuspecting public in a desperate attempt to make some kind of point before collapsing under a cloud of their own bloodied spit.”
Banksy, epigraph to Pictures of Walls (POW, 2005)

I moved to Crystal Palace, South London, in 2012. At the time, the whole area seemed a bit neglected—Crystal Palace Park especially. I didn’t see many Dr Who episodes as a young child, but one sticks in my memory: of Daleks attempting a futile chase across some rocky waste ground. The atmosphere was grey and tense. The park made me think of that scene—and more vividly every time I took the children out in their buggy over the next 5 or so years. (Daleks and temperamental children in buggies are not so dissimilar.) As you might expect from such a place, there’s plenty of scope for people to dream of different worlds. I’ve tried to capture some of those dreams.

‘Crystal Paris’
The ruins of the Crystal Palace exhibition building set the tone. Also heroic in its heyday, but now dilapidated, the National Sports Centre entrenches that pervasive atmosphere of decline. In amongst the disrepair was a moment of crudely scrawled defiance. ‘Crystal Paris’ elides what is now no more than a faded memory with the world’s metonym for elegance and sophistication. Bloodied spit.

‘Meth Church’
Karl Marx diagnosed religion as “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” By contrast, a methamphetamine church would be unorthodox.

‘Mmm’ seems to be fast food’s staple phrase. From ‘MMM Mattessons’ processed meats, to McDonald’s ripping off C+C Music Factory: ‘Things that make you go mmm’.... From McDonald’s ‘7:45ammm’ breakfast poster, to a guy in a Burger King ad going ‘MMMMMMMMMM...’—seemingly forever... to South London’s ‘MMM Fried Chicken’—seemingly ripping off Morley’s—the industry loves its multiple ems. But none has the ludicrously audacious appetite of Morley’s model.

‘Syd & Crystal’
The consequence (for me) of reading plenty of Dr Seuss books, where peculiar, sharp-toothed creatures face each other in a scene that it simultaneously ordinary and bizarre.

Life began in the sea.... And in the skatepark, it seems to have rapidly reached the apex of sexual selection.

‘Paxton’s Head’
This monument to the designer of the Crystal Palace is day-to-day unrelentingly dead-eyed and monstrous; its XXL scale making it even more incongruous with how Victorian celebrities were typically immortalised. It felt like time to animate this monster—albeit for only an hour or so.

From time-to-time, this headless Victorian statue magically assumes a new identity....

‘Lightopia’ was a winter lights attraction held in Crystal Palace Park. But the company running it went bust during the event; which left Mother Clanger free to have fun.

More text to follow soon....

Limited edition Giclée prints made on Hahnemüle Fine Art Baryta 325gsm paper are available from my shop.