Painting the city red… and green and yellow: the art movement brings a new color to London | Street art

Colorful postmodern street furniture, temporary temples adorned with neon geometric shapes and underground passageways designed to evoke happiness have offered Londoners a joyous break from the monotony of urban landscapes in recent years. Now the trend has been identified as a design movement called New London Fabulous (NLF).

The Virtual Design Festival, organized by the architecture and design magazine Dezeen, is the first event of its kind for the creative industries – a way to ensure that products, artworks and conferences canceled due to the coronavirus could find an audience. Last week, a VDF conference also gave birth to NLF.

The name was coined by designer Adam Nathaniel Furman at a VDF conference to describe a group of young creatives whose work is colourful, patterned, cheerful and reflects London’s ‘cultural melting pot’.

Furman says the opportunity to create fantastic work is unique to London. “Design critics naturally frown on temporary installations – they are seen as wasteful and often part of gentrification – but they also give artists a unique chance to create large-scale works. Designers can express themselves in new ways. The public often loves colorful art and many people who commission public art in London have responded to this.

Camille Walala on her Walala Loungeand headquarters in Mayfair.

by Furman Gateways piece, a set of tiled doors celebrating the history of Turkish ceramics, was erected in King’s Cross for the London Design Festival in 2017. Other examples of NLF work include happy street, an enamel sign in a south London underpass by Yinka Ilori. He used color theory to choose hues for the underpass that promote happiness. Rose Bank Arcade by Edward Crooks is a lane in the pedestrianized shopping area of ​​Walthamstow that has been designed to look like a Victorian arcade. Camille Walala has created graphic street furniture in the 80s style called Walala Lounge in Mayfair and Morag Myerscough’s multicolored geometric-patterned art installation Agape Temple stayed a summer on the south shore.

“There’s definitely something in the air,” says Marcus Fairs, editor-in-chief of Dezeen and organizer of the VDF. “Many designers have independently started using color boldly and without irony, out of sheer joy. Color was sidelined from serious design discourse for a while, but now it’s going mainstream.

NLF designers are not a clique, but share interests. Subcultures and multiculturalism are key influences in these rainbow-colored buildings. “I arrived in London 20 years ago from the south of France,” says Walala. “I missed seeing the colors – and I could see so much potential for pockets of pattern and color here. I think a lot of immigrants bring their experience and their different point of view, which makes London more exciting. »

Furman spent her childhood in Japan, Argentina and Israel before her family moved to London. “Being a queer kid in the 90s sucked at school, but amazing in London. I went to gay clubs in Soho and hung out at Cyberdog in Camden. Color and aesthetics were a big part of these subcultural groups. They created a magical world that made me who I am.

While the NLF has been dismissed as Instagram culture or, as Furman puts it, “Millennials regurgitating existing ideas,” there’s more to it. Ilori and Walala say community is important. “I love it when people have access to my work – it makes me really happy,” Ilori said in an interview with The Observer’s. Design magazine. “Architecture and design should be for everyone.” He currently works on skate parks and playgrounds in Great Britain and France.

“It’s important to give back to London and create a space for people to meet and interact,” says Walala. “A joyful public space brings people together.” Her new community-funded project, The Walala Parade, will give Leyton High Road a facelift. Work begins in July.

However, Furman says his work is sometimes a middle finger for tutors and tastemakers. “If you are perceived as different and you are abused for it, it can make you think that I will really go for what I believe in.”

He also says that for him these creations are a response to the dark times we live in. “When things are tough, I think artists recalibrate their work to reflect what is taken away from them. I love Matisse – I mean, everyone loves Matisse – and his cutouts bring tears to your eyes, they’re so joyful. Many were created during [the second world war] when her daughter had been kidnapped by the Nazis and the world was collapsing outside her window. But he disappeared into a happy, affirmative place. I think that spirit is also present in the new use of color.

Christopher S. Washington