The murals at the heart of communities
Gary Drostle is a London-based artist born in Woolwich who brings contemporary mosaic art to the streets, taking inspiration from the site – known as site-specific art. His work is dotted throughout the UK and America, giving this art form a new and contemporary revival.
From his humble beginnings, Gary has gone on to create some iconic murals around London, one of the most iconic being situated in Anthology’s first home of Deptford.
Gary is an avid supporter of Second Floor Studio & Arts (SFSA) who is set to occupy the studio space at Anthology’s Deptford Foundry in 2018 and currently host their no format Gallery at the development. SFSA supported Gary at the beginning of his career in terms of supplying work space for Gary to create his masterpieces.
With a career spanning over 30 years, as well as creating some iconic art works in the Deptford area, Anthology is proud to call Gary Drostle their latest ‘Local Hero’.
·You’ve created some iconic art works over the years – can you tell us more about how you came to become an artist?
I do believe that as children we are all able to express ourselves through drawing and painting if we are given the opportunity, so for me the real question is when did you stop being an artist, in my case I simply carried on sticking and colouring-in from those school days.
From school, I continued to Camberwell Arts College, formerly known as St Martins and Hornsey colleges of Art to study fine art and since then I have been lucky enough to survive and keep creating work.
·Could you tell us the inspiration behind the ‘Love Over Gold’ mural in Deptford?
The Love Over Gold mural had three points of inspiration. The first was the graffiti left on the wall in Creekside that was meant to have inspired the Dire Straits song of the same name. For me this phrase was all about how we see the world and how love and mutual respect and sharing will conquer greed. This view knitted well into the second point which was my view of Deptford and how we could change the area’s future to a clean brighter and inclusive world - this view was enhanced and further inspired by design workshops held with all the local primary schools, whose work formed the basis of the mural design. The third point of inspiration was the work of the Outset disability training project that occupied the building at that time, from here came the images of a world in which all people of all abilities would be included.
·It’s evident you enjoy working with local schools and community groups – do you think art is important in bringing communities together?
I do think art in all its forms, visual arts, music, poetry, dance, drama is what makes life and is essential in so many ways. The reason I became involved in creating works on the street and in our communities, is because I believe that this is where it belongs. The arts have the capability to bring us together to celebrate our strengths and help build a better environment.
·Could you give us a brief overview of some of your favourite art/projects you have worked on?
The Love Over Gold mural was a defining project for me and some of my favourite projects since then have had a lot of the same elements to them. Recently I have carried out two particularly inspiring projects in Colombia, one in 2015 for the Street Art Biennale in Cali where I created a mosaic for the bus station which addressed the issue of reconciliation following the recent wars and the second in 2016 working with a well-known graffiti squad ‘Ink Crew’ in the barrios of Bogota to create a giant mosaic which addressed issues of housing and the indigenous communities.
I have also been lucky enough recently to be commissioned for several major artworks in the United States including major works in California and Iowa.
Closer to home one of my favourite projects has been the ‘Entwined Histories’ artwork, a mosaic encrusted sculpture for a housing estate in Poplar, east London, which tells the story of the changing communities of the local area through immigrants arriving from the 16th century to the present day each contributing and helping to build the unique character of the area.
·You’re a long-standing member and advocate of Second Floor Studio & Arts (SFSA), what encourages you to support SFSA?
SFSA supported me right from the beginning. Finding studio workspace in London has become increasingly difficult over the years and without the space to work we are nothing. The difference with SFSA is their total understanding and support for the artists in their spaces. SFSA is an artist centred organisation, when you are in one of their spaces you really feel that they understand the difficulties and needs of artists, I certainly doubt I would have survived the early years without the support of SFSA.
·Are there any projects you are currently working on?
Currently, I am working on a special garden for this year’s Chelsea Flower show and a very exciting new sculpture for a new park in Brixton.
·What is your favourite thing about working in London?
I am a Londoner; my family is here and this is the neighbourhood I grew up in. What I especially love about London is the feeling that it is a world city, ever changing but still with a sense of community that encompasses and welcomes all people, from all corners of the world with all beliefs and desires.
To find out more about Gary Drostle and learn more about his works visit: http://www.drostle.com/