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Pop-Urban: Works On Canvas 2019-2021

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

I first started experimenting with UV paints in late 2019. As those who are familiar with my work might know, I work on both canvas and paper. Pop-Urban, my latest book, is an amalgamation of two very distinct and different bodies of work on canvas. The book is divided into two parts: “Night” and “Day”.

The first part, “Night”, reveals my grapples with UV media - as I attempted to extort the maximum that I possibly could from it, in terms of portraying a slice of London’s underground performance scene. I was living with a musician at the time, and as well as being fascinated with some of the performers who were part of his world, had something of an obsession with coloured light and shadows, and their description of forms.

It was a new adventure for me. My work took on a graphic-novel starkness, as figures (and creatures) emerged from invariably inky black backgrounds; the waves of light which shoot across the canvas in Electronica I , frozen in time as they are, take on an ethereal spirit all of their own; whilst Stoned I & II have a contrasting stillness to the former; still further, 3 Musicians , with its trio of mime artist, pianist and electronic keyboardist, makes a swift nod to Picasso.

It was an exhilarating time of life, and I was grateful for at least having been able to capture a number of colourful characters on camera (which I would ultimately work from), and thus on canvas - before lockdown hit, and effectively cancelled all gigs. We see the shadow of a poet at a bar in Dalston; an electric cellist; a burlesque dancer; a show of hands at a Hampstead folk gig; and a number of colourful characters and strange-headed creatures at the gig’s after-party .

Life moved on, and by degrees I developed a new obsession - this time, with the urban culture west of Stratford, and its ever-changing graffiti walls. As many may know, I’m a fan of Brutalist architecture; however, I also like to take it one step further than Howard Roark, and indulge my belief that plain, pristine surfaces are crying out to be decorated, in glorious Technicolour - albeit after a modern fashion!

In this environment, too, the dramatic contrast between light, shade, and everything in between was exaggerated. I was struck by the uncompromising perspectives of these great slabs of concrete; struck by the way in which humankind sought to personalize them and make them their own; not least, by the unmentionable piles of rubbish which had built up around them.

Like a sort of Werner Herzog, or National Geographic hack, I was ready to dive into the breach, and document it - all. This time, the focus was on the landscape - not, so much, on closeups of people; so it was, that the “Day” section of the book gradually began to take shape.

In Cyclist , we see a cyclist, admiring a multicoloured wall against which they are silhouetted, in full knowledge that this artwork will, in time, be covered over - many times! Bridge , Overhead and Skylight capture the slab-like quality of the architecture, whilst elsewhere we get a glimpse of some of the characters dwelling around, or otherwise engaged with, the graffiti wall. There are two men huddled round a brazier to keep warm; graffiti artists at work; the imminently recognizable mark of graffiti artist Teeth; and two mesmerizingly decorated vans here and here .

However, not only was I intrigued by this aspect of East London life - as I am intrigued by everything - but also made it my mission to portray other scenes in which I would typically have no involvement whatsoever, but to which I am unusually drawn. Amongst these, numbered the raw, gritty mechanics’ workshops under the arches of a Hackney railway bridge; skaterboys at Victoria Park; and the perfectly, strategically positioned views of Stratford, Canary Wharf and the City, visible from Hackney Marshes.

I can always say that Art is a journey for me, wrought with twists and turns, and rarely, unpleasant surprises; I can always ultimately find some way, of working a new challenge to my advantage, partly due to the fact that I work out almost exactly what I am going to do in my mind, before I do it. Furthermore and moreover, there is not just a plan there, but also a tremendous drive, ambition and strength of will. This was a big bugbear for my tutors at Art School, who were fond of saying “Christina always does, what she knows will work”. Well, why wouldn’t I? There is nothing more satisfying than completing a body of work which has involved much internal blood, sweat and tears, and investment of oneself, in its creation - and looking at the final result, and thinking, “God, I’m good”!

According to the MBTI 16 Personalities Test (some might dismiss it, on the basis that it was a little too much like astrology), I’m an Architect . I myself, have to laugh at the accuracy. I mean, who knew?

Some of my peers, have been doing the same kind of Art for nearly 30 years. They even use the same colours. That may be fine, for them; myself, I’ve always been a proponent of moving forward. Although, even I have to admit - with my meteor-like mindset, and in my neverending quest for the new - that there are a number of elements in the work I’ve done over the last few years, which I’m not done with yet!

Perhaps, with age, I will calm down, and end up repeating myself, for once - as Barry Humphries has so wryly remarked, that this comes with the territory!

Christina Crimari’s book Pop-Urban (2021) is available on Amazon here .

She is also the author of:

Drawing and Painting Plants (2006)

Jowe’s House (2021)

The New Barghello (2021)

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