East London based Endoftheline are bringing street art to the masses, creating landmark murals that bring colour and substance to drab urban environments. They set about curating and collaborating with local artists and communities to make space available for events and workshops, celebrating street art while inspiring others to get involved; especially in deprived and neglected areas. Their work provides a conduit for grass root urban artists to get involved with local residents, providing a colourful, positive spectacle that beautifies an area, cutting anti-social behaviour and inspiring a sense of ownership. They also install large scale commissions for a select client base such as Netflix, Paramount and Our Planet and provide corporate workshops, reinvesting this money back into local artists networks, supporting incomes and expenditure.
In response to Covid, they are now focusing on a widespread Public Art Project that will bring art to new locations that are starved of colour, in the hope of lifting the spirits of those that may not have access to galleries or art in their everyday lives.
We caught up with Jim Vision and Matilda Tickner-Du, Founders of EndOfTheLine, to find out what drives their passion and gets their creative juices flowing:
1/ What’s the significance of the name ‘end of the line’? What’s the story/meaning behind it?
It’s a play on words, ‘end of line’ is a computer term from Tron and is part of our legacy growing up in the era of video and computer games. We lived through the transition from analogue to digital, computers became more important but we never forgot the value of playing outside and getting our hands dirty. We represent the idea that at the end of most painted lines you’ll find an artist.
EndoftheLine was a way for us to present ourselves as a legitimate entity. We were hip hop kids with no connections, no options, no work and no future. There was no clear path to success, murals didn’t really exist like they do now, people’s attitude towards us was criminal. We would constantly be asked ‘Are you allowed to do it?’. We probably weren’t but we pretended like this was normal.
We decided to create a valid organisation, a company that supported our art form and allowed us to reach out to galleries and clients with a united front as an organised group of artists. We wanted to be taken seriously and show the validity of the art form and to gain support for aspirational projects.
2/ What motivated you to become a large-scale muralist/street artist?
Originally we were inspired by the graffiti of New York, but also the street art painting scene closer to home and groundbreaking exhibitions like ‘They Made Me do it’.
I was inspired by my contemporaries, graffiti artists painting at the top of their game and many of these have supported me to get where I am today. The early projects we hosted were exhibitions that showcased many established and emerging graffiti and street artists, artists we aspired to, like Inkie, Tizer, Will Barras, Mr Jago, Snug and Chu.
We were living in East London in the Early 2000’s, the streets were battered with stickers and tags and places like the Dragon Bar were supporting street art events from artists like Banksy and Eine. In the East there were huge empty buildings and warehouses we could paint, these are all gone now after the wave of gentrification replaced them with tower blocks. It was a hugely pivotal time, and we found ourselves exploring and painting, organising graffiti events and taking over space for street art.
3/ Have you always used spray paint as a preferred medium? Why?
Spray paint is a very useful painting medium, once you learn to master the technique it is possible to create many effects and at scale, spray covers better than paintbrush on wonky walls and brickwork. I try to use a mix of different mediums where it’s possible to do so. Often using recycled paint from the Forest Recycling project.
4/ What thoughts to do you hope to evoke through your murals?
Hopefully my murals encourage people to question reality and push the boundaries of what people perceive public art should look like. I hope that I make people think and feel happiness. There are times when the murals upset people if I feature more inflammatory subjects but art shouldn’t be safe, sometimes that’s a conversation that needs to be had. Racism and bigotry, state control and intimidation needs to be attacked straight on.
5/ Street Art gets a mixed press, have you had anyone misinterpret the message or give you any trouble about you work?
We have an overall positive response to our work, although censorship from councils has happened in the past, particularly around the Olympics when councils were white-washing and blacking artwork to ‘clean up’ areas. These situations are a negative reaction to positive creativity and have led to more vocal support for the murals and projects we set up.
6/ Do you think street art is becoming more prevalent in highlighting social, political and environmental issues?
I think both graffiti and street art have always been the voice of the people and now that newspapers are sharing the stories and the public are seeing these messages more via social media people are seeing the value in Street art as a tool for change.
Photos of murals and their message can be spread around the world so swiftly online showing the power of our art and peoples aversion to advertising and messages from consumerist brands. There are key projects like Pangea Seed who focus on raising environmental awareness and we continue to use our voice for good. Artists like Banksy have been pushing strong messages for resistance. Capitalism attempts to own this art to subsume it and reduce its power and positive intention. The essence of graffiti is an act of resistance against the control of the state, sanctioned art, council mandated public art and art by democratic process that strips it of integrity and artistic voice.
We are putting our work into the public realm so we have a responsibility to do something real and tangible with our energy. The mission that EndoftheLine has been pursuing is to create free, legal spaces for artists to paint without controlling middle men, gatekeepers to culture. These spaces are also about changing the colour of the urban landscape. We endeavour to support and paint murals that leave a legacy of positivity.
7/ What led you to do the ‘our planet’ mural project?
We were asked to propose an idea to Netflix for David Attenboroughs ‘Our Planet’ documentary project. We created a creative project that focussed on the biodiversity of different Earth landscapes with colourful and engaging murals. It was a huge challenge to find spaces to paint as many of the walls have been monopolised by advertising. We found walls in the local community that directly connected to the people.
On the whole it was a fantastic project to pull together and we had a great response, with some mural surviving to this day. In Liverpool the project divided opinion particularly over the involvement of a brand like Netflix. Despite the connection with national treasure David Attenborough a portion of the local population couldn’t agree with the brand being a part of the project and trashed the mural. It definitely got people talking. We were happy that we supported removing 10 tonnes of rubbish from the New Bird Skate park, we also boarded up some obsolete windows to provide a larger painting space at ground level for the local artists.
8/ What drives the creativity behind designing these meaningful murals, take us through the process?
I feel like I am the product of culture and society and my influences are broad. Pretty much anything can spark imagination. It takes a massive amount of energy to realise large mural projects so I really have to believe in the message.
If I feel strongly about something then I feel the drive to paint about it. Sometimes it’s painting something from my childhood, or an homage to one of the artists I admire, or a historical or current social or political injustice. I also paint fantastical pieces that are utopian or dystopian views of the world, it’s past, present and future. Many of the works are learning processes, pushing myself to paint large portraits and to practice my skills. During lockdown I’ve been painting in oils, a further educational process that has taught me about painting on smaller scales, now i’m back out painting on the street.
9/ Is there a street artist that works in a similar environmentally led way that you would like to collaborate with?
I think the environmental artist that is most inspiring to me is Andy Goldsworthy, in terms of his interaction with the natural world and use of organic materials. He is less of a street artist and more of a forest or woodland artist creating site specific art in natural environments.
Capitalism attempts to own this art to subsume it and reduce its power and positive intention.
10/ Outside of the medium of street art who or what inspires you visually and why?
I’m mostly inspired by comic books and graphic novels, science fiction and fantasy. Visually it’s a lot more compelling to me than most art forms, artists like John Martin painted biblical disasters and that’s definitely been a visual style that has inspired me. There’s such a wealth of amazing artists out there, and anything that really has powerful visual triggers is what grabs my attention.
11/ Other than “our planet”
have you got any exciting new projects ahead?
We are focusing on developing Jim’s studio based work, particularly due to the high number of pieces he has created during lockdown. This has given him time to be able to focus on canvas based work and to really evolve his painting skills.
EndoftheLine is working on an ongoing public art mission and learning how we can keep evolving this. We’re also working out how our future looks in this new post covid / post lockdown situation.
We are the UK host of the annual International Meeting of Styles event, we produce a large-scale live art festival in London every year. This year was set to be our 10th event since 2008, but of course this has been affected by the lockdown with huge changes in how and whether events can be hosted. That doesn’t halt our plans to keep supporting artists in painting new artworks and setting up new space for artwork wherever we can. Watch this space.
“ Capitalism attempts to own this art to subsume it and reduce its power and positive intention.