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STREET ART – walls that break down borders

Jonathan Finn was born in Kuwait and studied at the British School of Kuwait until the age of 16, after which he attended Cardinal Newman College in Preston, England, studying Sport and Art & Design. Finn has always had a passion for Art and Design and after successfully completing his IGCSE qualifications, he continued his studies and artistic development in the UK where he met other like-minded students and spent three years completing a BTEC Art and Design course and working alongside several renowned street artists.

On his return back ‘home’ to Kuwait, the twenty-year-old reveals his passion for street art, his journey thus far and his hopes of using the blank spaces around the country as a canvas for artistic expression.

Arab Times: How did you become interested in art and what drew you to street art in particular?

Jonathan Finn: I always enjoyed the practical and creative subjects as a student at the British School of Kuwait, where I was able to develop my artistic skills in a supportive, well-resourced environment. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at BSK and it was with some trepidation that I moved to the UK in 2013 to continue my higher education. I’d always been interested in pop art and street art and was inspired by the works of Banksy and similar artists. I studied his works and travelled to some of the UK’s major cities including Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London to observe and study some of the finest examples of street art. I soon got opportunities to paint large wall murals and walls of business premises looking to brighten up their façade with eye catching, colorful images. As my work became recognized and known, more commissions followed throughout the north-west of England. The concept of bringing art into the streets, making it highly visible and accessible to all was exciting and appealing. It was an opportunity to showcase my skills and ideas, generate reactions and comments. I find this process of transformation both exciting and satisfying.

AT: What is the purpose of your visit to Kuwait? What projects are you working on and where will your work be showcased?

JF: I’m really excited to be returning ‘home’ to Kuwait, where I’m looking for commissions to showcase my work here. I’m particularly interested in creating murals and displays with youth appeal for schools and youth or sports centers. Opportunities to transform business and commercial premises for corporate clients is also an area of interest and satisfaction for me.

AT: How did growing up in Kuwait shape you as an artist?

JF: Growing up in Kuwait obviously had a huge influence on my development as an artist. Having been born and educated here, I have an affinity to the Arabic culture, language, architecture, history and art. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to be educated at the British School of Kuwait which really was a multi-cultural environment that really facilitated my development in so many ways, for that I shall always be grateful.

AT: Why do you think street art is still relevant and popular today?

JF: I think street art is becoming a more recognized, accepted and legitimate form of artistic expression. Magnificent examples of street art can be found in all the major cities of the world today. For example, in Glasgow, Scotland, street artists from across the globe were commissioned to produce sporting murals throughout the city to commemorate the hosting of the Commonwealth Games there. These magnificent works of street art have become an iconic emblem for the city, and lasting legacy of the Games, a real touristic highlight for Glasgow.

AT: Which artists do you look up to?

JF: I have to say Banksy was, and still is, a huge inspiration and influence for me. But I then studied typography to develop letter forms into artistic and creative pieces. Comic book art also inspired me to create my own unique character styles. I’m receptive to all styles and different artists.

AT: How would you define your style? What are the predominant themes in your work?

JF: Bold, bright and colorful designs appeal to me, I like to experiment and look for originality, perhaps with a certain element of irony and humor. I’m also led by the environment and nature of background I’m working with.

AT: What would you count as your biggest achievements?

JF: I enjoy the challenges of large scale creations, but some of my most satisfying work has been done in back garden of my home on the perimeter wall, where I love to experiment with comic characters and cartoon creations. I’ve completed some of my personal favorites on large canvas, but to be able to transfer my ideas onto large walls is my preference.

AT: Given the choice, what building/wall/surface would you like to paint in Kuwait? Why?

JF: Here in Kuwait I’m looking forward to painting a design for a new children’s playground at the Premier Sport Academy in Bayan, where I used to play football. I’d love to have the opportunity to return to my former school, the BSK, and transform a huge wall that would hopefully appeal to the students and be seen by all along the Fahaheel Expressway! It would be a way of recognizing and appreciating how much of a part the school played in my development and of course such a prominent and perfect high-profile location would showcase my work! But I’m hoping for and actively seeking any suitable commissions – I’m open to suggestions!

AT: What are the biggest challenges you face as an artist today?

JF: Street art, like any art, is a matter of taste. What appeals to one person may not appeal to another. It creates reactions — sometimes positive and sometimes negative, but ultimately, it’s a legitimate means of expression that brings thought provoking colorful images into the public realm. One of the perennial challenges of street artists is being labeled alongside vandals as simply damaging building facades with unsolicited graffiti, which unfortunately often taints the image of true street artists.

AT: How have social media platforms impacted your artistic journey?

JF: Social media platforms are an effective way of showcasing work and ideas and have enabled me to broaden my experience, study and follow the contrasting styles and work of street artists worldwide. It has also been effective for me in networking and securing commercial commissions and discussing ideas, connecting with other street artists, who have been able to provide virtual tours of street art around their cities.

AT: What is your hope for the future?

JF: My parents have always encouraged myself, my brother and sister to follow our dreams and pursue our passions. I would love to continue developing my artistic skills for a living. To be able to do something you love as a job would be my goal. I hope to attract more interest and awareness of street art in general and my own work in-particular. In the short-term I’m hoping for opportunities to complete as many commissions as I can while I’m here in Kuwait. If anyone might be interested in having a plain bare wall transformed into an eye-catching, colorful work of art I’d love to hear from them! Email me on jonathan.finn@hotmail.com tel. 60639038.

By Cinatra Fernandes

Arab Times Staff


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