Look around the streets of Shoreditch and Brick Lane and it’s likely that at some point you’ll see some work from Mr. Cenz. Now exhibiting with the Pure Evil Gallery. This is his first solo show in eight years. The show features work showcasing what for Cenz is “a new style and direction as an artist.”
Mr. Cenz has been a regular feature on the graffiti and street art scene since the late eighties. Acknowledging that his style is a mixture of the two. He considers himself more a graffiti artist as that he says “is my roots and biggest influence”.
It was the iconic book ‘Subway Art‘ which inspired him. That combined with a “new and exciting hip hop movement”. It provided a window into the exciting New York Graffiti World. “The music was fresh and exciting and the artwork on the New York Subway trains blew my mind” says Cenz. Describing the art he saw as “masterpieces” it was from that point on that he was hooked! “I learnt my trade by copying every piece from the book until I could create my own letters. Then I hit the streets at about 10 years old”. It was an early and auspicious start for a man who would become one of London’s best known writers.
Starting out he used to write the tag ‘Cence’. Over the years it progressed into ‘Cenz’. “It’s important to keep the same name so I just stuck with it” he explains. Recently adding the ‘Mr’ he had discovered another artist writing ‘Cenz’ and so “wanted to be unique”. In terms of the meaning? “Like most tags, it has no meaning, I just enjoy writing the letters”.
He describes his style as a mix of all the influences and techniques he’s learned over the years. At the heart of his work still sits traditional letter graffiti. “My influences are broad and span all my different life experiences. Like the early graffiti scene, going to Art College and travelling the world. Particular artists that stand out are early graffiti art masters. People like Mode 2 and Dondi and fine artists like Paul Klee, Ken Kiff and Roger Hilton.”
It’s something which Cenz says has taken years to develop. “Your style is the most important thing you have and has to be fresh and original” he tells me. “I’ve always tried to do something different. After developing my letter styles, based on tight graphic line work and symmetry, I began looking at my old paintings from college. Now I have fused those experimental painting techniques and the graffiti lettering together to create a unique way of working.”
Cenz often portrays women in his art, working from fashion photos found on the internet which he feels have the potential to be developed. All the women are fictional with the intention to look for interesting poses and light on their faces. “I just use the photo as a reference and freestyle the rest and see what happens.”
Now returning to the gallery after such a long hiatus Cenz says that the show is the result of those female faces he has been painting on the streets over the past few years. “I have been getting a good response from people and I thought I might as well start painting some canvasses again. People seem to connect with them.”
As a regular on the London art scene it’s good to see Cenz showing his work once more in a gallery setting, especially one as renowned as the Pure Evil, so if you have the chance get down there to see work from one of the true masters of the art.
Distortions from Mr. Cenz will show at the Pure Evil Gallery on Leonard Street in Shoreditch until 9 November 2014. Mr. Cenz was interviewed over email on 12 October 2014. To see Mr. Cenz in action check out this short film from Whitesao here.