Interview with Jerome Davenport the Australian street artist painting a giant Suffragette Mural in London
We’ve been hanging out with Jerome Davenport a fair bit recently! Mainly on account of his recent painting of a mural on the side of the Lord Morpeth pub in Bow. A giant tribute to Sylvia Pankhurst, she’s a big deal in the area and it’s a piece of work that has been getting a lot of attention.
Originally from Australia but now living in Bethnal Green, Davenport has been gaining a reputation as a painter of photo realistic style murals and that’s what he’s been doing here. The central image of Sylvia in particular is a remarkable likeness taken from a photograph which is over a century old.
Going by the handle Ketones6000 we’d caught up with him a few times during the initial research and development phase as well as during the painting of the mural itself. Handy that the mural was being painted onto the side of a pub too. In my experience always a good place to conduct an interview.
“The autocorrect was always Ketones” he told me when I asked just where his artist moniker came from. “Everytime I tried to write Jerome D in the user name bar, that’s what came up.” The 6000 element I learn is essentially the postcode of the small wheatbelt town in Western Australia where he’s from.
Jerome’s background is in theatre design and theatre set building. It provided an opening for him to start experimenting with murals as he would need to decorate the sets he was working on. That combined with experimenting with the world of graffiti led him to where he is today. “I think it all contributes to what you paint today” he told me. “I wouldn’t be as good as I am today or have as much passion for it if I didn’t start out in graffiti.”
His first actual mural on the street though was in London. Prior to that any street work he was doing revolved around letters and characters. The piece on Brick Lane in 2012 featured the face of a little girl covering her hand with her mouth. It was a striking image given the location and even more impressive considering that this was the first of its type he’d ever painted.
Six years on and we are sitting in the rain outside what it turns out is a fairly busy and noisy road. He’s finished for the day and trying to work against the clock in order to complete the mural prior to travelling back to Perth for a six week stint. The weather hasn’t helped, London in March has presented some particularly challenging painting conditions.
His process for a wall like this includes some initial research and then the collaging of various images together to come up with a composite for what the final mural might look like. We work through some of the ones he’s already created and discounted prior to settling on the design that we now see. As he paints he uses the image, now accessed via his mobile phone to keep him on track and to use as a reference point.
The mural on the side of the pub is indeed in a key spot. Not widely known about outside of the East End of London, the suffragettes here ended up splitting from the wider movement due to differences of opinions in terms of how the campaign for suffrage should be fought. The first world war in particular made a difference. The East End more than most places felt the hardship that war conditions would bring, particularly for the working women left behind. The building next to the Lord Morpeth became known not only as a meeting place for suffragettes but as the location of a milk distribution centre and a cost price restaurant for the poor of the area.
“I’m quite proud and honoured to do it” he tells me when I ask how he feels to be painting the image of such an icon in such a historic location. “It means a lot to so many people in this area. Consistently they’ve been stopping by, having a chat and they know exactly who it is and what it’s all about.”
Jerome Davenport was interviewed on 11 March 2018 and we’ve been following the progress of the mural throughout here on Inspiring City throughout March. The mural can be found on the side of the Lord Morpeth pub on Old Ford Road in Bow. You can follow Jerome at his website or by his instagram handle @ketones6000. You can also read more about the history of Sylvia Pankhurst and the East London Federation of the Suffragettes by clicking here.
Jerome Davenport Gallery