An interview with Mr Cenz as he paints in the Shard

We’ve gotten used to seeing the work of Mr Cenz on the streets of London. His work is bright and vibrant and his style is most certainly his own. Much to the extent that just a quick glance and you can easily identify a piece of work by this particular artist.

For the man from south London it’s been a long journey. Learning his trade on the streets of the city, Cenz is from a generation inspired by the seminal book Subway Art. First captivated by the images of graffiti on the trains of the New York Metro. The streets and the tracks of London would become the canvas for many an aspiring writer.

INTERVIEW WITH MR CENZ

“The whole culture really blew my mind. Seeing those pieces on those trains was it really for me” said Mr Cenz. Then going on to explain how from that moment, a career in graffiti and spray paint would beckon. Often illegal and on a number of occasions finding himself on the wrong side of the law. It was nevertheless still alluring. “Once I found graffiti I was like, that’s it that’s my thing.”

It’s a far cry from where we are now. He’s been painting a giant portrait in the lobby of the exclusive Bar 31 in the Shangri-La Hotel at the foot of the Shard. Visible through the giant panes of glass, it’s impossible not to miss the work as you walk towards the building. In what is now part of his trademark, the colours pop, a stark contrast to everything else, it’s a statement piece that’s for sure.

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The central image painted by Mr Cenz in the lobby of Bar 31 in the Shard

A DRUG FUELLED PSYCHEDELIC IMAGE

His work is really a combination of two key elements. The face of course but the abstract styling which goes on around it is just as important. He likens it to a drug fuelled psychedelic image. Making it up as he goes along, it’s a case of playing around with colours, shapes and lines and seeing where his creativity takes him.

Both the face and the background are key elements of each piece although abstract art has always been a particular love. For Cenz, its a case of going beyond the face and allowing yourself to get lost in the background. The colours too are important and have a nod to his graffiti past. “Using oranges and pinks together just doesn’t normally work” he told us. For old school graffiti writers it was often a case of just painting with whatever you could get your hands on. Then its just a case of making that work.

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Mr Cenz applying the final touches to his central portrait in the Shard

GRAFFITI INFLUENCE

The shapes and the effects he uses in his work also owe an influence to graffiti. Look closely at his art and you might come across hints of letter forms. The subtleties of his use of the spray can are also identifiable as being those of someone who has honed his skill-set on the streets of the city. “I did go to art college, but that didn’t teach me how to spray paint and to do what I’m doing now. It was just getting out there and doing it” he told me.

“The beginnings of my portraits are just a photograph, that’s all I have”, he explained when talking about the genesis of his works. “Everything else is freestyle and spontaneous. I just have the image and then I just adapt to the space. So all the shapes, all the colours and how I break down the face, that’s all done freestyle.”

Mr Cenz was interviewed at the Shangri-La Hotel in London. He had been live painting a portrait in the central lobby of the building over the previous week and we interviewed him on 10 May 2018. We’ve also covered the work of Mr Cenz previously on the blog and you can read our previous feature on him here.

Mr Cenz Gallery

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More work from Mr Cenz can be seen on the walls of Bar 31

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One of the studio images in the bar

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Admirers looking at the new central portrait

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Canvasses in Bar 31

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Entering the building, people can see the mural by Mr Cenz