Art, Hop, Life the World According to Shem

Shem is an artist, based in Dalston and originally from South London. His work, an eclectic mix of thoughts and feelings. His mood reflecting his art. Totally instinctive Shem describes his work as a kind of surreal world, a space in between space.

Watching it all is an overseer. What Shem calls the AHL Head. Originally starting out as a self portrait it’s become a kind of logo or talisman. It incorporates the three most important representations of Shem as an artist and as a man. Art, Hop and Life forming the three corners in a kind of pictoral vision statement.

The artist Shem in his Dalston studio
Shem in his studio

Art, Hop, Life

“First and foremost I’m a fan of art myself” he tells me referencing the A of AHL. The Hop is music and in particular hip hop. His band, Cut With, takes this further. Creating music which has been described as dark and melodic. A kind of new wave hip hop.

AHL Head Logo by Shem
The AHL Head

Lifestyle is the other corner and the importance is clear. To live life to the full, to form relationships and to enjoy the cultural environments that art and music provide. AHL is Art, Hop, Life and this shown in the form of a simple image has become what Shem says is the “watcher of my work”.

Interview with Shem

Feeling and Expression

Complete feeling and expression is how Shem describes his art. “Every painting that is made depends on how I feel on that night or that day”. It’s a moment in time, not planned but instinctive. Always it comes back to feelings. The work then develops over time, touching up or taking away. Different elements to a piece begin to take shape. The result is an evolution.

Shem artwork on the wall of his Dalston studio


Shem’s career so far has been defined by this organic approach. He talks about the importance of mistakes and how these can be seen as learning opportunities. Never having been to art school he is completely self taught. “I’ve had to learn what works for me, what doesn’t work, the brushstrokes, the pens, the textures, I’ve literally just been learning from my mistakes”.

Shem relaxing in his studio


Where his work is today has been impacted by the resources available to him. Searching out different canvasses, found materials and cheap paints. Anything really that he could afford or which may be available to him. “It was determined by my limitations” he says of those early days… It made a lot of my style”. A style which has been heavily influenced by this approach to upcycling.

Journalistic Artwork

So too his environment is a huge source of inspiration. He describes himself as a kind of journalist. Reflecting on the things happening around him. Events that happen in his life or in the lives of his family and friends. “You’re speaking about stuff that people might not necessarily speak about so I put it in a painting”. In particular he talks about the impact of society. “It’s a big part of our lives, it effects all of us” he says. “Not just me but everyone else, sometimes you’ve got to speak up about society”.

Environment is a major source of inspiration

This idea of speaking of course leads to conversations and it’s this that also energises his work. “I’m trying to spark a conversation in people or bring something up that can be spoken about. I find I’m inspired by what people are going though. What relates to me, what relates to my friends… that’s what it’s about right? Just a big conversation isn’t it? Whether you like the work or you don’t”.

Shem was interviewed at his studio in Dalston on 23 February 2022. His exhibition “Fine Art” will be showing at 35-36 Thurloe Place, SW7 2HP from 17 March – 30 March 2022. With thanks to Trix from Outside the Zone for the support and the connection.

Promotional material for 'Fine Art' the solo exhibition from Shem
Flyer for Shem’s solo show at Thurloe Place
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