Caledonia Curry is the artist better known in street art circles as Swoon. Creating a trail of paste ups street art works in Aberdeen. She describes herself as coming out of a street art retirement just for the cities Nuart Festival.
Revisiting a body of work that she has been well known for. The paste ups are nonetheless something that she hasn’t practiced for some time. Block printed, the artworks are packed full of detail and often contain stories within them. It’s been something that Swoon first started in the late 90’s. She was pasting on the street before street art was even a recognisable term.
Interview with Swoon
Since then, for over 20 years Swoon has been travelling around the world with her artworks. Full of character they are intimate portraits of people who she either knows or who she has come across as part of her travels. Connecting these intimate artworks to the city she finds herself in, they blend in with the environment around them.
For Aberdeen she has revealed a mixture of old works with pieces never seen before on the street. It felt right that for a festival with a theme of rewilding she would revisit the style that initially made her name. Each artwork, positioned in a carefully chosen location, they have the ability to transform the perception of a space.
Beginning in New York it was a fascination with the built environment that drew her to creating paste up artwork in the first place. “It was kind of wicked and raw and I just wanted to do something that was out in that” she told Inspiring City. Starting out as a more classical painter she talks as if the street was something that was calling out to her. “I just felt like there was a vitality outside and I just wanted to be in it”.
“It felt like the landscape of New York had a little bit of rhythm”. Talking in terms about the vibrancy of the city she was experiencing. “I wanted to hit a beat that was in that rhythm”. Her artworks and in particular the tone and shade of them seemed to be something that would only ever be complimentary.
Eventually discovering print Swoon surprises in saying that she “absolutely hated” it at first. Deciding to give it another shot, the technique would go on to become a medium with which she would become intimately acquainted. Combining this with her portraiture the results would be compelling.
Guiding the Story
“I try to let each portrait kind of guide the story” she explains. “It starts with a person and then it’s like who is that person and how much do I know about them”. Making connections as she is creating the artwork. What goes into it will depend on what is being evoked in the creation. “I just sort of have an intuitive link”. Something that seems to depend not only on the person but also on the environment and what’s going on at the time.
Surprise is a key element of Swoon’s work and she really seems to enjoy the fact that people can just stumble upon them. Acting as disrupters they can gain a different kind of significance to people as they are just chanced upon. “Maybe somebody’s fretting about some situation in their life and then they look up and they’re like, what are you trying to tell me”. Just the very act of stumbling across public art can cause an energy shift.
Caledonia Curry who is also known as Swoon was interviewed at the Nuart Festival in Aberdeen. The festival ran from 8-11 June 2023 and featuring artists creating works in the city from around the world.