LOCAL PORTRAIT: Artist, James Springall
Written by: Sophie Taylor
Meet Stroud Green based artist, James Springall. Having lived in London for the last sixteen years (bar an 18 month Amsterdam fuelled hiatus), James has set up a studio in his house. Visiting his work-home space in N4, we spoke Krautrock, fortune cookies and Bill Murray’s Victoria Sponge.
Why did you choose to set up a home studio?
“I looked at studio prices! No, I mean studio prices in London are crazy, but I actually prefer working from a home studio. I’m not mad on the idea of travelling to a space for some designated ‘work time’, as I keep strange hours sometimes, and this way I can work whenever I feel like it.
So if I want to put a collage together at midnight I don’t have to go and wait for a bus to take me to a studio halfway across town. Actually, John Stezaker – one of the most influential collage artists out there – works from home, and if it’s good enough for him…”
Do you find living in North London informs your work?
“It certainly does. I think it’s true that we’re all products of our environment to a degree. Just walking around the streets you realise how much is going on at any given time. I love being in nature, and sometimes fantasise about living in the middle of nowhere, but I also think I have a kind of pathological need to be in the mixer.
You can take it for granted sometimes, but seeing so many random, unexpected things when you just go to buy a pint of milk, is pretty amazing. Besides, the way I see it, I’m kind of constantly working. I go to my studio to realise the ideas I have, but it’s the experiences gained in between that really inform the final work. Whether I’m in North London or Southern Spain, somewhere in the back of my mind I’ll be thinking about concepts or have one eye out for interesting materials, and it would be impossible for me not to be influenced by my surroundings.”
When did you start working with collage and why?
“I actually made a lot of collages for my graphic design A Level; then I took a 20-year sabbatical and came back to it!
Why I make it now is a slightly more complex thing. I guess I just have an innate desire to create, and with collage I’ve found a medium that allows me to express myself in a way that I feel both comfortable with and excited about. It’s such a direct medium to convey your thoughts. The way I approach it, there’s no fiddling about or any intricate, drawn-out process. I think that’s why punk embraced it so wholeheartedly. It fits with the whole do-it-yourself ethos. So, if I want to make a comment on materialism, say, then I can conceive an idea and realise almost immediately. I’m a little restless and impatient sometimes, so that suits me.”
Do you listen to music while you’re brandishing your scalpel?
Not always. Sometimes I prefer to be quiet. But playing music can definitely help to get you into a different mindset.
So, what’s your studio playlist?
“Mainly obscure psychedelic stuff. The Finders Keepers record label is really good. They put out these amazing ‘lost’ records. People like the Turkish folk singer Selda, and Jean-Claude Vannier (if you haven’t heard L’Enfant Assassin Des Mouches, you should check it out). I like Krautrock, too. Some really interesting music came out of West Germany in the 60’s because after World War II, the entire country was kind of adrift from the rest of the world and it gave people a blank canvas to make something that was truly unique to them. They didn’t want to sound like the Rolling Stones, or whoever, so they just went for it and experimented wildly. Viva by La Dusseldorf, from that period, always gets me in a good headspace, as it’s so euphoric. As do The Stooges, Captain Beefheart or pretty much anything from Trojan Records. I often go into record stores without an idea of what I’m going to buy and come out with something I’d never heard before. It’s hit and miss, but sometimes you end up discovering amazing things that way.”
Where’s your favourite place nearby to take your mind off things?
“I like going to the woods, and record stores.”
Would you call yourself anti-digital?
“Not really. I just much prefer making things by hand as opposed to using something like Photoshop. I like the imperfections that arise from happenstance. I think you can feel more substance and soul in things that have an analogue quality. It’s like the difference between a painting and an IKEA print, or a song recorded live versus one that uses a vocoder to distort the vocals.
I do dislike the way we’re all so obsessed with new technology and social media, but in our digital age, every one of us has to embrace it to a certain degree. I mean, unless I want to make work that I just squirrel away in a drawer somewhere then it’s difficult to do what I do without having some sort of online presence, for example. It’s about using it wisely and finding a balance. Nowadays you have a situation whereby someone may choose to ‘drop out’ and drive around in a camper van living a nomadic lifestyle. But you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll have a laptop and be blogging about their experiences!”
Out of your muses and influences, pick four you’d like to have round for coffee.
“I guess they have to be living then, right? Coffee with a corpse would be pretty disgusting. On that basis, I’ll say David Hockney, Gruff Rhys, Tadanori Yokoo, and Sergei Sviatchenko. I have it on good authority that Sergei’s a big Beatles fan so he’d put Revolver on whilst Tadanori regales us with stories about Japan and Dave sketches the scene on his iPad. Then Bill Murray would come round unannounced with a big victoria sponge.”
I love your fortune cookie pieces and your description of their ‘vague prophecies’. In many ways you’re like the original fortune cookie creator, a Chinese immigrant who saw the miserable New Yorkers and wanted to hand out optimism on paper, both charming and surreal. Do you think 2016 London needs some (surreal) positive reinforcement?
“Ha… thank you! I’ve never been compared to a Chinese immigrant before, so that’s good. Well in many ways, London in 2016 needs all the help it can get… and it’s almost certainly going to get more surreal as time goes on.
But in saying that, I still believe that the city has this intangible spirit that will somehow override the forces of evil trying to usurp it. I really like your phrase ‘surreal positive enforcement’. It encapsulates very well what I’m trying to do. I want my work to reflect what’s happening in society, to a degree; but not to bring people down. There’s enough misery and confusion in the world, so my ultimate aim is to try and take people away from that, even if only for a brief moment. It would be cool to replace all the adverts in London with images of things like lucky pigeons, men with vegetables instead of heads and little old ladies wearing 3D glasses.”
What projects have you been involved in recently?
“I had a piece of work called DREAM screen printed by Jealous for a group exhibition that will be showing at the Saatchi Gallery in January. I’m collaborating with another collage artist called Nil Ultra, who’s based in LA. We’ve been sending each other bits and pieces in the mail and are hoping to put on a joint exhibition on both sides of the pond next year.
I was commissioned to make some work for Rough Trade Magazine recently, which was fun. I’d like to do some more commissions if anyone out there is reading this and needs some surreal positive enforcement!”
How did you find creating the print for Jealous Gallery’s JNY 16 exhibition?
“I loved it. Working with them was a genuinely lovely experience and I think we’re going to do some more stuff together in the future. They’re a very friendly bunch and I like that they take risks without taking themselves too seriously. They’re incredibly professional but still do things with a wink and a smile.”
Carouse founders Chris, Theo and Ben – the charming folk behind Kentish Town’s Rose and Crown – have a new venture afoot and we couldn’t be more bloody excited to see it. We’ve been creeping in their windows, peering through the paint and sneaking glimpses at builders’ bums for a few months now (okay, maybe not the last one), watching these guys transform this cosy corner of Crouch Hill into a rather cool little boozer. Now they’re opening and everyone is invited. Come one, come all, and try all 20 of their beers on tap with us.
Last month I decided to try clubbing again. I don’t quite know what came over me, but I actually (brace yourselves) enjoyed it. I went to Body Hammer’s monthly party in Manor House and I’m here to tell you to go too, whether you love clubbing, hate clubbing, or really couldn’t care either way. #notspon
Rich, fried, buttery, potato-y vessels loaded with flavor combinations that go down rather well with craft beer, late nights and good times. Ha, who am I kidding, EVERYTHING goes down well with beer. You heard that right buddy, loaded potato skins are back with a bang (and a generous portion of bacon) and are currently being served at Old Street's The Magic Roundabout by street food pop-up Skins and we could not be any happier. Well, unless they were to stuff it with, say, Mac and Cheese or risotto. Oh, that's exactly what they do? Well paint me green and call me a cucumber.
Magical gifts, wonderful gifts, marvellous gifts, beautiful gifts, gifts, glorious gifts glo-ri-ous giiiiiifts. Please Sir, I want some more. It’s that time of year again and whether you love it or loath it gifts will be purchased and presented into expectant hands. Stroud Green's very own Pretty Shiny Shop have compiled a gift guide to help ease the shopping shock. Imagine only having to trot to your local gift shop and tick off your entire shopping list in one fell swoop. Done, finito, terminado! To make it that little sweeter, it's also all very affordable... so you won't even have to pick a pocket or two.
Alright guys, it’s happening. The frosty charm of December is, once again, being beaten to a pulp by the capitalists’ wet dream: Christmas. The hideous twinkling of artificial outdoor lighting is starting to appear, with tourists flocking from far and wide to watch D-list celebrities press a button. Invitations to Christmas parties flood in from your multiple part-time jobs, ensuring you make bad decisions bi-weekly til next year. Supermarkets are selling 12-day advent calendars containing confetti, cookie cutters and candles for a flawless £50. And oh, how the mulled wine flows.
Who doesn’t love a cheeky statistic, correctly sourced? You know we do. Well, did you know that for every £1 spent with a small business, 63p is re-spent in the local area, as opposed to a measly 40p in every £1 re-spent locally with larger businesses? An absolute travesty, am I right? That 23p has to mean something, right, guys?! Guys? Guys, where are you going? Wait, there’s freebies involved too!
By gum there are a lot of winter markets this year. Fueled by sickly sweet mulled wine and overpriced pulled pork sliders, we’ve managed to wade our way through the murky waters of winter markets and find some decent looking ones round this here part of town. Don’t let our Grinch-esq vibes put you off (I’m more of a Pancake Day person myself) because, if you’re into markets, you’ll probably like these. Read on, if you’re merrier than us.
Take a short walk along Finsbury Park’s own sunset strip and you’ll find MoseyHome, an interiors retailer and styling consultancy who have invited us to collaborate with them on an exciting new series titled 'Style My Shop', in which they invite some of London's most talented interiors experts to quite literally style their shop. Interiors porn at it's finest.
Why was the snowman sad? Because he had a meltdown. Much like us, every year, when winter comes. It’s cold, it’s dark, and we know Christmas is on its way. But hey, it’s not all bad – the events round this time of year can be pretty swell. So don your scarf-shawl-blanket and get your frolic on, it’s time for fairy lights, scarfing mulled wine and stuffing your face!
Touch, taste, smell, hear and create art. Smith & Sinclair, purveyors of the Edible Cocktail, presents The Flavour Gallery: a multi-sensory adventure that’ll seduce your senses and tickle your taste buds beyond all imagination. Ooh matron!
Brush the cobwebs off your sexy banana costume; it’s that time of year to make a tit of yourself in fancy dress again. We’ve rounded up the most spine-chilling Halloween happenings in North London and, trust us, they sound horrendous. Be afraid, be very afraid.
God bless the Queen... of Hoxton. Or, more specifically, their rooftop - which happens to be one of our favourites in this here city of London. These guys are well known for creating beautiful, seasonal pop-ups which have included the Nordic Viking themed 'Skye Halla' and the Neverland inspired 'Bangarang'. This winter make way for 'The Moroccan Medina', a sky high hideaway inspired by the romanticism of the beguiling ancient city of Marrakesh.
Next time you need a caffeine hit why not take it from a cup brewed from Jamaican beans grown under a canopy of rainforest-preserving trees, whilst eating a home made vegan banana bread as you sit among an array of sweetly scented blooms. Welcome to Mento, Finsbury Park.
Pilgrim, the newest kid to Hackney's pop-up scene, is a unique dining experience inspired by the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. This six course tasting menu includes regional dishes with a contemporary twist not yet seen before in London.