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How to Fix a Neighbourhood? Get Fin DAC on the (Paint) Job

Larger than life: Fin Dac’s Lady Kinoko, Portobello Road, 2017 | JEWEL GOODBY CONTEMPORARY

Fin DAC and Matt Small are just two of the world-renowned urban artists confirmed to produce large scale one-off murals, and paintings on facades of buildings across Acton in west London. Acton Unframed is an ambitious community-driven arts project backed by famous residents like Jamal Edwards MBE, founder of urban entertainment platform SB.TV, James McVey from The Vamps, and Laura Forsyth, late showbiz icon Bruce Forsyth’s daughter which aims to bring the world’s best street artists to W3. The project aims to attract visitors to the area and serve as a catalyst to engage the community and to inspire commercial and social change across the neighbourhood.

The idea was sparked on the school run when two Acton residents, gallerist Jewel Goodby and Business Growth consultant Kal Di Paola discussed how public art could raise the profile of their neighbourhood. Goodby founded West London Art Factory which is masterminding the project and Fin painted one of his earliest murals in their studios. Goodby already worked with a lot of talented artists who travel all around the world to paint murals and she had always wanted to commission an artwork close to home. Another Fin Dac mural, Lady Kinoko, overseen by Goodby on the world-famous Portobello Road (pictured above) is probably one of the most photographed street art in London.

“About three years ago Fin and I explored the idea of inviting some of the world’s best muralists to Acton and create sort of an open-air museum cum gallery for everyone to see and enjoy, hence the name Unframed.”

JEWEL GOODBY

She told WLT: “About three years ago Fin and I explored the idea of inviting some of the world’s best muralists to Acton and create sort of an open-air museum cum gallery for everyone to see and enjoy, hence the name Unframed.

“I’ve worked with street artists for many years and have seen first-hand how street art can lift communities, I saw Acton as the perfect location for this project, it’s my home and I love it and can see huge potential,  it’s a blank canvas and if curated correctly, Acton could become a global destination for street art.” 

Di Paola who already runs W3 Women to empower female entrepreneurs in the area explains: “Acton is a melting pot of talent, everyday I meet creatives, writers, painters, filmmakers, designers and makers so it surprises me that Acton doesn’t have a thriving creative scene. When I met Jewel I was looking for a project that could kickstart a movement that could engage every corner of the community. A chance conversation with Jewel at the school gates, (both our kids go to Derwentwater Primary School) kickstarted Acton Unframed.

Face of Acton: Jamal Edwards holds his Member of the British Empire (MBE) award presented to him by the Prince of Wales at an Investiture Ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2015 | WPA POOL

Over £11,000 out of a projected £55,000 has so far been crowdfunded with the goal to create five large scale murals. Edwards, a local boy made good, is billed to feature on one of the murals by Small whilst local creative talent will be given the chance to collaborate on some of the supporting work.

Street Art Royalty

Self-taught, Fin Dac often depicts female subjects in his work which he describes as “Urban Aesthetics”. The artist explores themes related to female empowerment, and is famous for his signature painting style which creates the impression of spatters with colour patches around the eyes, reminiscent of a mask. When he works in an outdoor context, Fin Dac’s women loom large over their built, urban environment whilst still feminine, with classically delicate features.

In a masterstroke being branded a ‘coup’, the Cork-born artist has agreed to create the first mural on a wall in Churchfield Road, a street brimming with independent shops, cafes, and artisanal businesses. This is due to be unveiled in the summer of 2019 in a move organisers hope will unleash a wave of creativity never seen in these parts before.

Indeed Acton won’t be the first neighbourhood to turn to public art to clean up its image and deliver prosperity to its inhabitants. Some parts of crumbling east London capitalised on its reputation for street art to transform itself into desirable addresses in Hackney, Shoreditch, Hoxton and Brick Lane, which has become a mecca for street murals drawing fans from all over the world. The brains behind the visual arts initiative hope it will transform Acton’s grotty environs that has long struggled in the shadow of affluent neighbours like Chiswick and Ealing to become the creative melting pot of west London.

Stik wuz here

UK’s tallest mural: Stik’s Big Mother painted on the side of Charles Hocking House, south Acton in 2014 | FLICKR

Acton does have an illustrious past in gritty urban art after famous grafitti artist Stik – collected by the likes of Brian May, Elton John, Bono and Duke of Kent – daubed the tallest mural in Britain, Big Mother, on the side of Charles Hocking House, a council estate block in south Acton in 2014. The tower block had been earmarked for demolition before he began the 125-foot image of a mother and child in his signature stick drawings. The maquette for the work Little Big Mother fetched £52,500 in a Christie’s auction last year. 

“The experience of making the mural was overwhelming — it took over nine months of planning. “I did everything by hand; there was no painting assistance whatsoever. I was using an airless compressor which applied broad brushstrokes of paint to the concrete. It was the only way to cover such a large surface. But it took a toll on my body. It was a monster project; you don’t do many of these in a lifetime.”

STIK

The artist who was once homeless told the auction house: “The experience of making the mural was overwhelming — it took over nine months of planning. “I did everything by hand; there was no painting assistance whatsoever. I was using an airless compressor which applied broad brushstrokes of paint to the concrete. It was the only way to cover such a large surface. But it took a toll on my body. It was a monster project; you don’t do many of these in a lifetime.”

Regeneration through Public Art

Big Mother was a commentary on gentrification as Stik attempted to tackle the issue of displaced communities. “The mother is looking out to the horizon, wondering where she’ll go once the building is demolished, while the child’s eyes are fixed on the luxury apartments being built opposite this social housing block. Obviously the child is not going to be living in those apartments — the final destination is unknown. But I also wanted to convey some sort of hope. I think that hope is probably one of the most melancholy of emotions. I tried to convey that in this piece more than most,” the artist explained.

Acton past: Waitrose opened its first London shop on Acton High Street in 1904 | WAITROSE

Today, the organisers want to bridge the divide across the neighbourhood through street art that gets everybody talking, makes people happy, and has the power to beautify and clean up urban decay. Like most parts of London, Acton too is already undergoing its own urban renewal with new luxurious apartments springing up all over the area. Even high street names like Marks and Spencers and Lidl are once again returning to the postcode where Waitrose & Partners first appeared on the high street in 1904 when Wallace Wyndham Waite, Arthur Rose and David Taylor opened their shop in Acton. But large expanses of the main shopping precincts and town centre are still run down with fast food chains, decaying shop awnings and in need of a major facelift.

An Artistic Renaissance

Residents are banking on an arts renaissance as the final jigsaw puzzle to create a more vibrant neighbourhood with increased footfall, community events, creative markets and family festivals to celebrate all that the area has to offer.The project is in line to be assessed by the Greater London Authority’s London Mayor’s Fund and could be eligible for up to 75% of the total funding with a final deadline of 12 August to raise the remaining amount.

Di Paola remains bullish about the project and the initial response from residents: “We believe this is a project that could be transformative for our neighbourhood. Acton for far too long, has existed in the shadow of surrounding postcodes and we hope this project will help to change the dialogue and start a way to showcase the diversity, creativity and spirit of the people who live in and love this area.”

To support Acton Unframed follow the link to the fundraising page to make a pledge or leave a comment in support of the project

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