FROM NORWICH WITH LOVE
'From Norwich with Love' was our first big collaboration project, where artists from across the channel and local businesses were brought together. FNWL is a direct connection between cities in the UK and the Benelux, bringing individuals from one place to the other to showcase their work, meet new people, and leave their mark in the form of street art.
FROM NORWICH WITH LOVE - the story
Few have heard of Norwich, which is a testament to its success, for it is one of the best kept secrets in the United Kingdom. For those who don't know, Norwich is a hotbed of creativity, bent on producing artists, musicians, entrepreneurs and writers year after year from its student-oriented local culture.
The artist we invited is Anmar Mirza, a street artist and painter. Together with him and our team we ventured through a handful of cities in Belgium and The Netherlands to transform hip, young community coffee bars and businesses. Our first stop was in Amsterdam, to the friendly folks at Caffènation.
Seeing MRZA at work is a visual treat. Inspired by a plethora of artists from Van Gogh, Picasso and M.C. Escher through to modern street artists, he certainly created his own distinct and recognizable style, continuously improving his skills by using new techniques and merging different art forms. Every piece that he creates has a certain symbolism for the environment he's working in. The community bars for example, receive a variety of customers: young, old, extravagant or just 'there for the atmosphere and good vibes'. Those aspects are exactly what he translates into his work.
As we were amazed by the perseverance of this creative talent (it's certainly not an easy task to blend everything together in a confined space, surrounded by intoxicating spray-fumes and noisy colleagues running around), work just went on till the end of the night.
We packed up and left Caffènation in Amsterdam, off to our next destination. With some speedy manoeuvres through the Belgian traffic we ended up in the oh-so-cozy meatball restaurant in Leuven: Balls & Glory.
Overwhelmed by sunshine and huge quantities of greenery in the room, we started on a high note, setting up the work area in good spirits but knowing a long day and night were still ahead of us.
Anmar prefers to let his artwork partially blend in with the environment by using shades and tints of the ones that are currently present. In Balls & Glory we were amazed by the transformation of an old walk-in garage into a modern, industrial styled restaurant. The addition of a large amount of green plants are certainly a plus to the venue, creating a totally different atmosphere than in any other restaurant. In between the usual narrow walkways and ladders, an overdose of spray cans and plastic tarp, work silently continues. The framework and setting of the murals are quickly on track with the right song playing in our ears.
We continued the ‘From Norwich with Love’ project in Coffeebar Noir. It’s one of the cosiest places in town to hang out at, or just to study, work or make conversation. Together with your (non)-caffeinated beverage and slice of cake-y goodness it feels like anything is possible when the world is just passing by at your feet.
Anmar’s way of creating art can be compared to building a castle out of sand. Once the big towers and bridges are standing, it's time to fill in the details bit by bit. All grains of sand have an equal importance to the structure and with a spark of fantasy they create pathways that will take you on a journey to new and unseen areas and rooms throughout the whole piece. In this mural there's just so much to see that the mind drifts off in a world of fantasy, making this somewhat static piece come to life.
Our closing time was at 04:00 am, where we found the courage to quietly leave through the gates, only to return the next morning to meet up with the owners and get some shots by daylight.
After a day of rest and some well-deserved peace and quiet we packed our bags and cans for Antwerp. Here lies the headquarters of Caffènation, a place where coffee means much more than just the brown liquid that’s in your cup. The assignment was simple: fill a wall and stay between the lines. How that would happen was still a mystery to all of us. Only one thing was certain, we would do everything in our power to let the artist be creative and be able to do what he came for: making art. Here a more detailed approach was taken, using a fine line brush to get a number of drawings enveloped into the whole piece. Using a spray can to fill up the parts with heavier accents and patterns, balances it all out.
Getting everything together is still a hard job, where sometimes a new light pops up in the form of a small side assignment. The owner joined the fun and told us to give small walls just outside of the windows a new artsy layer. Something that would connect the indoor piece with the one outside, giving the visitors a more complete view of the still drying art. Being in the fresh air after midnight sparked something good, ready to finish what was started inside.
The constant search for being original, laying in your own hand together with techniques learned from former inspiring artists, keeping in mind you're creating something for the people that actually look at your work, and trying to make it all become one with a story you can imagine yourself in just isn't easy. But au contraire to Icarus who flew to close to the sun and crashed into the sea, this mural totally works out…
About the artist
Where to find the art?
This collaboration was made possible by Treepack, Caffènation Antwerp & Amsterdam, Balls & Glory Leuven, Coffeebar Noir and the extra helping hands: Fabio (hospitality), Lorenzo (photography) & Osh (copywriting and UK contact).