Clerkenwell London presents Anna Laurini
155 FARRINGDON ROAD, EC1R 3AD
“If you take the time to listen to your own creative pulse, one does not need to look too far to find inspiration.”
Soho is a maze to me. Despite the many nights I’ve wandered up and down, I’ve never been able to retain directions. I get to where I want to be by accident. When I turn around a corner, I’m never quite sure what I’ll see.
One such night, Loverboy’s Corinna Tomrley and I were walking down Berwick Street looking for a place to eat. I halted my Google mapping as we stopped to see a slight, curly-haired woman at work. Could it be? It was! Anna Laurini, who’s bold-lined faces are stamped across the city, was painting on a boarded off enclave. After excitedly interrupting her, she turned back to her painting, saying “I’m not tall enough to reach the top” of the board she was covering with a patchwork of pink, blue and yellow-green, the signature face peering out from a bottom corner. She kindly invited us to her show and we left her to paint as the sun went down.
Laurini is a Milan-born, Central Saint Martin’s graduate whose work is inspired by the metropolises she has called home – London, Milan and New York. Her medium is acrylic painting and collage; the latter can be explored on her Instagram page as she paints over newspapers, books and her studio windows. Her work integrates abstract impressionism from New York’s 1950s art scene with her own instantly recognisable style.
In all their simplicity and adroit, uplifting messages, Laurini’s paintings have a seductively elusive quality. They could be painted over any moment, but carry an eternal message of outward positivity. Of the many I’ve encountered, two in particular stick. One face, nestled in the space between upmarket stores on Regent’s Street, peered out with the message ‘Don’t be a snob’. The other, on temporary panelling, staring out saying ‘Stay human’ on the evening the government was voting to take action in Syria.
A week later, The Keep unveiled a spacious basement full of those faces on large canvases and smaller framed paintings. The flyer invited gallery goers to ‘celebrate the eccentricity that is Anna’s world through colour, disillusion and hope’ and it did not disappoint.
Unlike the images that can be found all over the city, the exhibition offered larger and uncaptioned canvases full of new perspectives. The faces were fuller, multiplied, with some paintings containing many people in silent conversation – their gaze remains far off, the messages subjective.
Laurini is having fun. Her colours are more explosive, playful, and threaten to spill out their canvases. Backgrounds of vibrant blues, reds and yellows dripped, frozen in flow, with wavy haired women emerging out of them. Their features are always oversized, full red lips and black-lined eyes. Two variations emerge, femme with flowing hair, or angular, more masculine figures with cropped hair whose face is never completed – the former of which is explored in many of the pieces. The smaller framed paintings evoked forlorn starlets with waves of rainbow or dirty yellow hair; others featured couples and groups loosely defined in their gender with square chests or curved breasts.
Her figures reclaim the monotony of the mirrored cities, offering a chaotic, yet controlled alternative. She asks viewers to stop and consider their captions and arresting stare – be it on the street or in a gallery.
I caught up with Laurini post-exhibition and asked her a few questions.
JB: When did you first start street painting?
AL: I started about 3 years ago for fun, but then it became an addiction!
JB: Your figures are instantly recognisable. How did you form these penetrating faces?
AL: I’ve been practising for years.
JB: The show features a lot of characters in the same frame. Crowds, couples, most seemed to be female. Is the gender intentional? Or not a major focus?
AL: Gender is not a major focus. My favourite is the couple – the woman and man. This is the ultimate symbol of love to me, the completeness between them.
JB: Some of your paintings have instructions to the passer by, often upbeat messages. Do you find art a good way of communicating positivity?
AL: I just like truth and beauty.
JB: New York abstract impression is an influence for you, along with major cities. What else inspires you to make art?
AL: Everything from music and people, to writers and philosophers like Albert Camus, Seneca and David Icke. As well as Palestine.
JB: What do you love most about London?
AL: My Studio.
JB: What’s next for you?
AL: I’m going back to New York! 🙂
For continually bold and intriguing work, Laurini’s pieces can be seen at The Keep throughout the summer and, for those who know where to look, in and around London.
Click here for a condensed version of this article.
Image credit: Anna Laurini at work, via my phone.