‘Life is never fixed and stable. It is always mercurial, rolling and splitting, disappearing and reemerging in a most unpredictable fashion‘ –Loren Eisely
Take a walk down the Kingsland Road in London’s Dalston, and visit the monsters, sea creatures, and other fantastic characters that now occupy the walls of a soon to be abandoned and demolished housing estate. This marathon mural project set forth by London based artist Nazir Tanbouli is coming to life before our eyes. While many artist’s scramble for what little funding is available, Tanbouli hasn’t received any for this project and by Autumn of 2012 all of his hard work will be destroyed. When I spoke to Tanbouli the lack of finance was the least of his concerns, he is no stranger to funding his own work. This is art for art’s sake in its purest form.
Operating from his ground floor workspace Studio 75, he works tirelessly and aggressively. Keeping the general public and tenants interested in this project doesn’t seem to be a problem; this space draws the attention of many people, and like myself, many visit more than once. Spend a few minutes with Tanbouli and you will find that there is a level of excitement, passion and joy in his voice and demeanour when he discusses this project.
My first encounter with this work was purely accidental and left me wanting to find out more about the artist, artwork, and the space itself. Located off Kingsland Road on Laburnum Street, the King’s Land mural is reviving the appearance of a sixty-year old derelict housing estate; turning a local eyesore into a massive work of art that anyone can appreciate and enjoy. If you are lucky enough to live nearby I suggest paying more than one visit; these murals are constantly evolving and it will take more than one viewing to absorb and comprehend all of the information provided. One of Tanbouli’s ambitions with his work is to increase the amount of time that people spend looking at art; the continual evolution of this project encourages this practice. Each time the viewer passes by they will find something new, something different, in the layers that are being added to this larger than life collage. Tanbouli’s materials are lightweight sixty gram sheets of paper, black ink, and glue. The result is that the flimsy paper clings to the walls and gives the illusion that the work is actually painted onto the bricks themselves.
As I wandered around the King’s Land it seemed like a project of this size must have been meticulously planned, yet Tanbouli promises that nothing is premeditated, and it seems that everything is permitted. Elements of chance are welcomed; even the destruction wrought by the recent rain has not caused Tanbouli to despair. When he lost three murals in April to water damage, he happily told me that ‘the good news is I have three more walls to play on’. Although the weather hasn’t been cooperating recently, Tanbouli is still hard at work inside his studio. While the atmospheric conditions have given him the chance to ‘play’ on three more murals, one hopes that the sun will eventually come out, so that the public has an opportunity to see the final stages of this artwork.
The ephemerality of the King’s Land project is persuasively and unmistakeably apparent. Nothing about this project holds any sensation of permanence. Tanbouli doesn’t look at the planned demolition in a negative light. He is quite content that this artwork will live on in the minds of those fortunate enough to experience it themselves, as well as in the photographs and films documenting the experience.
Temporal art has become emblematic of the restless, shifting differences that compose and enrich it; this particular project invokes said restlessness. The temporary nature of a work like this suggests the potential for an unlimited number of ideas and freedoms, not giving into grim and unavoidable forces, instead aggressively assimilating them into an extraordinary visual experience. Although Tanbouli seems to have no regrets about the inevitable destruction of the King’s Landmurals, a desire for the work to continue to exist long after the buildings come down is present. This project, like so many other contemporary artworks, is being heavily photographed and every step of the process is being documented, producing an archive that will exist long after the estates have been demolished. The final exhibition will be held on the 30th of June at Studio 75.
Hailing from Alexandria, Egypt, Nazir Tanbouli has been in the UK for about 10 years. Educated in expressive art at Alexandria University he has had his work exhibited widely in both Egypt and abroad. In 2002, Tanbouli moved to the UK and completed an MA in Fine Art and Printmaking at Camberwell College of Art.
-All images © Nazir Tanbouli