Camden Open Air Gallery (COAG) is a new addition to Camden Town at 216 Camden High Street. Finn (23 year old founder of COAG) could never have imagined that painting the closed shop shutters during lockdown would evolve into a physical art gallery that is a space for artists to showcase their work.
Camden has always been a cultural and creative hotspot, so when COVID-19 hit the effects were felt particularly hard. COAG’s aim is to support Camden and bring back some love and creativity to an area that has lost its touch over the last few years.
Graffiti and street art has not always been perceived in a positive light, COAG is trying to change this. COAG supports artists and has assisted them in getting their work front and centre on the shop fronts and weatherproof canvases whilst creating a new Camden High Street.
COAG first show ‘CAMDEMONIUM’ is running until the 31st of October, featuring three Camden based artists – P.I.C., Ollie Sylvester and Xander Coy.
P.I.C (Partners in Crime) – The native Camdenite, born in 1970, started scribbling various pseudonyms on public furniture around Camden circa 1981. By 1986 he became the first London graffiti writer to go ‘all city’ with his iconic and ubiquitous PiC tag embellished with a heart-shaped graphic. He was also the first to tag the set of TV soap Eastenders which gave him nationwide notoriety. Graffiti writing has been a constant theme throughout his life. Other interests include custom bike building, Classic VW car restorations and metal sculptures.
Ollie Sylvester – Artist, Camden oldskool, born in 1972. Scribbling since he could hold a Bic Biro. Inspired by hip-hop culture, Ollie started dabbling in graffiti in the early 80’s writing ‘Merser’ – ‘TKS’ then ‘Saker’ – ‘MGM-DDS-PFB’. Amongst other projects. He designed and sprayed characters for ‘De La Soul’ s’ ‘Three is magic number’ The English version of the video filmed in the ‘Electric Ballroom’ Camden Town 1987 & angel and devil characters in iconic ‘Elk’ piece, Fulham ‘92. 1988 saw the beginning of ‘acid house/rave’ movement. Sylvester certainly found inspiration in Persian rugs. At this point, he was becoming prolific with acrylics on canvas. In 1994 he had an accident in which he almost served his right arm… forcing him to learn how to paint with his left hand. This evolved into his straight lined cross-hatch style.
Xander Coy a.k.a Zandism – Camden born and bred contemporary artist employs a range of techniques using acrylic, oil, ink, enamel and spray paint. Heavily influenced by the imagery of Pop Art, Collage and Surrealism he draws on a variety of imagery for his own work ranging from vintage 1950’s posters to modern-day cartoons. Coy began painting collages attracted to the boundless creative possibilities of the process. Hands are a recurring motif that appears within his latest work.
The free admission to all exhibitions aims to praise the community of street artists and the value they add to make people day and their commute more interesting.
Finn says, ‘’My priority is to make sure COAG always respects the graffiti culture. Look, I am not a street artist or a graffiti writer, I’m not an artist. So, if I am doing something in this world, there must be respected. Authenticity is a key part of what I want to come across with COAG, I think the ideal response would be that COAG is bold in its difference, and someone cared enough to get out there and make a change. The whole goal throughout this process has been trying to remain authentic and staying true to COAG’s core message of inclusivity & respect ‘’
From the 7th of November COAG is taking the concept of shutter art to a new level. The exhibition will feature art painted on to shop shutters by some of London’s most famous disguised graph and street artists. This exhibition will celebrate street art in a way that you have not experienced before.