As Content and Community Exec for somewhereto_ it’s my responsibility to seek out and spotlight London’s most brilliant creative talents, as well as showcasing the current plight on the city’s young creatives. This week I visited a home studio, just North of the capital.
I left a wet and humid Brixton to meet up with Jake Attwell, better known as Itaewon, a young artist making big movements in the London Street Art scene.
Jake’s an ex-somewhereto_ space user, helping curate two House of Vans events as well as taking part in summer of somewhereto_ in Brighton. He’s also produced work with City of Colours, Converse, Gottwood Festival and is a featured artist on Derrby.com.
After the standard formalities we get on a train, Northbound, to the Hertfordshire city of St Albans, where Jake calls home. On the train I ask Jake what he’s been doing in London, he replies; ‘I’ve just been in Shoreditch, showing some friends some artwork I did a couple weeks back at Meeting of Styles in the Nomadic Gardens. There aren’t many opportunities to produce Street Art back home so when I’m showing off I need to go to London.’
A 20 minute train ride later we arrive in St Albans. It’s a leafy suburban part of the world that feels detached from the smog of London. Jake explains to me that he grew up in St Albans, jokingly expressing that he wouldn’t be able to afford to live here if it wasn’t for his parents.
After a short walk from the station we arrive at Jake’s flat. The flat is saturated with paints, canvases, brushes, pens and drawings, accumulating in a small workspace tucked into a corner.
I asked Jake why he works in his flat, he replies ‘It’s pretty simple really, I can’t afford a studio. There aren’t any appropriate, affordable studios around London or St Albans. I’ve thought of moving up North to have a more affordable living arrangement, but until I begin selling my work more regularly I’m going to have to live off the little festivals and commissions London gives me’.
We get distracted by some of Jake’s work and he begins telling me about his upcoming projects and where he see’s his work going. He begins showing me photos and drawings, divulging new, exciting paints and materials he has uncovered. His passion is evident.
After an hour or so of watching Jake in his element, confidently applying paint and line I ask him what a London based space would do to his practice. ‘I don’t think it would do much to my practice but my social standing and network would change massively. It would give me the ability to go to shows and meet people in the industry. I would be able to invite people back to my studio and showcase my work to the right people. It would open up a lot of doors. There are more people, more opportunities and more money, so I guess everything will change. Plus paying £25 for the train every other day is peak.’
Jake’s skill and passion are obvious, however I fear that the squeeze on London, forcing him out of the city, is having negative implications for his practice and development. What I find more alarming however, is that Jake can only work and live near London because his family are based in a suburb. I worry for the young creative missed by the city, due to geographical voids. This is a problem London cannot ignore.