The Art of the Matter
The art of the matter
From Whitstable alleyways to New York’s 5 Pointz, Timmy Newland has taken his love of street art to the graffiti mecca and back again
There is no questioning the influence that Banksy has had on the art world. Something that might once have been called a defacement of property, now sells for hundreds of thousands of any currency you wish to choose from.
His notoriety is international, his messages are confrontational and the response is always sensational. But one thing is for sure, he has encouraged both aspirers and connoisseurs alike, even if it was only for them to now consider his talent as art.
“It is moving to be a bit more appreciated now, says Timmy Newland while stood by the Tankerton skate park. “But it is under the guise of ‘street art’.”
The Whitstable artist has a piece on the face of the concrete bowl where skaters and BMX groups are practicing their own form of expression.
“It’s a funny thing,” he says. “If someone paints a mural and people call it street art, then it’s appreciated. But if it’s described as graffiti, it really gets people’s backs up. There is still a stigma attached.”
Newland developed his love for graffiti at the Sir William Nottidge School (now known as Whitstable Community College) with a maths compass and a table, or a pen and a toilet cistern.
Creating ‘tags’ (graffiti signatures), he and his friends would develop their own urban autographs before heading out onto the streets. Well one street, actually.
“There was a wall near the rec which was hidden by an alleyway so we used to go down there and do it,” he explains. “Personally I actually now think tags look shit. They don’t mean anything, and no one wants to look at a little scribble. You can then evolve that into a larger piece and go ‘bombing’ (larger and more decorative work).
“But that alleyway was the only place we’d go, we weren’t brave enough to go anywhere else,” he laughs.
But, this wasn’t New York in the 70s, this was Whitstable in the 90s. Think kids with curtains and tracksuits rather than gang-signs and weaponry. So having a battle with the fuzz wasn’t really on the agenda.
While his graffiti crew turned their backs on a life of crime, Newland immersed himself in the culture.
“I have always been into hip hop culture and graffiti is a big part of that. I used to get Hip Hop Connection magazine, which was the only one I could get down here, and they had a section in each issue on famous graffiti artists like Daniel ‘Krave’ Fila, and you could see how they do their lettering and adapt their styles. There was real artistry to it and I loved it.”
This is where the tale takes a twist. A job opportunity in 2005 allowed Newland to swap Whitstable for the Big Apple and, more poignantly, to 5 Pointz.
Signifying the five boroughs of the famous city coming together, 5 Pointz was the epicenter of graffiti or street art. Famous artists from all over the world would gather there to express their feelings using spray cans and bricks. This was the inspiration.
“It was a mecca, it was cool,” says Newland. “I used to go up there and see really well known artists. It’s where it all started.”
In fact, it was so loved by the graffiti community, that when it was due to be torn down in 2014 for gentrification, protests took place, applications for landmark status were applied for, and eventually, when denied, a huge “Art Murder” mural was sprayed over former works of art.
“When it got torn down, if there was a brick with a bit of paint on it, people were selling them for hundreds of pounds,” says Newland. “It was a big part of the culture.”
A few years on, Newland has moved back to his hometown and is making a name for himself with his work. In fact, he has just gone ‘accidentally full-time’. Art was his ‘side hustle’ as he calls it. But in early summer he was made redundant from his day job, making art his primary income.
“So far it’s okay,” he says. “I don’t live a crazy lavish life so it’s working. I don’t want to get stressed, doing it. I’d love it to be my primary income for the foreseeable future, but I’m not one of these big famous artists who can afford to do that. I don’t sell prints for a grand a pop.”
However, sat in his garage, with his beats on and paint flying up the walls, Newland is turning a few heads.
An exhibition at Whitstable’s Horsebridge Centre alongside a number of other artists, including the seaside town’s famous Catman, has seen his stock grow.
“I have a lot of events throughout the rest of the year,” he explains. There are sales from the website, and I have stuff in a few galleries in Dartford and Tonbridge.”
He is also part of a group of six artists who use one of the retail huts at the Harbour Village on rotation throughout the year. But lugging around bricks isn’t an easy way to show off your skills.
“Grafitti artists have moved into the street art arena so they can be appreciated a bit more,” says Newland. “That is also where I felt I could work. It’s a bit more mature, a more grown-up style.
“You can’t really paint onto walls these days, it has to be on dedicated mural sites or onto canvas.”
Newland has become celebrated for a number of his signature pieces including The Makeover, which depicts the Queen getting her head shaved, or Food Of Champions, which depicts Bobby Moore holding aloft a Pot Noodle rather than a World Cup.
“I used to only want to paint everything I put out,” he says. “I would paint one piece in a batch of three or four. So I could feel like I had done it.”
While this is very authentic, and hand painted pieces are still available, it is very time consuming, so his popular work is now available in digital prints – probably a more cost-effective way of spreading his work, though you get the feeling it’s not something he likes doing!
Newland has some cracking stories about work he has been commissioned to do. There is a great one about garden furniture and a mural of a saxophonist from Ibiza – ask him if you see him.
“I’ve been commissioned for some strange stuff at people’s houses,” he says. “I got asked to paint a portrait of a family dog and a pair of Jordan Three Nike Trainers in a child’s bedroom. The dog was a labradoodle! It was all a bit weird.”
Newland is confident about the future of the art form in Kent with mural sites popping up all along the coast – including a stunning Only Fools and Horses piece next to the entrance of Dreamland in Margate,
“There are some good legal spots in Thanet, and there’s a really good scene in Folkestone and Dover,” he says. And while he wasn’t the first or perhaps even the most talented, Banksy has helped pave the way for others, including Newland to make his art known.
“Banksy is the poster boy of that movement and he has made it socially acceptable to do wall murals,” he says. “But there were people before him doing it, that his style is based on, but didn’t get the same credit. People like Blek Le Rat, who has a couple of bits at the Lilford Gallery in Canterbury, had a stencil style.
Banksy has taken that style to the next level and he is exceptionally clever and creative. That has allowed other people to come out and be more open, too.
“He does stuff with a political agenda and represents powerful messages, but I keep away from that side of things.
“I want someone to look at it, think about it and leave with a smile. That’s all I want.”
You can find more information at timmynewland.com