We introduce Mr Cenz, an international street artist, who started developing his craft in the mid 80s when graffiti art first came around from New York. From the age of 8, this was when Mr Cenz first began carving his route into the world of street art. With over 35 years in the scene, we had to dig deep into the story behind this uniquely talented graffiti artist.
Mr Cenz has seen the progression of something that was once seen as an illegal activity, to now the biggest art form on the planet so we were lucky enough to be able to hear more about his fascinating journey and career so far, including the London E-Prix, his murals all over the world and his inspirations.
// SO WAS THERE A PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME WHICH SPARKED YOUR JOURNEY INTO ART?
No, for me and most graffiti artists from that era, we were primarily influenced by New York subway graffiti. We were first introduced to this by a book which we call the ‘Graffiti Art Bible’, also known as Subway Art – which came out in 1984.
That book exposed this whole culture that was also a part of hip hop culture with the arts, breakdancing and music and more. It was really cool because everyone could get involved. For me, I was always into art and so my parents would take me to galleries to see more conventional kinds of art but I never really clicked with me. But when I saw the graffiti, I knew that’s what I wanted to do – that was the start of it all.
// WHAT INSPIRES YOUR ART?
My art today is kind of influenced by all of these different experiences I’ve had. The primary element is obviously graffiti. The essence, funk, the energy and the colours of graffiti are still very important in my work. When I went to college to study art, a lot of abstract expressionists influenced the space and backgrounds in my work portraits as I did a lot of abstract painting.
But my style has only clicked into place maybe around 10 years ago. It took about 20-25 years of painting to get my unique style so I feel blessed I even got to that point because some artists don’t get there.
// ANY FAVOURITE ARTISTS?
I don’t like this question because there’s so many. Obviously the early graffiti artists, like DONDI and the Chrome Angelz. I looked at Paul Klee and the symmetry in his work, but you know there’s so many. I actually try not to look at other artists much because I find it distracting. It’s easy to get lost looking at other people’s work, especially if you’re trying to develop a style as well, it can distract you from your own focus.
// DESCRIBE A PARTICULAR PIECE YOU’RE MOST PROUD OF AND WHY?That’s a tough question again because there are certain murals which I’m really proud of but I don’t really have favourites. Once I’ve painted a mural, maybe after a few months or so, I just think of how I can make the next mural bigger and better.
// IS THERE A DEEPER STORY BEHIND ANY OF YOUR WORK?
I want people to look at my work and forget about all of the troubles of the world and get lost in this kind of futuristic world, one where it’s not focused on black and white. My kids are mixed race, and it’s important to me and a reason why I don’t actually use natural skin colours. I’m essentially creating this kind of positive, futuristic place which shows universal beauty and where you can just enjoy the art, especially in today’s world.
// HOW DID THE LONDON E-PRIX PROJECT COME ABOUT?
Most of my projects come from my social media presence, which I’ve been quite disciplined in building up. Obviously I’ve got a lot of work on the streets of London by having my good online portfolio so things just happen organically. I’ve never painted a race car before. It was a really difficult shape, very 3D. It was nice to do purely abstract, which is a direction I hope to go into more. The whole concept with the environment and electric cars which is something quite close to my heart. Also the fact that it’s actually going to be raced around London is pretty cool. It was received by a lot of people because it was so different, so that’s definitely a highlight collaboration for me, especially this year.
You can read more about this fascinating project in our previous article here.
// WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO MUSIC TO GET YOU IN THE ZONE?
I like something with a bit of funk and soul to it. I don’t have any particular songs which are my favourites but a lot of my paintings are actually named after the songs. You Can’t Hide (Your Love From Me) – David Joseph. Great song!
// HOW DO YOU BUILD YOUR PORTFOLIO NOW?
For every mural I do, I make sure that it’s documented properly so I have someone who films it for me. Within that, there’s lots of little clips like drone clips which can be used for [Instagram] stories. Content is everything so I’ll make sure all angles are covered. I’ve got a photographer so I can get work in progress pictures, professional pictures of the final thing and stories throughout, which I organise all myself now. I will be having someone help me again, because it’s getting too crazy!
// WHAT ELSE DO YOU ENJOY DOING AWAY FROM GRAFFITI ART IN YOUR DAY TO DAY?
I don’t have much spare time but I do actually DJ. I’ve been clicking records since I was about 10 years old. Other than that, just family, and my kids. Music and DJing is a nice escape as well as just the outdoors to take my mind off anything art related.
I’m actually a Crystal Palace fan too. As part of the London Mural Festival, I did another mural too. So when you’re in the stadium, you can see my art overlooking the stands.
Take a sneak peek at some of the London Mural Festival‘s highlights below:
// HOW DOES YOUR ART INTERPLAY WITHIN CREATIVE TECHNOLOGIES SUCH AS AR & WHAT ROLE DO YOU FEEL IT WILL PLAY IN THE METAVERSE?I’ve been out of playing around with augmented reality for a couple of years. Now, I have several pieces which are animated, which you can view via Instagram filters on my account (@mcenzone). Because my work is quite futuristic too, it fitted my style. People can look at this big wall through the phone, and it comes to life.
Obviously with the metaverse stuff, people could actually be inside the world, walking round and inside it. That would be amazing. I look forward to experimenting more with technology because there is a lot out there. That’s another thing, it’s important to keep kind relevant and current.
// WHERE ARE SOME OF THE PLACES YOU’VE TRAVELLED FOR ART PROJECTS?
The most crazy place my work has taken me is Tahiti, in the South Pacific. I’ve also been to Switzerland, Canada including Winnipeg and Edmonton. New York too, I’ve got a 10 storey high mural by the Ugandan Embassy there. So travel is something I’ve definitely missed since covid.
// WHAT TIPS WOULD YOU GIVE TO UPCOMING ARTISTS STARTING OUT & HOPING TO ‘MAKE IT’ IN YOUR INDUSTRY?
I would say it helps to turn the Internet off and just draw more, create your own path. Don’t underestimate the time you have alone, use that time to experiment and develop a style because it all takes time. When you eventually get to a level where you’re more known, the important part is to maintain your work whilst you’re still developing. Again, keep experimenting, doing what you want and don’t focus solely on commercial jobs. Sometimes you have bad experiences so don’t overthink when you make a mistake.
// HOW CAN BLUP READERS CONNECT WITH YOU AND KEEP UP TO DATE WITH YOUR UPCOMING PROJECTS?
It’s actually ‘mural season’ now so I’ve just finished one in Peckham and then I’m off to Glasgow for another so there’s a lot which you can see on my instagram that’s really the best way to keep up to date with my muals. Then I’ve actually got an NFT collection dropping, again animated versions of my murals where they can come to life.