You may have noticed on your way to Peckham Levels or the bustling Rye Lane something a bit different than usual. That’s because, over the summer, we’ve been investing in a new look and feel to Peckham Levels to welcome back punters which includes updating and investing in not just the inside of the building, but the outside too.
With new art and murals created by local artists springing up in the alley, we caught up with one of them: Kevin Hadimadja, our South London raised artist who painted our first mural “THIS IS PECKHAM”, inspired by his experiences and love of Peckham.
If you haven’t already, why not swing by Peckham Levels and check out Kevin’s and all the other awesome new works in the alley? You can also pick up something to eat and drink on your way up on levels 5 and 6.
Can you tell me a little bit more about you and your background?
“I was born in Indonesia and moved to London when I was about 6 years old. My mum and dad came to London to give their family a better life within education, healthcare and job opportunities. I first moved to Harrow, then Edmonton, then relocated to Deptford. I went to school in Southwark (Bacon’s College) where I met most of my friends who were from Peckham which is where I developed my creative interests.
I have always been surrounded by creativity and self expression from a very young age. My family come from a mostly musical background; singers, instrument players, composers and producers. My dad is also an illustrator and creative director while mum had a high interest in interior design. All of these aspects of my home life have helped bring me to where I am today.”
What else can you tell us about your artistic background?
“Since I was young I have always been drawing and using my imagination, whether that’s creating characters, drawing monsters, or anything else that came to mind. As I grew older, I had a phase where my behaviour at school and outside was really bad and I had a lot of anger issues. By then, my art was developing simultaneously with my personality so it became a creative outlet and almost a form of therapy for me. I had art and sports to calm myself down and found peace and a sense of purpose; you need a lot of energy, concentration, and dedication for these things so in a way they allowed me some form of escapism. My art developed over the years and so did I with it to grow into the person, and artist, I am today.”
We loved your style which was another reason why we chose you to paint our THIS IS PECKHAM mural. How would you describe your style and what inspires you?
“In three words I would describe my work as vibrant, grotesque, and chaotic. I create grotesque characters in vibrant colours, surrounded by detailed and surreal compositions with references to a distorted reality. I like to fill entire spaces with lots of contrasting imagery and dynamic elements so the experience of my art is less transient than it is considered; it’s all about getting people to take their time by bringing a sense of intrigue to their day. I make my work visually interactive to encourage people to find something or some new element to engage with that they previously hadn’t noticed, while subconsciously sharing my thoughts and influences through defined details that capture their imagination.”
So, we asked you to paint what Peckham means to you, but now can you tell us: what does Peckham mean to you?
“To me, South East London represents different cultural backgrounds that taught me to adapt to different spaces, areas, and people; especially at Peckham. From shopping at food markets with Mum, to Aunties always insisting to do my hair (had long curly hair) to crazy experiences with mandem and most importantly the creativity and talent coming out is what made me love the area.
I think the secondary school experience really shaped my personality, character, and made me the person I am today, but really it had so much influence on me and all my friends too. We got to see the really good, wholesome sides of Peckham, but we also experienced the negative side of Peckham too. Seeing people from different cultures and backgrounds be accepted by the community reminds me of the welcoming and inviting aspects of my life back home, and the experiences I had of the negative sides of Peckham’s past shaped me to be a bolder and stronger person with all the connections to the area and our shared memories.”
What is the inspiration behind the mural and how did you channel what Peckham means to you?
“I wanted to go back in time by reconstructing Peckham’s history and tracing a journey from its roots to the present day- as symbolised by the figure of a tree. As most people know, Peckham had a reputation for violence and a lot of people feared the area which has vastly changed now. I wanted to illustrate this change by incorporating the concepts of past and present within the space to bring a sense of nostalgia, tinted with appreciation for the present moment, and optimism for the future.
Acknowledgement of success was one of the most important aspects of the work. Seeing Peckham now and how it has developed over the years, I see so many success stories and people that have really made a name for themselves. Rather than insinuating too much about the past and how it used to be, I wanted to lightly draw upon this history while shining a light on homegrown talent and diversity today to paint a picture of positivity for the community.”
Finding out more about you, what is the biggest reward and the biggest challenge in being an artist?
“I love hearing people’s opinions and seeing their reactions. I like to understand what people have to say, how they engage with my work, and the extent that they get in tune with what I’m trying to get across. Art is a story of two halves: there’s characters that the author brings to the story, but it’s the reader who interprets the characters and gives them personality and meaning. Sometimes I’m at odds with my own art and other people’s perception of it; like sometimes people vibe off something that took me no time versus something that I have spent days putting together. It’s all part of the process of learning and growing as an artist and storyteller.
The process of creating artwork isn’t always linear and can often be unclear. A piece only really comes together once the work is completed, and that can sometimes take hours, or days, or even months, yet there’s always a level of uncertainty in terms of what form the finished piece will take. Sometimes I get lost with the art to the point where I don’t have direction or any idea where I’m going with it, but it’s all about trusting the process, getting to grips with feelings of frustration, just doing what feels right, and staying consistent with what you do. I see these all as beautiful and positive things that are all part of the process and I’m always learning something.”
Thinking back to when you were a teenager and your art, what would you tell yourself- and what is your advice for any young artist now?
“My advice is to be very experimental with your art. I would try not to just stick with one approach or one medium, and don’t be too rigid or fixed. Accepting that experimentation with mediums will help with how you communicate your vision, and that experimentation is a frustrating, but essential, part of the process that will help you discover new approaches to your work. Remember, art is meant to be fun and you’ll find the right thing for you by how it makes you feel.
If you’re a young artist, remember, creative events are more accessible now than it’s ever been, so get out there, go to exhibitions, go to events, meet new people, and collaborate- a few of the most exciting parts of the experience.”