Creating visions of an 'awesome future'


08 / 12 / 21 - 10 minute read

Chaz Barrisson kicked off The London Police (TLP) when he moved from England to Amsterdam in 1998. His goal was to embellish the streets of the Netherlands’ capital with creativity. Bob Gibson, his best friend, soon followed, and the ‘two British geezers’ helped pioneer the Dutch street art movement at the end of the last century.

After a few years of mixing travelling and making street art, TLP began to receive worldwide recognition for their contribution to the graffiti and street art movement. They were included in books documenting the scene and invited for shows and live drawing performances all over the globe.

Following their life motto, “Never be scared, don’t be a hero and let the good times roll,” they have travelled to more than 35 countries, including the Netherlands, Singapore, Italy, Norway, Slovakia and the United States and featured in more than 100 shows and events.

Author

estatements: How would you describe your artistic expression? What’s the inspiration behind your visual language?

Chaz: In our visual language, you can identify two styles that merged to become The London Police’s visual language. First, there were my characters that live in this fantasy world that Bob enriched with his architectural elements. Our style could be described as a fusion of futuristic and fantasy worlds. Through our long-term friendship, two artistic directions merged during TLP’s collaborative to create a unique signature.

Bob: There you go! There are two styles: there are my architectural compositions and there are Chaz’s character-based components. I would say that Chaz’s imagery is based on early graffiti characters, pop art, skateboard art. My creative expressions are based typically on architecture and vintage architectural illustration.

Chaz: As the work has moved along, Bob has developed his own subjects and created quite a few characters. Sometimes I focus more on the background using old school graffiti writing or paint backgrounds in particular colours that I would describe as pastel colours that allow the black and white illustrations to stand out nicely. In general, we try to make positive images that make us happy and, hopefully, make the people looking at the pieces happy too.

estatements: A key feature of your artworks seem to be cityscapes, technology and the iconic ‘lad’ characters – but also visions and landscapes of the future. Can you explain how this visual repertoire came to life?

Chaz: Well, it is all about the two sides or two styles coming together. My characters and Bob’s architecture around it. My characters are genuinely most of the lads. And they are coming out of my imagination. When they are on their own, they are visually interesting characters. But when Bob comes along, he begins to build worlds for them to live in and give it a depth. Furthermore, his visual imagery helps tell the stories of what the lad does or what the future landscape looks like. Maybe Bob wants to add a little…

Bob: Exactly. I think the two styles or worlds merging to create that unique story of the characters in the futuristic illustrated world.

estatements: Another characteristic of your creative signature is the portrayed characters. They seem to be always cooperating and co-creating in the sceneries. How important is it to transmit a collaborative aspect in your creative practice?

Chaz: The collaborative aspect is a crucial part of our work. It is what keeps us together as a partnership. That we work in tandem with each other is a central point.

Bob: I think either one is good on their own, but I think together you get that special and interesting look. Although the styles are so different on their own, together, they form unique results.

Chaz: The paintings are almost still shots or still-life paintings of what would otherwise be an animation, some sort of moving scenes. I guess it would be interesting to expand the collaboration further and share our imagery and ideas with animation artists to bring our worlds to life one day.

estatements: Do you have a clear division of roles in the team when it comes to designing new artworks? Or does it come along from piece to piece?

Chaz: I think, as a long-term partnership, we are a well-coordinated team, have assumed our roles and know what each one of us is good at. During our creative process, there are things that we know by heart and happen intuitively, sort of automatically. But we always try to keep a certain flexibility with every work we create. One of the key elements is never to be too sure of what you are doing but always have a rough idea. It is a mixture of knowing what we will do and being flexible enough to allow change during the process.

estatements: The characters represented in your artworks seem happy and content. Why are they happy, and what makes them so?

Chaz: Well, I would disagree and say they‘re not all happy or content. They all look like they have a smiley face, but perhaps it’s a wry smile. In addition, I think that the characters portrayed sometimes mirror ourselves. Bob’s characters are sometimes just robotically getting on with life, which I believe mirrors him. Just as the happy ones mirror me, and that’s not a joke. There is more to the characters on a closer look.

Bob: I like to think that there are always both moods or characters contained in our works. You have the sort of the good and the dark side in it. Not everything can only be happy. There is more to a story than just happiness. There are challenges, victories, depressing moments, and they are all part of life. The contrasts do work; I think you need the opposites! Also, as a side note: we foremost use black and white shading in our creations – so there again, you have the opposites.

In December 2020, PAT Art Lab was lucky enough to create a mural with The London Police. The mural was realised at the PATRIZIA office branch in Luxembourg. It is located in the core of the first floor where visitors are received, and all internal meetings and presentations take place. The intention is to surround employees and visitors with creativity, which promotes new ideas and positivity in their daily work!

estatements: Could you briefly take us through the Luxembourg Mural, especially the scenes surrounding/incorporating PATRIZIA’s values (optimism, tenacity, courage, ingenuity)?

Chaz: First, we base the quantities for the material on the size of the piece. Then we decided on a draft that would allow the best outcome for the space in the requested time frame of the realisation. Of course, we went through our catalogue of characters and architectural compositions.

Still, we always want to find a unique way to tell the story of the partners we collaborate with. Together with Pat Art Lab, we chose the colours according to the space and furniture and thought of a way to incorporate the values of PATRIZIA. Also, we designed a rough idea on how to split the workload. We then mixed our sketch, timeframe and our experience together and came up with an execution plan.

Bob: I think when I saw the brief, I thought the best way to show the company’s vision and values in a mural would be to have people celebrating with waving flags, waving their arms in the air like a high five and other positive gestures. And I think the best way to do that is through flags and different scenes of cooperation and success. We also stated them on architecture.

What is also essential, particularly with this mural style, is that you want to have a rough idea of what you will do. On the other hand, you don’t make all the decisions in the sketch to leave room for flexibility. Sometimes we meet people throughout the time of the execution of the mural, and we end up adding their names to the piece. Or we get to see something particular about Luxembourg or the company that we want to add in. That happens a lot of the time.

estatements: How can art in general or your art contribute to a better future?

Chaz: If we can make an image that we feel is positive and entertaining, then we are making a small impact of positivity and happiness in the future when someone looks at it. Also, the world needs a place for enjoyment and entertainment – we don’t want a world that is just bland, grey and featureless. So, the mission here would be to not just have grey walls for functional reasons, but to make them exciting, appealing and even bring a message along.

Bob: I can draw a parallel to music. Every time I hear Barry Manilow on the radio, it makes your day better. It has a significant impact on people’s lives. I don’t know if our art has the same impact but that is the intention: to bright-en up the world. It should be visually appealing, and we hope that the creativity and positivity transmit to the people who discover our artworks.

estatements: How might art reinvent itself in the future?

Bob: Tough question, but we can sort of give a direction where it could lead for us. So far, we have been working in the traditional art field, which means using pens, paint and an easel. Right now, we are experimenting with digital art and with animating our artistic elements. I think this would be the direction in which we want to reinvent ourselves and push our art forward. Reinvention would be using different tools and automating some of the work we have been doing by hand, but it also means incorporating experts from other fields.

Chaz: There is much furore over NFTs (non-fungible tokens) in the art world right now, and we are about to get a little bit involved in it. It seems like crypto art and NFTs could become a thing of the future. But also, the artistic use of lights, lasers, 3D, augmented and virtual reality means many more fields of exploration and an increase in the use of technology and digitalisation.

estatements: You have been dealing with city-scapes in your visual language for about 25 years; do they always look the same? Do you think your artworks change with changes in technology and urban development? If yes, what are they influenced by?

Bob: I think part of my job is to keep what I do interesting for myself. I am always looking to the world or cities surrounding me and let them inspire me. I think as the world changes, my architectural elements evolve too. I would say it is more of an incremental change. It would be interesting to compare how the artworks and the style of the buildings and cities have changed over time.

Chaz: The places where we go influence our style. Travelling for art means seeing the architecture of different places like London, New York and Tokyo. Naturally, you evolve within the environment and therefore the characters and the architecture adjust to our surroundings.

estatements: What do your artworks tell us about the future?

Chaz: I am not sure they do (smiles). We’re not alluding to a prophetic message in there. But it tells us a little bit about our future. We want to carry on The London Police project for as long as it makes us happy for as long as possible. We have been friends for 25 years, and we’ve both changed a lot in that time. Our friendships changed and the way we lived our lives, but we always managed to keep the motivation and tenacity to continue with this project.

Bob: I think our artworks are very peaceful and portray a happy place. As mentioned, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if the future would be a positive place with much happiness. This would be awesome!

estatements: Thank you a lot for your time and introduction to your body of work!

The interview was conducted by Tania Di Brita, Curator of PAT Art Lab. Find out more information here: pat-art-lab.com/pat-art-lab/ and @thelondonpolice/