Artist Camille Walala has been making London’s streets more colourful for three years – now her work’s being celebrated with a new exhibition.
Even if you haven’t heard of Camille Walala, you’ll probably have seen her work dotted around the city. The east London-based artist’s style is instantly recognisable: playful patterns, bold colours and geometric shapes. Wander down Old Street and you can’t miss a five-storey building emblazoned with her signature graphic style. The Dream Come True Building was a nondescript office block until an independent TV and film company commissioned Walala to give its Shoreditch HQ a makeover back in 2015. Once she was finished, it was covered in blocks of turquoise, black-and-white stripes and multi-coloured zigzags. One of her most ambitious projects to date, Walala says she’d never done anything like it before. ‘I didn’t even know how to do it,’ she adds. The mural took eight people ten days and 60 litres of paint.
But even before Walala set her sights on London’s office blocks, she always wanted to bring colour and good vibes to the city’s streets. Born in France, she studied textile design in Brighton before making her name in east London. ‘I did a lot of street art when I’d just finished uni,’ she says. ‘I wanted people to see a positive message when they walked to work.’ She painted messages like ‘dance more’ and ‘kiss more’, changing them regularly. ‘It’s nice to be able to do the same kind of work on a bigger scale and with the support of the city. But the concept hasn’t really changed.’
Walala’s influences come from all over – from the ’80s Memphis Group design movement (think ‘Miami Vice’ meets ‘Saved by the Bell’) to the vibrant patterns and colours of her childhood home in the South of France. But she thinks of London as home now, having lived here for 19 years. ‘I love London,’ she says. ‘It has an energy like nowhere else – I find it really hard to leave.’
In fact, there are still loads of places where Walala wants to make her mark on our city. She says she’d love to have a go at the Barbican (although she’s aware that covering the brutalist icon in bright paint might be a bit controversial!). But she’s mainly interested in transforming London’s more mundane structures, like the Hackney council estate she lives on. ‘The uglier the building, the more exciting the project,’ she says.
This month sees the launch of her first 3D installation at Now Gallery, an immersive maze full of mirrors and patterns, where visitors can play spot the difference as they explore. She’s also created the landmark project for this year’s London Design Festival, a castle-like structure in Exchange Square called ‘Villa Walala’, made from soft building blocks, which she originally envisioned as a giant, colourful stress ball. ‘It’s just supposed to surprise people walking past and bring a smile to their faces,’ she says. ‘That’s the purpose of my work’.
Walala X Play is at Now Gallery, Peninsula Square, SE10 0ES. Jul 14 – Sep 24.