9 March 2010
We constantly hear of the huge regeneration project that will supposedly rejuvenate the Elephant & Castle area, but along with those plans come the troubles connected to the billions needed to make it happen.
But all around Southwark there are little pockets of regeneration that are not choked by bureaucracy and the recession and actually do get off the ground and get completed.
Someone who has been at the very heart of many of those projects and a creator of some quite amazing street art has been Nunhead artist Randy Klein, and it is this man who has been chosen to beautify the entrance of Nunhead Station with one of his iconic works.
I went along to Klein's studio to talk to him about his work and the Nunhead project and found him lugging large pieces of steel - apparently his favoured medium. I expect all creative people to be enthusiastic about their work but nothing can prepare you for the passion and fire that emanates from this artist
Randy Klein is a big man with a big personality and works big as well. His creations arch over school gates, welcome you at park entrances and brighten dilapidated estates. He makes big steel men and paints them in colours of the countryside so that they overlap the urban and the rural; his landscape paintings have a touch of the architect or engineer about them so, understandably, he can't seem to define himself: 'I am a painter who sculpts and a sculptor who paints.' He tries to explain.
Randy Klein hails from Coney Island, the seaside away-day for New Yorkers, and the nostalgia he feels for his hometown is mirrored in a lot of his work. He still has the accent but now it is peppered with south east London vowel sounds that nudge incongruently up against his own.
I wanted to know about the Nunhead work and he says that it began about four years ago when local woman Christina Moore first put a proposal to the council for some greenery and a sculpture at the decaying station. A competition was set up and artists put their ideas forward and after some decision-making there was a shortlist of three. The public then voted for their choice.
The idea for Randy's work came from just standing on the platform and looking at a view which takes in trees, sky and the buildings and City beyond with the railway track running through the middle - again it is the mix of industry and greenery.
This view was then transferred to paper before being mathematically cut out with a laser at a specialist factory in Burgess Hill. He said he wants the work to inspire people to take a look at the view themselves when waiting for their train. But getting from a good idea to a finished piece was no walk in the park. Initially no one knew who even had the permission to give the go ahead with Southeastern Trains and Network Rail involved, as well as Southwark Council: 'It's been an absolute minefield of bureaucracy and administration,' says the artist
He has high praise though for Fiona Colley of the Nunhead & Peckham Rye Community Council: 'She has been there from the start, very instrumental in the project going through;' says Klein, 'and the Community Council was where the idea was first discussed and where it was finally approved.'
There has been a lot of consultation and exchanging of ideas since the outset but Randy feels a better piece has resulted from that. He was coerced into using light for the first time, so there will be an LED 'rope' surrounding the sculpture to give it a wonderful glow in the evenings. 'It's magical!' exclaims Klein. 'The light will trickle on to the
stainless steel and reflect differently in different parts.'
Since 2006 he has been working with drawings and plans and scale models but his excitement did not wane through those years of putting this together and excitedly tells me about when he finally saw the finished piece in the factory: 'I was like a kid in a sweet shop!' He laughs at the memory.
The official opening will be at 5.45 pm 19th March as the sun goes down. And he wants people to come along to discuss a design for the wall that borders the station entrance. He has been working with Hollydale School to come up with a design but it is still open to the public to put ideas forward.
As Randy Klein talked me through the work that sits around the studio ready for his next gallery show he tells me that he likes the street art most: 'People may buy one of my paintings at an exhibition and that's it, no one sees it anymore except the buyer and his family, but with something at a park or a school it is seen by thousands!'
We went on to discuss his upcoming show at GX Gallery in April - Metacollage - where he will be expanding on his City-Country themes in an exhibition of paintings in 3D and flat sculptures. He was visibly thrilled. So was I.
Nunhead Station 5.45 pm 19th March ~ GX Gallery April 10th
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