How Purity uses art to capture moments in time
When asked what it means to be an artist, Purity – working under Art Elusive – said: ”If you’re an artist you’re basically a historian. Just saying what’s happening around you and your interpretation of that.” With this sentiment at the heart of her work, Purity creates time capsules with her paintings, inspired by the people, energy and culture of London that surrounds her.
Purity spoke with us about her artist journey, how she hopes art can impact others and some creatives you should check out.
Tell us about how your artist journey started
When I was a child I was a bit all over the place – like if you found a baby in the jungle and kept them in the house – I was just running around drawing on everything. I was a wild child.
When I was a teenager not much changed. I was still drawing so that became my downtime; chilling and just creating stuff in my room with paints and paper-mâché. Adult Purity is more mature but I’m still a bit wild.
“I like painting portraits of people as I like keeping that stamp in time.”
Compared to your younger self, what’s shaped the art you create now?
When I was a kid I was trying to tell a story that only now as an adult I can understand. It’s only different in the sense that I’m a better painter now. When I was a kid, so much was going on and the reason I started painting was because my home life was not great, so it was an escape for me to have some peace and figure out what was going on.
When you’re a kid you just don’t understand. It’s a shame when life is so crazy and traumatic and you’re just confused. I was just trying to show that when I was drawing and painting aliens and fairies. Now I still draw weird-looking people so it kind of mirrors each other.
That’s also why I like painting portraits of people as I like keeping that stamp in time. You can look at it and go “oh that was so-and-so when they were 20 and were going through this” – capturing that time not just the person.
What inspires your art?
The people and culture that surround me in London. Living in London is almost a culture in itself. Just hanging out with my friends who are all musicians, poets or painters and listening to them. When I go home it’s like ‘bam’ – all these ideas come from it.
I’m really inspired by everything around me. That hasn’t changed, as when I was a kid, there was this guy who used to come to our house – my dad’s friend – he used to draw his face without looking at himself. It was so sick. I think from then I was like “I need to be able to do that.” I still can’t do that but it’s the goal! So I’m just inspired by people – I know it’s so cliche – their stories, the vibe and the energy.
What are your favourite places in London?
Definitely Islington and Highbury, it’s my favourite place ever. It’s so nostalgic as that’s where all my aunties and uncles grew up, and where my grandma lived when she came to London. It feels like family, even now that it’s a bit more gentrified (it always has been quite posh) but on the backroads and in the pubs it has this Caribbean culture that I just love. That’s my place. If I can afford a house, that’s where I’m buying it. Number two is Tottenham. When I lived there, it was so infectious the energy and the vibe.
“If you’re an artist you’re basically a historian. Just saying what’s happening around you and your interpretation of that.”
Do you have a process for making your art?
It is a process but it’s not intentional – it’s just like a habit. I’ll have a crazy week, it’ll get to the weekend and instead of having a crazy weekend I’ll just lock myself in, play loud music, get in the zone and smash it out.
What does it mean to be an artist?
Just capturing moments, energy and vibes. You’re like a writer but you’re not writing. I think you’re capturing moments in time. You’re a part of history and it’s all about history really, art. If you’re an artist you’re basically a historian. Just saying what’s happening around you and your interpretation of that.
How are you branching out of just painting as an artist?
I’ve always done fashion and created my own outfits. I’m always cutting stuff up, drawing on it, making earrings. As a teenager, I was always the one wearing the weird shit in college. Now I want to refine that and the business behind it. I’m doing that away from social media to learn about what I want and what I want to wear before I present it.
I also want to get into curation. What I’ve noticed as an artist is that there are curators that could help you so much but they tailor to people who are like them. If it’s a white man, he’s going to create an exhibition for other white men. I’ve had enough of it. In London, we need to see more young, black people out there.
So I’m starting to create exhibitions and tailor them to people who are like me: young, black people who have something to say. Giving them the space where any idea is possible, not saying no to anything and thinking “how can we work this out”. I want to take all the energy I have and push it into people to show that they can do it.
“There are so many things I would have loved to have help with my whole life but I just had to go full graft and do it on my own. It’s nice to have support so if I can do it, I will.”
How do you hope your art can impact others?
Everything that I make this year I’m going to give away around Christmas time. People deserve to have something nice and not everyone has £200 to spend on a leather jacket that’s been customised.
There are so many things I would have loved to have help with my whole life but I just had to go full graft and do it on my own. It’s nice to have support so if I can do it, I will. That’s my goal: to be of service. I hate when people say this but if you work hard the money will come. As long as I’m helping people and supporting them then that’s all that matters.
Do you want to shout out any artists?
Kieron Boothe, he’s an illustrator with great work and mind on a next level. Shem, he’s a sick panter. UNVRSL NMD. My friend, she’s a tattoo artist but don’t sleep on her paintings, she’s hiding that but it’s got next level messages. There’s one artist that repaints Renaissance paintings with all black people. I love her.
If you could star in any movie, what would it be?
I don’t think it’s out yet. It’s unreleased. I think I’d have to write and direct that movie myself because it’s mental. It would have to be a trilogy, it couldn’t just be one; Will Smith’s movie The Pursuit of Happiness, that film the vibe of my childhood; my teenage years is Skins; now would probably be Candy Man.
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