An interview with Brickflats creator Raphael Vangelis

On our recent London by docks & waterways walk, we discovered Birdcage Brickart loved it and went in search of more. We decided to create a new waLk featuring Brickflats and include other East London street art. The artist who created Brickart kindly agreed to answer some questions from us..

What inspired you to create Brickflats?

My personal living situation was the initial trigger for this project. I’ve lived in a fair amount of places that were less than ideal. The first flat I lived in after uni was in NYC with five roommates and my room didn’t have a window. I was working all day and basically never home. So I always had it in the back of my head to make an art project about it and I started thinking about what medium would work with this topic.

At the time I had a commute walking along the canal. Every day I would walk past this cobblestone that was loose and sticking out of the ground – a real hazard for all the bikes. Months went by and it didn’t get fixed. From there, the idea was generated to find missing bricks in walls around London and use them to build flats … well miniature brick flats 😉

What’s your creative process?

I walk a lot. I am from Austria and we have a word for a leisurely walk that doesn’t have a defined goal or purpose: Flanieren.
Whenever I am out and about I stare at the walls around me more than the surroundings now. I have a photo album of potential holes that would fit a Brickflat.
Every now and then I go through the album and if a spot inspires me I go about planning what I will do there.
At this point I usually already have a vague idea for the topic. From there it’s a few scribbles but fairly quickly I go into a 3D software to design something that is 3-Dimensional. I have a little youtube video that shows the process of a Brickflat.

Have you ever seen anything similar to what you do?

I haven’t really seen anything similar but I am definitely inspired by Space Invaders. If you are not familiar, Space Invaders create mosaics made up of pixelated art which is based on computer games. I always loved what he does, which is completely different from other street art. My project has the form it does because the medium is also the message: bricks in crumbling walls.

What makes an ideal spot for a Brickflat?

  • I have my spotlighting almost down to a bullet point list.
  • a hole in a wall where the Brickflat would repair the wall
  • preferably an exposed brick wall so that the flat feels like “just another brick”
  • between grown up and kid eye level
  • on a corner so that there is two exposed sides
  • a location that has a fair amount of foot-traffic

Is there a particular reason most of the flats are located in East London?

East London is where I spend most of my time. Go on the most walks and therefore also find the most holes in walls. I am actively trying to expand a bit though. I am proud to say that this year I have finally put the first one south of the river just under Southwark Bridge.

Have you had any Brickflats removed ?

Oh yeah. I mean it is kind of fair game: if you put it in the street you don’t own it anymore.
Sometimes this leads to some fun and heartwarming interactions though. One of the first ones on Church Street in Stoke Newington got taken. Immediately, I got messages from people that live on Church Street who were super sad to see it gone. It made me happy. I replaced it within a week. Another time I put one in New York and very early next morning, I woke up to an Instagram message from a guy telling me that I unfortunately put an artwork on a protected building and he was ordered to take it out. He really likes it though and it is sitting on his boss’s desk now.

What have you learnt about street art and London and since starting Brickflats?

There is a much more appreciation for street art in London than I originally thought. Since Brickflats expanded slightly beyond the UK I am eternally grateful how much more interested people are in this project compared to other cities. Compared to New York for example: 50% of my Brickflats in NYC got demolished within a day or two.

Luckily my artistic process always starts with an unhealthy dose of naivety. Otherwise I would have never started this. My model building skills were minimal and my resin casting skills were zero. It took me more than a year before installing the first Brickflat to figure out my process somewhat … and it’s still evolving, but I am quite happy to still be at a point where I can focus more on my designs than the execution.

Are you planning to do any more and if so what areas of London? (South London please!!)

Oh yeah, there is definitely more coming. I would love to spread them out more in London.
The issue is that I need to find the walls with missing bricks before designing and planning the flats.This is quite a specific quest and I therefore need to find dedicated time just to scout out different areas. If you have any tips for spots, feel free to send them to me https://www.instagram.com/brickflats/

by Lucy Maddison

I am co founder of the Walking Post website. I love maps, planning routes , walking them with friends and discovering new and interesting places. My day job is a web designer at Lucy Maddison Design.

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