CHU: No Gentry
Multi-platform artist Chu uses Margate’s civic circumstances to capture the mood and awaken observers
You know those conversations where you start off asking a question about Margate seafront only to suddenly realise that an hour has passed and you are now discussing gaining entry to the Swiss Embassy with Banksy. That is what talking to Chu is like.
The internationally renowned artist’s latest project, Landlauds Pt.1 and Pt.2, displayed at Fort Road Yard, aims to get visitors thinking about the coastal town in a whole new way.
From Margate Bingo and three-dimensional art to satirical signposts, Chu’s art makes you think. Hailing from Walsall in the West Midlands, Chu has spent the past 30 years plotting a course around the UK finding inspiration from the situation in which he finds himself.
Starting out as a graffiti artist, Chu’s work has seen him create across digital, canvas, outdoor and even musical platforms.
He has worked with some of the most culturally influential artists of our time, such as Banksy and Jamie Hewlett, with whom he collaborated on ground-breaking opera Monkey Journey to the West, tackled public commissions for Glastonbury Festival and even been ‘artist in residence’ for Google with the launch of its VR painting software, Tiltbrush.
Since moving to Margate two years ago, he has co-directed the new video Who’s Been Having You Over?, the debut single from Peter Doherty and his new band the Puta Madres, as well as installing a tongue-in-cheek landmark on the seafront near Turner Contemporary at Rendezvous called Turner Way – go and see it.
I hadn’t been here as a child, but I have been around much of the Welsh, Cornish and southern coastlines. For some reason, Margate had escaped my attention until recently when looking for somewhere to plant my artistic tendrils and seek an audience.
There are a lot of places that feign a support or admiration or a backbone for the unsupported or unrecognised art forms. But the times are changing down here in Kent and there’s a speedy renaissance and a big influx of creative energies.
It’s a cultural explosion. It is really important to respond to any original and characteristic place, the people, the events and the history of the place, but also the prospects.
What attracts people here would be some kind of promise of that [authenticity].
In the two years I have been here, it has been hard to discover and actually know the place. I brought a few campaigns down with me that I have as sort of luggage or things I have in my arsenal, like my one-liners or trick painting. But I have gazed at the place and paid attention to its people – not the people coming in on the train, rather the people that work here and live here. I’m still watching how people operate and am responding to being here. And that’s what my work tends to be about now.
It is the most polished my bullets have been because the ammunition is so apparent as to what has been going on here. When a place has been run into the ground, the rebuttal is as important as the reason why. And the response here has been sharper. It is all happening pretty quick, with the amount of culture that is coming here and the amount of change in the people; and then the response mechanism.
ON WHETHER THAT’S A POSITIVE OR A NEGATIVE…
It feels a bit land-grabby here. Which is playing in my work. A lot of people here will be made to feel uncomfortable because of the speed of all this.
But fewer empty shops, fewer empty venues and more people is a good thing. But the visible response is just as critical.
ON HIS ART…
It’s about getting people out there to see things how they could be or should be. The fact is, if you prompt some kind of response, you usually get it.
There’s a lot of people that are sick of lies and trickery. People are reading their own information now and helping to fight the institutions and notions of old. It’s the glue of society, which can be visibly forecast.
Really, art is a selfless act of giving someone something to smile at. And that is all that lyrical twisting is. Hopefully, people read it and smile. The No Crime piece is so popular, for example, a place in California has been using it to mock the government. It has garnered people’s attention. So to put that up anywhere fires people’s emotions.
ON THE THRILL...
I love getting up a ladder and painting something that stuns people. I love creating illusions on a massive scale, whether it’s text or architectural fantasies, or a merge of both. That’s where I’m happiest.
I feel I’m at my best when I combine the skills – like Landlauds Pt.1, which is photography, trickery, illusion and giving normality a cape.
One of my mates, Solo One, is one of the most prolific London artists. He said: “Graffiti is the only crime where you leave the evidence.” We clutch on through, as graffiti artists that are still doing it.
ON THE MESSAGE...
Sincerity of output is the truest of any art, whether it’s dance, architecture or writing. It is critical and you have to live by that. It is arming the weary with the tools of dissent so we can all be in this together. Visible currency is important.
For more information on Chu, visit @chu3d on Instagram.