"Things are getting better when you’re getting older" - Interview to Camille Walala

Interview by Rossella Forle’

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Walala’s work is full of energy and enthusiasm that’s hard to resist. Her works has the ability to make you in the right mood even in the worst day. She paints whole buildings in bright primary colours and turn every place she creates into playful intervention.

In July 2017 her exhibition WALALA X PLAY, at NOW gallery, saw 600 people running around like children on the opening night. It was an immersive installation that took the form of a psychedelic labyrinth in which visitors could lose themselves in a world of geometric patterns and shifting perspectives. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Camille for We Hate Pink. We have been talking about her art, her life and the role of women in art and design.

Read on to learn more about her fascinating practice in my interview.

 

01. You’re one of the most famous London-based artists at the moment. How this happen? When you realised that you were going in the right direction?

It took me long time to understand what I wanted to do. I started at 27 years old to do a lot of different courses, I did drawing class, cooking class, pottery class, until I found something I really liked and then I did a textile Degree and by then I was 32. I started to print my fabric and realised cushions and sell them on Broadway Market, but I was miserable I didn’t really sell anything and I realised it was not what I wanted to do for life.

Just by meeting creative people, opportunities seem to come. Until I met this guy that offer me to design the interior of XOYO club in Shoreditch. He was a friend of a friend; he gave me a small budget, but I was free to do whatever I wanted.

I decided to go wild and it was then when I understood that I wanted to paint on a bigger scale. When the club opened, I saw that people had fantastic time. I have created something unique and different. People was ecstatic in the space I have created for them.

On the other hand, I was attracted to public art. At that time, my boyfriend was really into graffiti. Creating something that is accessible to everyone, it’s fantastic. So, I started to create positive messages, designing them at home and putting up in the street. I was going out with my bicycle and a bucket of glue at 5am in the morning and posting them on the walls. That was the time I started to do public art, my aim was bringing positivity and create something colourful for strangers. And you know, the more you do in London, more people can see your work and more opportunities come.


02. Your art is playful and colorful where your inspiration comes from and who inspires you?

I have always been inspired by strong visual and strong aesthetic from strong female figures in the art world. There is a tribe of women in South Africa that I love, called Nbdeles Tribe.  All women are painting their houses outside and inside with colourful patterns. They wear big jewellers and do this amazing artwork.

Another artist that inspires me is Sonia  Delaunay. She was the first Art Deco artist in the 20s. It was the first time that a woman created something accessible to everyone, not just a picture on the wall, she applied her design on textile and objects. I love the fact the art can be accessible also in everyday life.

Camille Walala and Julia Jomaa

Camille Walala and Julia Jomaa

03. What projects are you working on at the moment that we can keep an eye out for?

We’re working on a public installation in the street, a pedestrian one in the London West End. We want to bring joy in the street. We’re also working on another building project, affordable houses for young people, a little bit outside London.


04. For women is not always easy to make it in the art and design industry, what it means being a woman in these industries today?

I think we’re looking at this day and we can see much respect for women in art. There are so many big figures in design. Personally, I have never really experienced the prejudice, I don’t know, probably I was lucky. The only thing that I find difficult is dealing with builders sometimes, you know I do a lot of work onsite and they don’t take me seriously, I always have to prove myself.

 

05. You’re French when you came to London, what was your first job?

My first job was as waitress in a restaurant and I did that for 8 years, as I said I didn’t know what I was doing, so I was happy to be free and just working in a restaurant. At that time my dream job was working in Pret-A-Manger ahahhaha, really it was my dream job…ahhaha

 

06. What lessons do you try to pass on to young women at the start of their careers?

Some people know what they  want to do since they’re young for me it was when I was 38-40 that I really knew what I like to do so I think if you have not clear vision about your future, just try different things until you don’t find what you really like, by trying even something you don’t  really like, you will find what you love. At least you try and scrap that out, until you find what you love.

 We have so many options and sometimes you don’t even know that job exists. If I have to think back, I would not go back to University in London, it’s so expensive and personally I didn’t learn much. After that you have to do work experience for free that I found revolting. But even if I think that not getting paid is disgusting, I also believe that working experience can be more useful, by working in a creative environment, you can learn more

 

07. What you would say today to your younger self?

Believe in yourself, it’s going to be ok. When I do a talk, I always show a picture of myself when I was teenager and you can see from my look that I was interested in nothing other than watching TV and eating cheeps. I think things are getting better when you’re getting older, when you start to understand what you want to do, so be gentle with yourself.


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Camille Walala calls herself “a purveyor of powerfully positive digital print.” She studied for a degree in Printed Textiles for Fashion before launching her own brand of accessories and homeware. Over the past couple of years, her instantly-recognisable tribal pop aesthetic has appeared on primary school walls, zebra crossings and four-storey buildings.