Artist Interviews 2022

Nomad Clan  
By Julia Siedenburg

Nomad Clan is a strong brilliant queer artist duo. These two amazing artists bring their craft together to make extraordinary murals in the US and the UK. The two native Britons make rather dull building walls and transform them into vivid magical images. The two do also work on their own separate artworks series next their separate work next to traveling as a pair of uber-talented powerhouse creators.

I am so happy to be able to share their work and inspirations with you and give you a deeper glimpse into how this journey has been for them. Please enjoy and hopefully, you get as excited about them as I did.

You two are incredibly talented muralists from England who mostly focus on nature as well as humanity-focused art with social and climate change issues at the center. Each one of your pieces is full of emotion and makes you think deeply. What does creating art make each of you feel?

Cbloxx: art has often been a place for me to channel and explore emotions, a therapeutic communicative tool of sorts. Sometimes an emotional reaction to a social justice issue or personal circumstance can be a catalyst for a painting, and sometimes it is both!

How is your process as a collaborating team from the beginning of an idea to the finished mural?

Depending on the scope of the project we have different approaches, notoriously we start with research about the locality, sometimes heritage/history/folklore, sometimes it’s reflecting the communities in the area, other times it’s universal topics and messages or a blend of all the above. This informs the core concept which then blossoms whilst we fill out the idea with subtle symbology, sometimes this happens whilst we are painting on the street or taking a smoke/coffee break and chatting to locals, they inspire new additional elements. It starts to feel like one big collaboration.

Your beautiful mural of the greek goddess of the sea “Amphitrite” comes with a strong message about the destruction of nature and life in the sea. How long did it take you to create this piece and what inspired you to create multiple greek god/goddess murals?

This peace took place at a beautiful environmentally aware mural festival called Rise Up in Margate UK. It was a real meeting of minds, community groups, activists, artists, and local businesses. The lineup included artists who had been drawn to explore such topics previously, but on this scale, we were acting as multiple voices all at once which cause a crazy visual impact and awareness. People coming together is always a good thing!

Cbloxx: having painted portraits for a great deal of time I began to notice how stressful it was, and how often I fell into a trap of trying to push for perfect realism, on a personal level I was excited about the change. I also wanted to see if I could find a way to do figurative that keeps identity slightly more ambiguous, to represent people without feeling uncomfortably close to tolkenistic appropriation in street art. It adds an otherworldly feel, the stone carving/sculpting is an ancient and historic artform, entangled in all human history, it has also been used to selectively represent a certain section of society whilst underrepresenting others, political yet a visual language that most are familiar with. I was looking at gender non-conformative ancient civilizations in 2021, I had recently come out as transgender during the pandemic and wanted to feel connected, wanted evidence that transgender people have always existed. I am in a long-distance relationship and so the only way to see my partner at that time was to run away to meet in an open border country, Mexico! I was looking at Mayan Dieties, history, and folklore which sent down a trans history research k hole that I can’t get out of.. its bliss.

How did you meet and decide to work together?

We lived fairly close and knew of each other on the scene. Hayley had a spray paint shop in Manchester and I painted at a couple of Jams she ran, we also painted in close proximity at events such as Upfest. It seemed almost inevitable we would collaborate. We both dared to dream big, desired to see a world outside of the north of England, and also have no desire to do anything other than paint. We were willing to be broke, be used and abused, and claw our way in or out depending on the viewpoint. The passion keeps it going.

The art world prides itself to welcome everyone with open arms and be supportive no matter what. Though sometimes it can still be tough being a street artist and being a certain sex, race, sexual orientation, etc. Have you had to overcome any kind of obstacles in your career being two queer artists or do you feel as if the street art scene welcomed you immediately without any issues arising?

It is at times tough, and it likely always will be for one reason or another but we like to cling to the positive changes we see these days, the increasing platform and exposure for the underrepresented gives us hope. There is still such a long way to go, as long as there is a lack of visibility in the art world for some there will always be inequality.

Please tell us a bit about your upbringing and childhood in England.

We both come from small northern industrial towns, once a hotbed in the industrial revolution for cotton, wool, steel, and coal but largely forgotten and neglected these days when industries were outsourced or shut down, etc. Both sets of our grandparents were working class, had been coal miners or Mill workers, etc living modest lives but working incredibly hard. It's fairly cold, dark winters rain a lot, and is grumbly, but the north has a charm and a wildness, also a warmth that is unique and incomparable to me. Hardy folks have a salt-of-the-earth vibe.

I could imagine being an artist duo can be challenging sometimes. Have you found a method to keep each other happy or do you just mostly tend to automatically agree on each other’s ideas?

Compromise is key in collaboration, I think the ability to let go can be a superpower for it at times. We now both practice outside of nomad clan too, to address some of our own individual needs and creative desires. That feels healthy!

Besides your impressive mural work you have rather recently started to work on a studio series called “ Part Whole”. Parts of people’s faces ( mostly the eyes) are being drawn with oils on reflective metal that is covered in little holes. Tell us more about that series.

Cbloxx: This is the perfect follow on speaking of solo work haha, that's actually from my own studio portfolio. It can sometimes be easy to read me as Nomad clan as there are little technical/stylistic differences between the 2 for the most part. Conceptually I am looking a lot at identity, mental well-being, and connection, it reflects a lot of my own self-work/healing in therapy, interests in psychology, spirituality, and wider philosophies on the human condition. I have been drawing and painting people for most of my life, like some weird observer hahaha. In this mini-series, I am looking at our relationships with technology and human connection… the holes if the old circuit board naturally break the perfection of the face…I have to submit to the flaws, which honestly make the pieces more interesting and not just a portrait study.

Most of our solo work initially was studio-based, but Aylo has recently started collaborating on her own murals with seca one too. We are consistently adapting and growing so this all feels like expansion and welcomes change that in many respects adds to Nomads creative development.

You two are also the directors of the Rochdale Uprising Mural Festival that you started in 2019. How did you get the idea to start an art festival and how hard was it to make it happen?

We wanted to develop an art festival that was artist lead, curated to suit the community of Rochdale which is where Aylo and her family are from. We provided a focused brief exploring and celebrating aspects of Rochdale as a starting point, with a mind to celebrate its history and bring some positive energy.

What is next? What do you have planned for your future?

We have some major mural projects in Europe which we are excited about, they have been in planning for most of this year so it will be great to see them come to life in 2023. We have some new merch coming into production, print releases, continued studio development, etc. I am going to be officially moving to the states so immersing myself/exploring the scene in LA is high on the list… there seems to be so much going on! I've dipped my toe in over the years but being there officially is gonna rock my world. It’s such a visually and culturally complex place that already it’s seeping into my work.

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