London’s Mixed Media

Thumbing through the pages of this issue, it’s clear that we’ve inadvertently chosen London as our current favorite design center. The sprawling metropolis is constantly thrumming with new artists and designers hoping to make a splash. SOMA had the chance to photograph a few of our favorite artists, putting the spotlight on them and leaving their work, for once, to the imagination.

– Max Kessler
photography Olivia Beasley

Petra Storrs > Petra Storrs is one of our favorite people (you can read our in-depth interview with her in last year’s September Fashion Issue). Living in London, and doing everything from set design to costume design to illustration, this is no normal artist. She’s a true renaissance woman for the visual and plastic arts. With an elite clientele (Lady Gaga, Florence + the Machine, MGMT and Paloma Faith have all been shot in her lush, surreal scenes) and an ever-expanding repertoire, Petra is definitely here to stay.

Agents of Change > When this collective of graffiti artists discovered an “abandoned mass of canvas”—actually a derelict slice of a rural village in southwest Scotland—they saw beyond the remnants of the drab, grey, decaying ruins. Four members of Agents of Change (Timid, Remi Rough, System and LX One) collaborated with four other artists (Derm, Stormie Mills, Juice 126 and One Mor) to blanket the village in paintings on the walls of the town. This project was aptly called the “Ghost Village Project.” Yet Agents of Change is not just a group of graffiti artists tagging willy-nilly: “We are interested in and appreciate many forms of contemporary art practice, architecture and theory, and make every attempt to let these influences bleed into everything we do. We approach each project with fresh eyes and work in a site specific manner— researching the history and background of a location and planning the artwork accordingly.” That was last year; this year the brooding 40-somethings are taking their imaginative approach to abandoned structures, including a coal-fueled power plant in Scotland and a military tank in East Berlin.

Natsko Seki > Natsko Seki’s illustrations should look familiar to anyone who loves Japanese ‘60s-inspired illustrations. Looking through the art books in Kinokuniya, or the travel books available at Louis Vuitton, the presence of her work is distinctly felt. One can immediately discern the international influence behind all of her work; this comes as no surprise given her education, at Keio University and then Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, and her client list, mainly comprised of Japanese companies abroad. With references to Marimekko, Peter Jensen, and a myriad of textures and washes, her illustrations always draw and keep the viewer’s attention. Yet despite the complexity, her work always fits together. Everything she makes is full of life, yet tinged with nostalgia.

Elias Redstone > Elias Redstone is a bigwig in the London architecture scene. After receiving a degree in City Design and Social Science from the London School of Economics, he set out to do big things in the world of architecture. And for someone under 35, his list of accomplishments is long and very impressive: he was senior curator for The Architecture Foundation, a non-profit agency for “contemporary architecture, urbanism and culture” for seven years; he curated Poland’s national pavilion at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice; he is an editor and co-founder of the London Architecture Diary and writes a column for the New York Times design blog; and he’s received multiple awards, including a D&AD Global Design Award in 2006 and a Winston Churchill Fellowship in 2008. All we can say is, damn.

Sebastian Coles > You may not know Sebastian Coles, but he definitely knows his industry. After “having worked in design and buying offices for a number of UK high street stores,” Sebastian designed the most popular denim range ever for Topshop, and will be debuting his own collection soon. Coles excels at knowing how to balance the sophistication of good design with the mainstream frequenters. After all, inciting panic and shopping lust in the consumers of Topshop is no laughing matter.