Artist profile: Basingstoke's Kev Munday
PUBLISHED: 12:28 08 July 2014
Whether on canvasses, graffiti, wallpaper or tables Basingstoke artist Kev Munday's colourful designs can't help but make you smile
“I was in a public place painting a totem pole style pillar when a couple came up to me. A church they had bought and were converting still had its old organ. They said if I painted one of the organ pipes for them, I could have the rest.”
Whilst on the surface this pairing defies conventional artistic expectations, having got to know Kev Munday, I cannot imagine any other artist-medium amalgamation being so appropriately matched. For it’s true to say that the portfolio of this 27 year old is unpredictable. And therein lies its appeal. With a style that transcends age and offers a profoundly quirky take on objects previously bypassed in lieu of their functional role, this Basingstoke artist would surely not turn down any opportunity, no matter how surprising, or unsuitable it might seem to the rest of us.
From skateboards to bowling pins and deckchairs to badges, as well as a selection of clothing and buildings, the question of restricting his artistic medium is not one that arises, as he clarifies: “I prefer larger surfaces but I like to keep challenging myself.”
Such an open approach and expansive attitude is admirable, if somewhat at odds with my initial impression of the artist. You see Kev is, without question, polite and welcoming - sincere and knowledgeable about his profession, too. But at the same time he’s also shy and quiet, these certainly not the sort of characteristics I’d anticipated when observing the effervescent quality of his work. So I’m interested to uncover the evolution of his career.
“I didn’t enjoy school too much and I didn’t study art. But I chose Graphic Design, Photography, Philosophy and Media Studies A Levels at Queen Mary’s College, it was only then I decided to go into art.”
Following this latter more positive academic experience, Kev then took a year out in which he channelled his energies into graffiti. A Foundation in Fine Art followed, succeeded by a Graphic Design course at Solent. By now more focused, and producing art at home, (“Really basic, horrible paintings on canvas, I was still trying to find my way”) the public calling of street art took hold. “I just wanted to express myself,” he declares, “and show my artwork to people without it having to be approved by anyone. My first piece, in Basingstoke, was a few characters. It was good fun but the art was rough as it takes a long time to learn how to use a spray can.”
Despite these initial challenges his reputation developed and soon an approach from Basingstoke Council offered him the opportunity to work with a Youth Group. The young artist jumped at this chance and it is a role he has continued to enjoy over the last few years.
Kev shares a studio with a ceramicist at Proteus Creation Space. By his own admission, the studio is a giant shed both messy and cold with art materials scattered everywhere. Even so, because “people like to see an artist at work,” he regularly encourages visitors.
The decision to work alone, however, was never in doubt. “I like to be in control. I have been offered gallery representation but I wouldn’t enjoy that as much. I self publish all my prints and organise my own exhibitions. Each morning I get my admin stuff out of the way then head to the studio where I lock myself in and do a normal working day, usually working on four or five pieces at once.”
The more I study Kev’s work, the more appreciative I am of its range. The assortment of materials he uses – from dry markers to biros – epitomises skill and flexibility. And there’s the surfaces upon which he creates, too. Nothing, it seems, is beyond his reach, as he testifies: “I just like seeing my work in different contexts and to introduce it to a new audience. People who buy a t-shirt wouldn’t necessarily buy a painting.”
And this, for me at least, sums up my admiration for this bashful young man. Far from being an artist who limits himself to one genre, a lone style or single medium, he is keen if not to breakdown, then at least ignore, barriers. This attitude, I sense, is not one that stems from an egotistical tendency. Kev doesn’t have an iota of arrogance in him. Rather, such is his enthusiasm for this career he has nurtured, that he is simply eager to explore and exploit as many aspects of it as possible. In so doing, he creates art which is as accessible to the public as it is diverse.
Having avoided the conformist career path which includes an agent, he relates his early attempts at publicity. “My first exhibition was in a pub. Within half an hour of displaying my work, a lady wanted to buy one of my pieces. It was really encouraging.”
Although unsure how to determine prices in those early days, initially just covering his material costs, Kev’s ongoing public exposure would soon result in some prestigious clients.
“My first big break came from the skateboard company, Fracture,” he explains. “They saw one of my earlier shows and I got talking to them. I also did a small job for Disney, an exhibition of 50 artists from around the world all customising Mickey Mouse. They found me online. I do a lot of social media.” The skateboard commission, he admits, was crucial. In fact, he’s so fond of this work he has retained one of each design.
Amongst an infinite range of prints, furniture, sculpture and merchandise, I am drawn to the ease with which Kev so readily produces deceptively one dimensional biro drawings. The visionary qualities of Kawaii graphics, a Japanese culture which draws on cute characters, plus Huichol, a South American tribal art, are, he confesses, strong. But then I’m not surprised that someone who refuses to recognise boundaries allows such influences to inspire him.
Although Kev doesn’t immediately radiate business shrewdness, he is in fact remarkably astute, as well as in tune with his ambitions. His determination to test himself is relentless. “Bigger shows at larger venues” are on his agenda and he is resolute in his drive to expose as many people as possible to his eclectic talents.
I’m indulging in a final glance through his collection when I realise that I am, yet again, smiling. Whether canvasses, graffiti, wallpaper or tables his colourful designs all stimulate the same reaction. For these images encompass Kev Munday’s humour; his gift for people watching, too. Indeed, it’s no wonder his career is thriving. And I, for one, can’t wait to discover what objects he will next reinvent in the name of art.
Find out more about Kev’s designs and where you can see his work at www.kevmunday.co.uk