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New Forms 2024

Why I Went to Russia

This marked my third trip to Russia, the first being in 2019, then in 2021, and again now in 2024. Each time, I've enjoyed my experience and produced some good murals. Traveling as an artist has always been of great interest to me; I enjoy meeting people and seeing how other artists work.

The festival was called 'New Forms' and was attended by artists from all over the world, from countries like Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Serbia, Italy, Belarus, Germany, and more.

Was it right to visit Russia during a time of war ?

I was given free rein on my wall to paint whatever I liked. My work has never really been politically motivated and instead has a recurring environmental theme that is relevant pretty much anywhere in the world. During previous events in Russia, I've met some good people, great artists, and I have ongoing friendships with Russian people.

At the start of the war, I was contacted by some of the organizers of previous festivals in Russia and asked if I would make a short video for the schoolchildren of a local school. Apparently, some of the children had become frightened and worried that the world hated them. A number of artists had been asked to make short videos to help reassure them. Often, regular everyday people are caught in the middle of government decisions, and we should never forget that people on both sides of any conflict often experience difficulties.

With my past experience of working in Russia, and with some of the people and artists being part of the 'New Forms' festival again, I saw no reason to refuse my participation. In fact, I saw it as an opportunity to connect with people and to spread my message of environmental concern. Russia remains one of the world's main exporters of oil and gas, so my message of energy reform and transition to cleaner forms of energy was in the right place.

The Festival

I was given a large wall measuring 15m x 15m in a residential neighborhood. I was really happy with my wall, and the neighborhood was great. In fact, it had everything I'd usually want from a festival experience in another country. I made friends with the lift driver whom I saw every day, and my food was brought to me every lunchtime so I could continue to work without losing time. Every day, I'd see the residents watching me from their windows and balconies, waving at me as they watched the progress of the mural unfold. I'd see old people sitting and talking in the same place every day, going about their lives and greeting me pleasantly as I arrived for work each morning. I also made a friend, a young eleven-year-old named Igor. Each day, his mother would bring him to see me. He was learning English and was excited to converse with me about my job and my life back home. At the end of the job, we exchanged gifts; he brought me a traditional Russian cake, and I gave him my original mural sketches and a thermal flask that the 'New Forms' team had issued to all participating artists. It had a printed 'New Forms' logo and a cool carry case. Moments like this are what motivated me to come to Russia and other parts of the world to paint my work. No matter where we are from, which side we belong to, we all share traditions and similarities, and we should not be divided by the actions or decisions of others.

About My Work and the Meaning Behind My Mural

My piece was titled 'Transitions' and featured, as always, a portrait of a person wearing a helmet. The painting was predominantly meant to depict the transition from old energy to new. I aimed to convey this primarily through color.

From left to right, the mural begins with intense red colors. Firstly, a 'poppy flower' symbolized all those lives lost to conflict and climate change around the world. Hanging below are red and orange crystals, diamonds, and gems. Crystals often represent energy, and the deep, intense red stones symbolize the old and dangerous forms of energy such as oil. Silhouetted, we can also see power cables and construction vehicles.

In the center of the mural is a large female portrait of a spacewoman. She represents Russia's great achievements in space and its technological progress in the world. I'd like to hope that perhaps Russia will again focus its efforts more on space exploration.

To the right, the colors shift to vibrant and deep greens that represent the natural world and the power of plants, growth, and a fresh start. Beneath the plants, again, crystals, diamonds, and gems symbolize green energy, water, and hydrogen. As always, the symbol of peace, the 'CND' badge, makes an appearance. Finally, the whole piece is underlined by a branch from which all symbols hang—the branch to which we are all connected to the tree of life.


Upon completion of my mural, I shook hands with the locals, I was brought tea and biscuits by a lady in the apartment block. They said thanks, I said goodbye, I took my photos, and I saw the wall for the last time.

Street art and murals are an opportunity to convey a message, to create and inspire, and to leave behind footprints in new lands. I feel privileged to be able to travel and paint my work around the world. I have deep concerns for our world and the environment, and I would rarely pass on an opportunity to share this message with so many !


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