Winner of the Curious Dukes Gallery’s Public Choice Award 2015, an arts competition decided by the wider community, Kalpesh, or ‘Mister Mistry’ as he is officially known, represents a new and stirring type of urban art. “I would say it’s all-encompassing” Mistry said of his style, “I’ll mix spray paints, markers and pencil drawings, and use both elegant and street-style approaches. Usually it’s one form or the other.” A youth worker who has been helping teenagers with special needs at Haringey Sixth Form Centre in Tottenham, and until now, running his own business, airbrushing T-shirts and phone cases to public murals and clients’ bedroom walls, Mistry has a grass-roots connection to city experience, elevating his graphic talent to a place of social statement. Summed up in the colloquial, yet sincere heart-shape made between the aristocratic King and Queen of Hearts in his winning entry (pictured), the artist smudges the line between high-culture and pop art; the everyday and the luxurious; and finally the subjective and the universal. The sensation of love can make two teenagers feel golden, and the most accomplished of couples feel playful again. With no boundaries in his imagination then, Mistry breaks free of social divides to highlight life as the individual’s prerogative. As the young, artist himself pointed out “from a basic point of view, art is actually there for every person to create their story; it asks them to take control of the narrative”. The philosophy is only confirmed by the immense success of Mistry’s first solo art-show, named one of the top 5 exhibitions in London.
Tell me more about the Public Choice Award?
Well, I’d entered competitions before, and just thought why not? It was a mixed media competition, which accepted the medium of sculpture work too. I already had the King/Queen piece prepared, and it was my newest piece at the time so I went with that. I received roughly 1,200 votes over a month and took the first place. I started off doing graffiti- style, custom made work for clothes, for example people’s names and superheroes they liked as a way of getting my art out there, but I wanted to do that with ideas entirely my own.
Your winning piece was very striking indeed, and part of that was because I couldn’t quite put my finger on it…
Yes, I’m not afraid to come out of the box. I think that’s why I’m approached by clients. I like to use different types of art tools and styles together. A lot of graffiti artists are old-school and just stick to street art, but I’ll combine something more surreal with the typically urban; whatever is will take the piece to the next level.
Were you always interested in drawing?
When I was younger, I used to love comic books: I’d not even read them. I’d just copy the images of heroes and show it to my parents. But I gave it up for a bit after that. I had the usual, traditional family who encouraged me to go to college and get a job as opposed to finding myself an ageing artist who just got attention after they died! But then later, 10 years down the line, after being in a 9-5 job for a while, I thought there’s got to be more to life than this too. So I started doing customised business work, managed to start connecting with my passions that way, and I hope to keep breaking the boundaries with that. I have thoroughly enjoyed the the chance for gallery work.
You’ve said your work differs from a lot of nineties graffiti art?
Yea, actually working outside the typical standard has been an issue for me as an artist. The art was so unique that galleries couldn’t fit me in with them.
Do you ever have a theme in mind when you work?
I’ll have a story, but the rest is people’s interpretation. For example another piece out of the 20 that were exhibited in my solo show was of a skull man in a suit holding a woman in an embrace. It was a contribution with Cancer Research’s Race for Life in mind. That’s called immortal passion, and there’s no solid theme but people might look at it and think outside of that; maybe that ‘love will never die’.
Who are some of your favourite contemporary artists?
Van Gogh and Andy Warhol, but it’s more about their journeys rather than the art itself.
Finally, what would your advice be to other visual creatives trying to make it in the field?
Practice as much as you can; be different; show people your work. Social media makes it easier to get it out there. Your work is no good if no one can see. That is hard for up and coming artists, but that’s where your resolve needs to kick in.