London, a leader among the world’s cities. A population of eight million.
Frantic, busy, popular, cultural, fast, slow. A giant urban sprawl where everything runs at breakneck speed and even life can ill-afford to catch a breath. People go past each other in a flurry of activity, not a glance or a smile. No-one asks about anyone else, their fortunes or their misfortunes. For those with no fortune in life, the loneliness and dismissal is even more profound. Aside from the casual toss of coins or the countless stares and avoided looks, those who take the streets as home feel as invisible and inconsequential as ever.
Out of many voices, one is captured. On a simple piece of nondescript cardboard, an anonymous individual asks for help. Not to buy a sandwich or get twenty pence for a phonecall, but to feel what the luckier ones feel. Eager to sample the delights of one of the city’s upmarket restaurants or for people to wish him a simple ‘happy birthday’, the owner of the mysterious sign pleads for assistance from a known, yet invisible public. To realise an ambition, just a helping hand to make it happen.
Behind the cardboard voices, capturing the less-photographed side of London and making a social stand against poverty, is a new artist and blogger, known only by the pseudonym ‘IMPREINT’. His latest project sees a visual night-time trip to the nooks and crannies beyond where most tourists and Londoners venture and where their eyes pass over. The solitary cardboard sign, with its well-written and urgent message, is part of IMPREINT’s latest photographic project, entitled CUT OFF – an acknowledgement of the invisible, the homeless, the forgotten – and their ambitions and desires. Taken among the city lights under the cover of night amid London’s distinctive red phone boxes and its bright lights, IMPREINT preserves with their camera the wishes of a down-and-out asking to be accepted and noticed by society. We see neither the sign’s creator nor the audience, but the loudness of the sign holder’s dream rings true amid the serenity and harshness of London’s cold grey streets.
CUT OFF is a long-time concern for the artist, who had previously exhibited works under the titles of “The Space” and “The White Frame Collection”, since his career began more than five years ago. Seeing a world where people were just asking and giving, IMPREINT felt something was wrong. He thought that rather than a give-or-take situation which is the norm regarding the homeless, it needed to be more about equality and letting them speak for themselves. The piece of cardboard became a metaphorical message, a symbol of seeking opportunity to change its owner’s condition while doing their best to bring about that change. Work on the CUT OFF project began in January 2015, which saw IMPREINT take to the streets of London with cardboard signs in tow. While more comfortable with paint and found objects, IMPREINT saw no challenge in arming themselves with a smartphone and camera and getting down and personal with London’s pavements to capture the images for CUT OFF.
CUT OFF is a project that works in its simplicity, yet subtly laced with a deep message. In one way, IMPREINT forces us to confront this reality of life without thrusting it into our faces. While popular culture and urban living has forever linked the homeless person with the cardboard sign, IMPREINT’s work challenges us to sit up and take notice of these often ignored signs, set amid the empty domains of those without roofs. By making the homeless the focus of CUT OFF, IMPREINT has reached out to society in its own terms, making art that opens people’s eyes to the harsh world of street living. IMPREINT has done well in a theme where many artists fear to tread, that of making art reflect on the more negative attributes of society. Not simply to show it on a white wall and say ‘ this is it!’ but to stir in the viewer a need to change their outlook, and perhaps, do something about it.
The artist began their work in the UAE in December 2009, with a wish to make art not just something to be sold at auction or admired by gallery visitors, but to make a social impact, benefitting society and not just depicting it. IMPREINT themselves transcends the default role of artist as name and brand, seeing themselves as not just a person, but a concept stretching far beyond the individual. IMPREINT has exhibited at impromptu art galleries and spaces of creativity all over London, as well as self-created international shows in places such as India, Spain and Hungary.
Official site: http://www.impreint.com/
Many thanks to Napsugar Budai for setting up the collaboration and supplying images for this article.
“EXHIBITIONS” – IMPREINT http://www.impreint.com/#!exhibitions/c236g
“Reviews” – IMPREINT, IMPREINTofficial https://impreintofficial.wordpress.com/reviews/
“PROJECTS” – IMPREINT http://www.impreint.com/#!projects/c20iw
“IMPREINT – CUT OFF” – Napsugar Budai (5 January 2015) https://napsugarzas.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/impreint-cut-off/
Photos by IMPREINT and supplied by Napsugar Budai.