East Brunswick is a special neighbourhood.
We're very fortunate to be situated a couple of doors away from East Elevation cafe and chocolatier, Monsieur Truffe, it was here we met Flavia.
Like many creatives, travel informs her practice. Melbourne has been her home for the last two years. Before Flavia heads back to the UK we discussed her work and plans.
Broadwater Farm Estate, Tottenham
Alasdair: Your output is multidisciplinary, tell me where you commenced investigating the world through visual media?
Flavia: It’s how I understand things. Expressing myself visually is how I can put ideas together best as well as put them across to others. I have a background in drawing and painting, mainly portraiture. Once I was given a film camera at the age of eighteen I started photographing the streets of London and then my works orientated themselves towards Brutalist architecture. My lens soon focused on social housing estates built in the 1960s and 70s, my photographs devoid of human presence despite my earlier interest in portraiture.
A: Words or images, which do you find the most powerful and evocative?
F: I find images to be so, or at least I find them to have a bigger effect on my senses. I struggle with words but have, over time, been drawn to writing abstract poems. I began putting the two together in mid-2015 when I started my project Concrete Farm, of which you’ll find pictures from in this exhibition. It was a way for me to record the on-site visits I did to different social housing estates in and across London. These took a poetic form and were published in a newspaper to accompany the exhibition that first showcased back in June 2015.
A: How important is travel to your work?
F: Despite having travelled a little, although not necessarily for photography purposes, I always get drawn back to London and it’s brutal post-war architecture. Although I am set in my ways when it comes to my love for concrete, travel has helped me become more open-minded, something which is enriching both personally and for my practice. As I am headed back to the UK in August, Poland will be in the vicinity and is on my To Do list.
A: If you could live and work anywhere, where would that be and why?
F: I would live in Melbourne and photograph in London. Melbourne’s home, despite only being so for the last two years and London has the housing programs, some of which are integral to British heritage. I wish to submerge myself in the campaign to restore rather than regenerate post-war buildings once back in London by further developing my project Concrete Farm and working with charities such as The Twentieth Century Society and not-for-profit organisations such as DOCOMOMO International. Both are major players not only in the realm of conservation but also in the broader field of architectural culture.
A: Works for The Boroughs show is very much about a particular place, tell us what that place means to you?
F: Broadwater Farm Estate, BWF, in North London features in some of the shots included in Concrete Holm. I moved to the estate four years ago. I actually moved into the old school there. It was no longer being used for its built purpose. It looked onto the estate, notorious for two major London riots. Our building was gated and only one-storey high. We were at the car park level, high concrete legs supporting the tower blocks spread in front of me, bays and corridors just outside my window. I started to photograph these and worked on a series with a close friend. It was home and it nurtured my obsession with concrete, car parks, and housing estates.
A: The images that you are showing with us at The Boroughs reflect an interest in a particular form of architecture and its effect on the people that live within it, can you tell us about this?
F: The works feature three public housing estates based in and around London. One unique in British history in being the crucible for two major riots, a generation apart, which I happened to call home for two years. Another is a Graded II building and another again features in the film A Clockwork Orange as well as others. These estates were originally built to solve London’s housing shortage in the 1960s and 70s. At this time, London was struggling to cope with the post-war housing crisis and many people lived in terrible conditions. These new cities in the sky were hailed as model cities and people felt optimistic about them. Over time a lack of investment and infrastructure has meant dilapidation and now regeneration processes, not necessarily in favour of current residents. They exemplify forgotten futures. I’m interested in the effect an environment has on people. I’m interested in the politics, Grenfell Tower and the big property developers such as Berkeley Homes and their contribution to England’s housing history.
A: Which building is your favourite?
F: The Westgate car park in Oxford is a rather perplexing choice I must admit. People find it hard to believe anybody liked it for reasons other than parking your car before it was knocked down in 2015, and even then, that was expensive and unpleasant for most but for me. I don’t have a car. Its stacked concrete horizons slant slightly to the left, fortified tower–like corners on each end home stairs to get you either to your car or to the shopping centre. It was bleak and beautiful.
Flavia's exhibition "Concrete Holm" opens at The Boroughs on May 31st at 6.30 pm.