Welcome to the latest in our artist interview series, delving into the stories and artists process behind our new paper pound designs. We’re launching the new designs at Spike Island Cafe on 5th July, why not come and celebrate with us?
So far we’ve published interviews with Emma Burleigh, Kesdraws, Marta Zubieta and Mary Collett. Today we’re shining a light on the work of Radley Cook, whose piece “Power in Numbers” impressed the judges in the protest and rebellion category of our recent competition.
How would you describe yourself to a stranger?
I am a designer from Cornwall, based in Bristol. Passionate about art, design, illustration, coding, film photography and skateboarding. I am currently a student at the University of the West of England (UWE) studying Creative Media Design. I make logos, websites, t-shirts, skateboards and anything else that functions as a creative outlet and enables me to express myself.
Why did you enter the competition to design a Bristol Pound?
I was told about the competition by my lecturer. I entered the competition because I was drawn towards the rebellion and protest movements theme and I felt I could produce an interesting piece in response to it. I was also intrigued by the medium, with the design being printed on something so tactile as a paper currency. I also liked the idea of potentially leaving a legacy and my mark on Bristol, through the Bristol Pound.
What’s the story behind “Power in Numbers”?
“Power in Numbers” is a piece that attempts to capture Bristol’s unique anti-establishment and egalitarian sentiments. Reappropriating the protester’s heads with megaphones is a metaphor for the amplification of the voice and coming together in order to be heard to benefit the wider community.
The idea came from a press image I saw of a group of people standing together in protest over the proposed Tesco’s in Stokes Croft. The image was powerful and I thought there was something compelling about a group of people united over a single goal, standing together for one shared cause. I felt it was a strong metaphor for Bristol as a whole. The Stokes Croft riots that occurred as a result of the opposition of the Tesco store was incredibly violent and is a well-documented part of Bristol’s recent history, and I felt it was a suitable fit for the rebellion and protest movements brief.
The idea of reappropriating the protesters’ heads with megaphones came from looking at the work of surrealist artist René Magritte, who commonly obscures the faces in his paintings, there is something about hiding someone’s identity and making them faceless that’s quite effective and intriguing. It wasn’t who the protesters were or what they looked like that made the image powerful, it was the fact that they all shared a common ideology and belief that something was wrong and it was their duty to fix it. The megaphones are a signifier of the tribe that all the protesters belong to.
To make the piece, I took the press image and photoshopped the heads of the protesters replacing them with images of megaphones. I then produced a few rough pencil sketches, then created the final line drawing in pen. I scanned the drawing in and then added the colour using Illustrator. I used a very limited colour palette, I restricted myself to using four colours, black and three shades of green. The piece doesn’t obviously state that it is representing the Tesco’s protest and Stokes Croft riots of 2011, it is subtly referenced in the artwork, which is intentional. I like the idea that if you’re a local, you will instantly recognise the location and associate it with the event that took place at that time. If you’re not a local and as familiar with the location in Bristol and its recent history, it may require the viewer to look more closely at the piece to find the clues, and potentially learn more about it.
What artists inspire you?
One of the main inspirations for the piece was artist Grayson Perry, specifically his tapestries. Much like my piece, his work is filled with small details and subtle references which you don’t necessarily notice at first glance. Other artistic inspirations for my piece include; Banksy, specifically his satire and social and political commentary and Jean-Michel Basquiat for his painterly style. I’m also constantly inspired by creatives like Wes Anderson, Paula Scher, Virgil Abloh and Damien Hirst.
How has Bristol inspired your work?
Bristol is a culturally vibrant city – there is art and culture everywhere you look. I couldn’t imagine going to university anywhere else, it’s a huge inspiration for my work. Bristol has a history of doing things its own way and not following conventional norms, which I love because it’s one of the sentiments I try to live by.
What are your artistic career highlights so far?
Firstly would have to be the advertising campaign I produced for Jubilee Pool in Penzance, which was featured on the back of buses across Cornwall during the summer of 2017. Secondly would be designing a series of signs for the council to help protect and conserve the environment of The Towans, which surround some of my favourite beaches in Cornwall. Finally, of course, is having my work featured alongside other talented artists and creatives on the new edition of the Bristol Pound notes.
What are your plans for the future?
To focus on my degree, potentially do a postgrad, continue freelance work, find a job and keep creating.
Where can we find you online?
Thank you Radley!