Meet Up with Cyclops and Sweet ToofJuxtapoz // Thursday, 31 May 2007
Our London photographer Chris Osburn spent some time with graffiti artists Cyclops and Sweet Toof, documenting a little drawing they did on an abandoned water tower.
Words and photos by www.tikichris.com
London graffiti artists, Cyclops and Sweet Toof, met when a mutual friend, and fellow artist, died of an overdose. Since then, the duo has been working together to spread their distinctively collaborative artwork throughout the world (their graffiti may be seen in the UK, Italy, Spain and Japan ). Cyclops paints building-sized skulls upon which Sweet Toof superimposes proportionally equivalent gums and teeth. It's a logical match, which according to Sweet Toof, allows them "to get a big image out in a limited time."
Despite the solemn basis of their relationship, trying to get a straight answer about their partnership can result in absurd answers. When asked about the inspiration for their work, Cyclops explains:
"All images are beamed in from Chromium Headquarters. It's like a job really; under pain of death, I have to paint these fucking monstrosities. I get a message with coordinates on it - it's usually left under a hedge. I'm alerted to the whereabouts by a phone call, from a man with a strange accent who calls himself Mr O."
Mr. O is lucky to have such a prolific pair on his side. The products of their teamwork are all over East London, especially along Regent's Canal which, these days, is essentially an open-air gallery of pieces by other notable artists such as Banksy and Neckface. Mr. O might also be happy to know that Cyclops and Sweet Toof certainly do treat their graffiti projects with the care and respect one gives a job of any significance, as I learned on a recent outing with them.
The Meet Up
A few months back, I had started an email correspondence with Cyclops and Sweet Toof, while conducting interviews with London street artists for whitehot magazine. While researching for the interviews, their names popped up numerous times and from a variety of sources. Apparently, the two artists took the opportunity to interview me too, as I later found out when I received the following email from Cyclops:
"Sweet Toof and I were fuckin' around. He reckons you're the new Chalfont. Would you be up for accompanying us on a night time expedition? Painting round the East End? We pay danger fees, lager and bagels!"
Curiosity and vanity getting the best of me, I agreed to the meet up. We convened near an over ground train station, Cyclops lugging a beat up ladder and Sweet Toof pulling a pregnant, paint splattered shopping trolley. After a brief hello, we trekked over to a nearby water tower in a derelict, overgrown lot beside a canal. According to Sweet Toof, the roughly 30 foot tall tank had been "asking for a lick of paint for a long time." The boys set up shop quickly and, in a matter of minutes, had an outline started for a wraparound design. "Doodles on paper" had been made in advance for the occasion. However, Sweet Toof confirms that the ultimate design "came from being spontaneous to the surface."
Plenty of lager was on hand, and we agreed to discuss "danger fees" (probably a few prints) at a later date. The bagels never showed. The heady scent of wild flowers mixed with the smell of paint, while the constant orange-red glow of central London provided a dim and hardly adequate working light. The faint squawk of geese (or were they swans?) in the background added a little paranoia from time to time. Still, attention to detail and seemingly innate drives for perfection kept the artists' noses to the tank for more than three hours.
The finished product: three massive skull/teeth paintings, each about 6 feet tall and 15 feet wide, in a corresponding up/down pattern along the base of the tower. According to Cyclops, Chromium Headquarters expects their London combo to finish off the top of the tower at a later date.