Artist James-Lee Duffy talks inspirations and the feelings he hopes to invoke in his viewers ahead of the unveiling of his latest collaboration with the brand.
Canadian brand, Moose Knuckles, is looking to delight its customers this month as it takes to Regent Street for an art-infused temporary store. And, who better to help the label get creative than the seasoned artist James-lee Duffy? Not afraid to push boundaries and extract fragments of society in order to inform the work he creates, Duffy is a maverick in his given field, meaning that the upcoming temporary store, which is open until the end of the winter season, will surely be one to remember.
“The inspiration behind what I have created for the Moose Knuckles temporary store draws from the juxtaposition of my experiences in urban decay and wild nature,” explains Duffy when speaking on his latest project. “I stomped the artistic and raw streets of twisted Soho at the turn of this century, as well as the burnt-out, forgotten parts of 90s Shoreditch. The grit of torn posters, discarded flyers, broken vials and bottles soaking xeroxed zines on the grey city pavements has been coupled with my passion for the great outdoors, facing the extreme elements, the mind-blowing mountains and expressive oceans, haunted forests and the organic matter stretched across the landscape like the protective outer lining of a coat.”
To celebrate this collaboration, Moose Knuckles will partner with the London-based radio platform NTS for an exclusive in-store event on November 17th featuring live act Tamera and NTS Djs Skinny Macho and A.G.
Ahead of the Soho-based temporary store, the artist sat down with Wonderland to discuss how the pandemic affected his creativity and where he sought inspiration for his latest project. Head below to read our interview with James-Lee Duffy and head to mooseknucklescanada.com.
Hey James, how are you? How has this past year been?
Hello, I’m super good, thanks. This last year has been a rollercoaster for us all but I was able to carry on with a few projects – I art directed from afar and illustrated a book with the photographer Christoffer Rudquist, who’s based in Tokyo for Haruhito Jeans. I’ve also had a couple of great projects via my art ‘zine Pavement Licker, which I founded in 2003 with writer and editor Josh Jones. Firstly we were approached by the addiction and mental health charity Music Support to see if we could come up with a cool way to raise their profile and some money. We came up with ‘Pressing Matters’, where we got incredible musicians like The Prodigy, James Blake, Sonic Youth, Slow Thai and more to donate test pressings of their records. Then we gave those records to an amazing list of contemporary artists, including Jeremy Deller, David Shrigley, Joy Yamusangie, and Paul Insect to use the actual vinyl as a blank canvas. We raised £36,000 and got some brilliant coverage for the charity.
The pandemic affected loads of people of creativity, how did it affect you?
The pandemic made me look at my work differently, it made me focus on my personal work. I spent time in my studio, exploring different techniques, creating hand typography, painting giant canvases while having no brief nor rules, it gave me an amazing feeling of freedom. I found the pleasure of sitting and reading the vast library of books I have, learning and being inspired. Gardening, growing vegetables, cooking outdoors, spending time with my wife and son, walking in nature all helped with the creative process.
Talk us through Moose Knuckles, how did this come about?
Moose Knuckles is a brand I have been following for a while, and I think they’re really doing things differently. My good friend, Nick Gray from Renegade Design put me in contact with Simon Caillaud from Bureau Betak who was looking for an artist to work with Moose Knuckles on their Regent Street shop. We spoke, and from that point, I totally got Simon’s vision for the store.
How did you approach this new venture, where did you look for inspo?
The inspiration behind what I have created for the Moose Knuckles temporary store draws from the juxtaposition of my experiences in urban decay and wild nature. I stomped the artistic and raw streets of twisted Soho at the turn of this century, as well as the burnt-out, forgotten parts of 90s Shoreditch. The grit of torn posters, discarded flyers, broken vials and bottles soaking xeroxed zines on the grey city pavements has been coupled with my passion for the great outdoors, facing the extreme elements, the mind-blowing mountains and expressive oceans, haunted forests and the organic matter stretched across the landscape like the protective outer lining of a coat. The store takeover needed a rebel approach, almost anarchic. Stripping back, tearing down, applying spray paint, stencils, inks, fly posters, clashing illustration styles, chaotic pattern work that’s seamlessly controlled. Fragmented and broken. A monochrome, punk environment applied to the polished, modern Regent Street store.
You brought two elements together, what made you focus on the Canadian tundra and the city?
The freezing tundra is constantly shifting and changing. It’s an unforgiving terrain where only the strongest survive. The inner city pulses — it’s alive, morphing into something new every day. Both the tundra and the city survive with toughness, strength and pure determination. These two environments are so different but are so similar in many ways. The raw energy and the chaotic nature of both environments apply to me and I like the idea of trying to control both in a contemporary space.
What do you want people to take away from this?
I want people to come into the space and explore, pause and enjoy the artwork, take a print home to hang on their wall, take photos, share photos, be inspired and feel a connection to the work. It’s creating a real identity for Moose Knuckles, it’s not a cold, soulless space, it’s personal, playful and intriguing. People can take what they want from the space, and by buying the clothing they can be part of that world.
What are you most excited for next?
I’m working on a number of projects, including something with the new Laz Emporium on Lexington Street, and Josh and I are also in the middle of making a book about the world-famous Dragon Bar, which was arguably the epicentre of the so-called ‘street art explosion’ earlier this century. Of course, we will be starting the new Pavement Licker as well, send us your work if you’re interested in being a part of it. Finally, I’m planning on having a gallery show, showing my own work which is something I have been working towards for a while now.