Q & A With Louis Masai – The Coral Mural and Campaign

Image: Toby Madden

By | 2018-01-12T09:17:20+00:00 October 6th, 2015|Art, Awareness Raising, Coral Reefs|0 Comments

We asked artist Louis Masai about the process of painting the LondonLovesCorals mural in Shoreditch, and about his hopes for our broader coral campaign.

The mural was started on 10th September, sparking tremendous social media interest, with people asking Louis to add their favourite coral-dependent species to the composition.

The completed painting is becoming a landmark for London street-art tours, and the local campaign to save the mural means that it will be around for the foreseeable future.

Keep in touch to find out more about the campaign.

Q: Congratulations, Louis, on your amazing coral reef mural. It really is amazing! How did you feel about painting an ecosystem being brought back to life?

A: Well, I was pretty nervous about it…and for two reasons really. Firstly I’ve never painted an evolving story before. Usually it’s just a painting and then it’s finished, although it always has layers. I guess that is why I felt I could rise to the challenge but it was a process of creating something and changing it almost immediately…The second reason is that usually I paint a creature or perhaps two. I make a situation, I guess, but to make a whole ecosystem – a whole world – this was something fresh for me and I was definitely a bit nervous. Especially as it was all being filmed! I had to get it right…

Although it was a whole new concept and way of approaching a wall, I definitely enjoyed it and I think that I might start to paint more ecosystems in the future…

Q: A lot of passers-by were amazed to see you in action – just creating an image close up to the wall without stepping back from it, to see it from a distance. Are there advantages to painting in this way?

A: Well, I never really think of things in that way really, and it definitely isn’t an advantage. It’s more you get used to it… I generally map out a sketch with my other walls though, so in that way it was a different way of working I guess…I did continuously step back from the whole composition a lot and Toby (film-maker) also discussed it with me at times. But I guess once I’m working on a specific section or creature, the wall shrinks in my mind. I just hope it works in context with what was already there. But even still, in the case of this project – because it was an evolving creation – it kind of never really had to feel complete until the end…and when that end was in sight by day 6, I was definitely more interested in ensuring that the eye could do a journey around the wall. I didn’t want you to get stuck anywhere for too long or not find a way back to where you had been a bit before…I see it like a huge jigsaw puzzle in a way…

Q: The animals in the mural are full of character. There’s something going on with your painting that we haven’t seen before: what is it?

A: Well I’m not really sure to be honest. I think all my paintings have character, but in this wall I was a lot looser. That was down to time…I guess that’s something new in the overall end result…and I guess its also the scale of the wall. I haven’t done a wall that big before, and I definitely look forward to the next one…

Q: What are your hopes for the film of the painting of the reef? Can it add anything? 

A: The mural as it is, is a great source of visual eye candy. It impresses people and people feel admiration for it. But beyond that, the vast majority of people won’t necessarily take it further than that! And I think that is down to the sheer amount of information within it. It’s too much for people to digest on an environmental point, and that is what the film will do… Once there is sound and words and direction, there will be a campaign.

That campaign can stretch wider and further than the painting, and will also hold substance that should make people think in a different way than the mural on its own…

But for me I think that the mural will attract a wider audience than if the film was about a real reef. People have seen reefs on TV before and they need to be shaken back into place to read the campaign in a fresh way…I think what we have started and will continue to achieve is a new way of reaching the people that I know will care more about our environment…

Q: How do you want to take the campaign forward?

Well I’ve already moved it on…In the middle of the mural, I painted a hollow heart shape. I call this coral formation a padlock and the heart shape in the centre is the keyhole…I painted some heart shaped coral keys in Ireland a few days after the padlock mural was finished…and I will continue to paint those coral heart keys all round the world…The next ones will appear in Paris around the time of the environmental summit in November…