20.04.23 / Community

Meet the residents: Mr Penfold

You’ll find Bristol based artist Mr Penfold’s private studio space on the east side of the DOCUMENT complex – near the Parlez guys. The sun beats through the top floor windows displaying his iconic and uplifting graphical style. On the windowsill there are customised plant pots, the shelves are adorned with a kaleidoscopic range of paints and next to them, an ASMR worthy box of clean brushes of all shapes and sizes. 

On first look, his work delivers an overwhelming feeling of lightness, joy and pure enjoyment, so it’s no surprise over the last 12 years he’s garnered a bit of a global O.G status. With critical acclaim on the underground and in the mainstream art and creative world. He’s also created a Time Out front cover (before the print edition closed), worked on commissions for brands and continues to paint shop fronts, custom murals and is currently prepping for a retrospective gallery show in August 2023. Take five with us to meet Mr Penfold and get clued up on the best spots in Bristol to check out new and exciting street art.

Do you prefer to be called ‘artist’ or ‘street artist’?
“My background is graffiti. It wasn’t till I was 18 that the term ‘street art’ came about – I always thought of it as graffiti… about 11 years ago I stopped doing my graffiti characters and got into my abstract work, it’s still classed as ‘street art’ because it’s on the street; but I’m just an artist. My work doesn’t predominantly focus on the streets, I paint canvases or any surfaces.”

So as an artist, how did you end up at DOCUMENT?
I moved in Nov 2020. My old studio didn’t have windows and I started doing sculptures and bigger pieces and needed my own space. I needed somewhere I didn’t have to worry about pi**ing anyone off. When I moved in, the guys installed custom lighting which is important for my work. Tracey who runs things at DOCUMENT will often pop in for a cup of tea and we talk about art. It’s great.”

Bristol is one of the leading cities for street art – what’s it like being part of this vibrant community?
“Yeah, Bristol has amazing street art culture. The city is really famous for being part of the culture, whether it’s music or the underground art scenes: it’s world renown. I’m originally from Cambridge and when I moved to Bristol I’d go to the pub and be surrounded by loads of successful artists and you would talk about your life and shared experiences, and it was a real drive. I loved that. Although I am a visual artist, my life revolves around music; my oldest brothers are big DJs from Cambridge – all my best mates are musicians. Even though I moved to a city full of artists. I’m still drawn back to musicians and the music. It’s so important to me.”

Near DOCUMENT there are loads of great street art spots, is all of it good?
The city is a hotspot for graffiti, every surface has got something on it. To have a bubbling scene like Bristol does, you need to have all types of graffiti and street art. The bad stuff: pure vandalism next to the murals – it all goes hand in hand and none of it exists without the other. You get some dog dirt piece of artwork next to something good, and the person that did the dog dirt piece in a couple of years might be amazing. People here aren’t afraid of painting on the street to test the water, without fear of judgement.”

For street art trainspotters, where are the places in  Bristol to see it?
“All over the city, where the river goes and the bike paths are, you’ll see graffiti and street art. Stokes Croft is good, the little alleyway by Centre Space – St Leonard’s Lane. The tunnel in St Werburghs and the M32 roundabout.

There’s one out of the city centre: a set of garages in Brislington behind the Sainsbury’s –  I painted the second from the end. My friend Rosa and I did them first. When we started painting lots of the residents asked if we could do more, so we gave them away to our mates. I think it was the end of 2020. So many people walk through there and it’s a cut-through to go to the shops near St Phillips…”

Tell us about some Bristol artists we should be looking out for? 
There are so many interesting up and coming young artists. If I get asked to curate an event I make it as diverse as possible. Like with people of colour, women and LGBTQIA+ artists. My top three artists at the moment are as follows:

Follow @MrPenfold on Instagram