This Artist Finds Connection And Warmth In Cold Concrete

I meet FAITH XLVII on one of those perfect LA afternoons, the sort that make it impossible to imagine living anywhere else. The sun shines gently in a cloudless, blue sky over the tiny coffee shop she picked for us in West Hollywood. Birds are chirping somewhere in the distance.

When I reached out to the South African street artist — whose beautiful, large-scale murals carry powerful emotional undercurrents — I hoped we might be able to swing a Skype interview. Instead, Faith wrote that she was happy to talk on the phone unless, of course, I was located in Los Angeles. In which case, she insisted we sit down for tea.

I step inside the Paramount Coffee Project, feeling intensely curious about the woman I’m there to meet. Faith has been on the scene since she was a teenager and her work leaves you wanting to know more about the human behind the brush strokes. This curiosity is natural with such personal work. There’s a certain delicate aspect to each painting; a profound tenderness that seems to reach across the void for connection.

I find Faith sitting at a table squeezed near the kitchen and dodge a waiter carrying a precarious tray of dishes to get to her table. She closes her computer and greets me. She’s petite, with warm eyes, and a series of delicate tattoos that snake up her arms. The body art feels fitting for a woman who can infuse beauty into every space, every medium, and every surface she encounters. It makes sense that her skin would also be a canvas in some way. She’s soft spoken, but you’d be foolish to mistake that for passiveness or meekness. She’s nearly bubbling over with a quiet, fierce intensity.

My first impression is that Faith is a living embodiment of her work. That signature mixture of gentleness juxtaposed with a measured strength. She’s recently moved to LA, so we chat about our adopted city, the nature of street art (it’s not enough to simply make art that is pretty or trendy, she tells me. It should mean something), and children (I’m visibly pregnant with my first son while she has an adult son whom she misses back in SA).

Then, we sip our fragrant teas, and talk about Faith’s journey as an artist, the projects she’s working on, and the conflicting dualities of human nature that fascinate her.

Do you find yourself doing more street art or gallery work these days?

When I was a teenager, I came into the graffiti movement, which then led to the street art movement. From there, I moved into more contemporary-like gallery work. It’s been an evolution. There’s been a big shift for me in the last several years, where I’ve been moving more into the gallery space. I’ve been creating experimental video installations. I see the street work as one element of my practice rather than being the only focus of it.

Do you feel like your street art complements your gallery work, or is it the other way around?

I think it’s all part of the same animal. If I have a theme I’m working with, it bleeds over into different mediums. I’ll have maybe two or three thematics that I’m working with simultaneously, and they will manifest in different ways and different mediums.

What are the themes that you find showing up in your work right now?

At the moment, I’m busy working on a new concept for a larger exhibition. It will be a lot more immersive. One ongoing series is titled 7.83Hz. It reflects on human connection and the duality of human nature. Humans create wars and xenophobia with this separatist attitude. Yet, I contrast that with the close intimacy that we, as human beings, are capable of. I bring these really intimate scenes or interludes between people into the public space to help create moments of being human, having empathy in our urban consciousness.