The East End is a haven for artists and hidden talent, and this week we’ve seen just how hidden our creative kin can be. Last week’s interview with Sweet Treats owner Naz Islam has set us on the trail of a mystery artist.
When talking to Naz Islam about his shop Sweet Treats, we noticed he had a beautiful print behind the till. It was a colourful interpretation of the shop front, with a creative twist. Naturally, we were intrigued.
‘Once the work on the shop front was done, this guy turned up,’ Islam told us, ‘I don’t know his name. I don’t know anything about him. I was busy that day, and at the time I didn’t know why he was giving it to me. I think it’s digital sketching on pads, you can see the grain so it’s a print.’
This artist simply turned up and left without a trace. ‘It is a shame,’ Islam looked at it regretfully, ‘people do come and ask, and I’m ashamed that I don’t know his name. I assumed it would be on the back. This was last year, beginning of last year when they just finished the building and hadn’t put the blinds up, so they aren’t in the picture.’
Led by a tip from Naz Islam, we ventured to the Saucy Kipper Fish Bar. Behind the counter, poised beside the ketchup and mayo packets, there it was. Another print, yet the same story. Savvas Argyrou, who works there, said they’d never seen the man before. They described him as black and ‘not too young looking’.
With no other clues as to who this artist is, or which route they took to fall off the face of the planet, we thought the chase was over. Only when walking by Cafe Semz’s cafe window did we spot something a little familiar…
Happy to oblige, and also curious about the mysterious artist, Cafe Semz told how they were busy on the day and didn’t catch a name. They confirmed his description and added that he was bald. They haven’t seen him since.
Sure that our artist was a fan of the most beautiful and striking Roman Road shop fronts, we went on a hunt and asked at places we’d paint if we had the talent; we visited places like Cafe Creme, Maybins, and Les Table des Saveurs, but to no avail. We finally spotted another one of the artworks in Spencer Hair.
The Spencer Hair stylist, Janet Spencer, called herself a ‘fan’ and said she would have loved to have known the person who had created it. The stylish picture is the only art in their saloon, and looks striking hung up behind their long black sofa. She said that she loved it so much, she was going to take it with her if she ever left.
Finally, it was next door at Noor, a barbers, that we found our final piece and biggest clue. The barber, Yaser Mehmood, didn’t seem surprised when we asked about the piece and said he often had people commenting on it. He gave us a card, and a name: Michael. No surname and a seemingly disused phone number.
Has the trail run cold? Or is this just the beginning? Let us know if you recognise the art style, have seen other paintings around, or even know this artist. We’re keen to find out more.
Can you help us?
As a not-for-profit media organisation using ethical journalism to strengthen communities, we have not put our digital content behind a paywall or membership scheme as we think the benefits of an independent, local publication should be available to everyone living in our area.
If a fraction of the local 40,000 residents donated two pounds a month to Roman Road LDN it would be enough for our editorial team to serve the area full time and be beholden only to the community. Media is accountable to those who finance it. We want to be accountable to readers. Not to advertisers, not to local government. To you. A pound at a time, we believe we can get there.