“One thing I always try and do is put forward a message of love, because that’s what it’s all about.”
I first discovered visual artist Samuel Mead AKA ‘Beg4Cred’ on Instagram and was instantly pulled in by his expressive free-hand drawings. His style is simple and experimental. It feels authentic, unique, exciting.
He’s been a Peckham resident for eleven years, and I met him at his home tattoo studio to talk about art, community and how creativity is for everyone.
Samuel Mead AKA ‘Beg4Cred’
The name Beg4Cred was conceptualised around four years ago when Samuel was working as a bicycle courier: “I wanted to start an art collective of people working in low paid jobs and exploitative industries to galvanise us all and help us to make our way as artists.” However, exhausted from riding 60 miles a day and trying to get by as an artist himself, that venture was short lived. A couple of years later when he started tattooing, he began using the @beg4cred on Instagram to showcase his tattoos instead.In what feels like a volatile era, politically and socially, self-expression is perhaps more important than ever. But are there enough opportunities amongst art funding cuts and austerity? Samuel suggests art funding is always the first to be cut and takes an irreverent approach to things like graffiti. “Everyone should be able to express themselves,” he says, “I think the reason graffiti exists is because we live in a culture that oppresses our creative expression to a great extent. If you want people to stop scrawling their names everywhere and making art on the walls then create a society in which people can express themselves, because they’re going to express themselves in some way… things need to change so that people have other avenues for their expression.”
THE LURNER PRIZE
Last year, Samuel and his partner (fellow artist Arizona The Cat) set up The Lurner Prize, which is open exclusively to self-taught artists. “We wanted to create something that signalled our support of people exploring their creativity, especially people who hadn’t received any formal training.” Both Samuel and Arizona are self-taught artists and the prize is entirely independent. It’s funded by Samuel, who is putting the profit from selling his own art back into The Lurner Prize to help support other artists. The entries closed in December and he found going through what people submitted a very moving experience.“I thought it was a good idea from the start but when we actually went through the entries to create the shortlist it was just so powerful to see how much people had put into it and how much art and creativity meant to them. How much it helped people to deal with all sorts of things. It’s a real remedy and therapy for so many people and many people who entered had been guided away from the arts at a young age into scientific backgrounds or academic backgrounds a lot of the time and felt like as a part of that they’d lost an aspect of themselves - which is the intuitive, creative, expressive side - and through reconnecting with that, they had benefitted... and that was really moving.”The culmination of the prize will be an exhibition of the work entered. The duo have rented a space in Peckham - above what used to be Brick House Bakery (RIP) - and plan to have a festival of creativity there throughout February and March, including The Lurner Prize exhibition. More excitingly, they are planning on starting a non-traditional art school, ‘The New eARTh School’, with hopes of bringing people from every background into creativity. They will use the 300 sq ft space next to Peckham Rye station as a pop-up to introduce the idea into the community while they look for a more permanent space.
IT STARTS WITH YOU
2020 feels like a great time for Beg4Cred. With the art school launching, The Lurner Prize returning, his art taking off, many collaborations on the horizon and an exhibition in New York, he’s showing that we really are the masters of our own realities. “I don’t feel pessimistic. I feel very optimistic. I feel very positive about the future because people are starting to understand that we need to take matters into our own hands and change things by ourselves.”
We spent an hour together a few days before Christmas, in the aftermath of a rather depressing election result, and his positivity and level-headedness left me feeling inspired, connected and hopeful. He seems the embodiment of community, dedicating much of his time to inspiring others, and his closing words have been ringing in my ears ever since: “The only thing that’s going to save us is connecting with each other and actually beginning to understand that the boundaries we’ve been led to believe exist between us are entirely illusory... It comes down to us as individuals. It starts with you.”
Keep an eye out for the Peckham pop-up. In the meantime you can find Samuel & Arizona on Instagram: @beg4cred @arizonathecat.