Designer’s graffiti symphony for chamber orchestra

Posted on June 5, 2009

GRAFFITI may not normally be associated with classical music – but a Liverpool artist has crossed cultural boundaries by creating new graffiti designs for a chamber orchestra’s brochure.

Sophie Backhouse, part of Liverpool-based design firm Nonconform, created a series of images for the Manchester Camerata brochure based on the themes of the orchestra’s 2009/10 season.

Ms Backhouse – known as Luna in the graffiti art world – first created her Art Nouveau-inspired designs in pen and ink before painting the much-enlarged final versions on brick walls which were photographed for the brochure.

The project was inspired by the Writing on the Wall episode in Handel’s Belshazzar, one of the key works the orchestra will perform this season.

Ms Backhouse’s works are based on the season’s themes, including Provoke, Transform and Inspire. Despite not being a classical music devotee, she says she enjoyed listening to the music the ensemble will be playing in coming months.

She said: “It’s been a really good experience, pushing me further creatively.”

Andrew Weatherstone, who heads up the Nonconform design team at its Hope Street base, said: “There are so many cultural exchanges entwined in this piece of print that I hardly know where to start.

“There is the fact that graffiti genre was originally generated by a musical trend – the hip-hop culture in the 60s and 70s – and now we are bringing it back to a totally different musical form.

“Then again, we are applying a design created in a very urban three-dimensional medium to a traditional piece of print – and there is the fact that graffiti is usually very angular and produced largely by angry young men, whereas Sophie’s designs are all sensuous curves, with influences of Art Nouveau.

“And, of course, the way our artist, Sophie, immersed herself in classical music for the first time in order to come up with the designs is a cultural exchange in itself.”

Bob Riley, chief executive of Manchester Camerata, said: “To have some work which itself is the result of a most unusual cultural exchange – the linking of the ultimate anti-establishment art-form with classical music – is absolutely thrilling.

“Sophie’s designs, and Nonconform’s treatment of them, are beautiful and it is pleasing to realise that some brilliant new art has been created as the result of our commission.”