Trashy’s London Statuary
Ayjay Trashy at the statue of Rowland Hill
If you are observant of London’s statuary, you may have spotted a tall young man in black with sharp eyes, hanging around making intricate miniature paintings on discarded sugar wrappers of these strange effigies of the great and good which punctuate the streets of our capital. This is Ayjay Trashy.
I arranged to meet Ayjay in King Edward St, round the back of St Paul’s, where he was painting Rowland Hill, inventor of the postage stamp outside the former General Post Office. It was a bitter day in early spring and Ayjay had completed his picture after two days work on the pavement in the cold, so we took refuge in the warmth of the crypt of St Paul’s and warmed our hands with cups of hot tea.
Of imposing stature but sympathetic demeanour, Ayjay is quietly spoken and modest almost to the point of apology when he speaks of his distinctive art. He laid a large red plastic case on the table which I guessed had a previous life as a record case.
It was apparent, by the manner in which Ayjay placed it before me and opened the cover, that this case contained his most-prized possessions. Inside, he carries all his painting equipment and several small black sketchbooks within which are mounted his finely-wrought miniature paintings of statues.
Ayjay turned the pages to show me his cherished works and, as he did so, he explained something of the story behind them. And I could not resist being touched by his vision, discovering wonder and fascination in disregarded subject matter, rendered meticulously with infinite care upon discarded materials.
“I started painting on napkins with coffee, but then I discovered I had an allergy to it – so then I started drinking more tea and began using sugar wrappers because I didn’t need napkins any more once I didn’t drink cappuccinos.
Many years ago, I did a degree in Fine Art at Hornsey but it has only been in the last five years that I have got back to it after being in limbo for a long time. Inside of me, I just needed to do it. It was like an instinct and I felt if I didn’t do it I would go mad. I discovered that I had to get back to what I knew and what I understood. I had been painting since I was three years old – my aunt used to take me out on trips and we would do drawings.
I was in limbo for fifteen years because I needed to discover who I was and I needed to go through different situations to discover that. As well as doing my art, I take care of my grandma. I am her carer and I give her the injections she needs because she is diabetic. In the afternoons, I go out and do my paintings and, in the evenings, I go back and do her injections again. She’s been good for the last few days. She went through a downward spiral when she had an infection but she has improved a lot and she’s moving a lot better, I’ve got her walking.
I live in Barnet but my family comes from Camden Town and I grew up in Tufnell Park. My grandma used to wheel me around Camden, she took me here, there and everywhere with her, and down to my aunt’s in Kentish Town. My great-grandma, she used to run most of the pubs in Camden years ago and my great-grandad worked in Stables Market delivering vegetables by horse and cart up to Barnet Market and also down to Covent Garden. My grandpa worked in the East End rag trade, he was the first person to show me round London and we always went to Trafalgar Sq at Christmas.
I’ve painted about fifty-odd statues now. I was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church and you are surrounded by statues. I like the fact that statues are both larger than life and also true to life. The more you hang around statues, the more you realise they have their own personalities – even though the person they represent may have been dead for two hundred years. It’s about conveying that personality. Although they are made of stone, they have something magical about them. I choose them according to how I feel and what I find, because sometimes you can have so many in front of you and you just walk past but, at other times, you just bump into them and you feel inspired.
My paintings have got smaller and smaller, and I use sugar wrappers because like using things that are branded and I like to play around with that. I also like the miniature landscape of wrappers, I don’t like painting on things which are blank. When I paint a statue on a sugar wrapper, it is like one icon fighting another icon – there’s a battle going on, but I am always going to win because when I put my image on the wrapper it becomes something else. Sometimes people don’t notice at first that have painted on the wrapper and I try to camouflage the painting so it’s not obvious.
I guess Starbucks are demonic but I just like painting on their wrappers, I can’t help it!”
From left: Rowland Hill, King Edward St, Oliver Cromwell at House of Commons & Eros in Piccadilly Circus
From left: Samuel Johnson in the Strand, Queen Anne at St Paul’s & Shakespeare in Leicester Sq
From left: Duke of Wellington at the Royal Exchange, Charlie Chaplin in Leicester Sq & Amy Winehouse at Stables Market, Camden
Ayjay Trashy and Major General William Ponsonby in the Crypt of St Paul’s
Ayjay Trashy’s paintings are currently on display at bookartbookshop in Pitfield St, Hoxton, where copies of TRASHY’S LONDON STATUARY may be purchased
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