Haircut + Portrait

ELP Barbershop in London is giving residency to an artist called Mystery Meat, as he sits at the venue every Saturday, willing to take customers’ portrait while they get a gentle hot towel shave (cold towel at the end), or a mustache trim. Haircut too of course. Meat has done numerous works thus far, a mixture of the best and worst clients, to be shown in an exhibition at the barbershop on May 4. ELP founder, Emma LP, says she’s happy to offer this extra treat for clients, calling the whole project “Are You Offended?”. All drawings offer a twisted reportage of each subject, with a coloured nose and beard, accompanied by various by receding hairstyles.

ELP’s shave is known for its very good blades and reclined chairs (even more reclined than British Airways’ 97cm World Traveller Plus Premium Economy recline). When getting a shave be prepared to get the special landscape version -

A haircut would result in a vertical, ‘normal’ portrait -

We spoke to the reclusive meaty artist, who likes to pose with meat masks, at the barbershop.

Mystery Meatloaf, why are you doing this?

I do these speed paintings because I’m interested in how well i can capture a profile of someone within the limitations i have set myself (a short amount of time, a really difficult medium, only 8 colours) and then witnessing the reaction that the subject has to the painting of themselves at the end. The most interesting part of the project is the individual’s different levels of vanity, and their own relationship with their face.

Is it post-photocropshop art?

In a world where we can curate how our face looks on social media, it takes a certain vulnerability to let me capture one’s persona how i see it. Because of the nature of the final outcome, some people are offended and some appreciate the honesty hence the name of the show ‘Are you offended?’.

Is an average haircut time enough for you?

I realised I needed people to sit for at least 30 minutes so a barbershop was the perfect place. ELP was ideal as it isn’t one of those pretentious theme-park-style barbershops with black interiors and fake shotguns on the wall. It has an honest quality about the place and the people who work there aren’t dickheads.

In his other series he does various variations retroshape analysis of Mr Blobby:

ELP Barbershop is at 67 Amwell Street, EC1R 1UT. Haircut is £32 and a wet shave £40. It is primarily a men’s barbershop, women also welcome.

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