Lucy Dalzell: Capturing the Everyday Moments that Create a Sense of Place

Lucy Dalzell

A few weeks ago you had an exhibition at Stour Space called ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, which recreates underused or otherwise industrial buildings in East London with your playful and soulful illustrations, continuing your ongoing investigation of the London landscape. How do you feel about the way the London landscape is evolving?

It’s hard to be optimistic about London’s evolving landscape at the moment to be honest. London’s going through a lot of turmoil right now, there’s a major housing crisis. A lot of people who’ve called London home and people I’ve featured in my work are having to move out. It feels like we’re at risk of unraveling the city’s cultural tapestry. Don’t get me wrong, I think the regeneration of areas can have a positive outcome, so long as their focus is on improving places and infrastructure for existing communities. We can’t all afford to live in luxury flats!

The concept reminds me of Laura Oldfield Ford’s ‘Savage Messiah’, a zine that was a polemic against regeneration. Do you see your illustrations as a way of documenting or “preserving” places?

Absolutely. With London’s landscape evolving so quickly, I think it’s really important to try and preserve snapshots of particular areas, whether they’re known and recognised or not. What excites me about wandering around different parts of the city is the often unnoticed, everyday moments that hold an individual story or a sense of place. London is made up of thousands of different streets or pockets almost, all with their own identity and a story to tell.

You’ve focused a lot on Hackney Wick in particular. What draws you to this area for your art?

I guess it’s a sense of history that encompasses the area. Historically the Wick was known for it’s industry; manufacturing sweets, plastics and matchbox toys. I love that five minutes away from where I used to live was a place where blue dye was first discovered, and a 5 minute walk in the other direction took you to the building that housed the first ever dry cleaners in the country. The huge brick warehouses that dominate the landscape house so much history, which I think gives the area a special atmosphere. It’s a very creatively stimulating place to be.

Lucy Dalzell, Hackney Wick Postcard for Hackney Council

Wow, the discovery of blue dye — that is quite a history. Is there any must-see place that you would recommend to someone exploring London?

Ah, there are so many! The Asylum in Peckham is a really beautiful place which was historically a ‘sanctuary’ or retirement home for impoverished victorian pub landlords. Such a fascinating story. I love how, despite being bombed during the Second World War, it still retains the original stained glass windows too.

“What excites me about wandering around different parts of the city is the often unnoticed, everyday moments that hold an individual story or a sense of place.”

What are you working on now?

I’ve been doing some pieces based on Peckham — leading up to the summer is the perfect time to capture it’s vibrancy. I’m also in the process of branching out a little; I’m currently working on some maps of different neighbourhoods in New York, and I also have some Scandinavian-inspired zines in the pipeline.

What are your biggest influences for your work?

One of my key influences is Georges Perec’s Species of Spaces and Other Pieces. An old university tutor of mine introduced me to his writing before sending me off on a trip to Paris about 10 years ago. I blew my entire student loan on exploring the city for my final major project because of that book! I’d never been and it really opened my eyes. It made me appreciate the hidden detail that can often be missed when living in a city. I had no money, company or real base to go back to, so I just ended up wandering and drifting between different areas. I think it was from that moment that I discovered the real direction in my work.

Lastly, could you name three artists or designers that you admire, that everyone needs to know about?

Nuno Veiga — an incredible sound designer and wonderful performer. I particularly love his ability to craft everyday sounds and experiences into these deeply immersive soundscapes. http://nunoveiga13.wix.com/portfolio#!sound-designer

Frank Laws — fantastic painter with a particular penchant for bricks and housing estates. His paintings are so intricate and draw you in to his romanticised view of Hackney’s post-war architecture. They have a real cinematic quality to them. http://franklaws.com/

Kaylene Alder — awesome illustrator with a lovely playful style. I’m particularly in love with this piece — http://www.kaylenealder.com/portfolio/#/stranger/

More about Lucy’s work can be found here. http://lucydalzell.com