Cambridge street artist Kyle Warwick discusses his Mill Road bridge tribute to Prof Stephen Hawking

PUBLISHED: 11:01 04 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:10 04 April 2018

Street artist Kyle Warwick with his portrait of Stephen Hawking on the Mill Road bridge in Cambridge.
 Picture: Richard Marsham

Street artist Kyle Warwick with his portrait of Stephen Hawking on the Mill Road bridge in Cambridge. Picture: Richard Marsham

Richard Marsham - RMG Photography Tel - 07798 758711

A second artist, Tim Shuker-Yates, created the ‘Be Curious’ graffiti art

This graffiti art - using one of Prof Hawking's famous quotes - was created on the Mill Road bridge by Tim Shuker-Yates. Picture: Richard MarshamThis graffiti art - using one of Prof Hawking's famous quotes - was created on the Mill Road bridge by Tim Shuker-Yates. Picture: Richard Marsham

A street artist whose painting adorns the side of Mill Road bridge in Cambridge has explained why he was inspired to pay tribute to Professor Stephen Hawking.

Speaking to the Cambridge Independent, Kyle Warwick said that he first became aware of Prof Hawking while at school.

“The painting is more about the fact that he’s Cambridge born and bred,” Kyle, 25, said. “I was a fan from when he used to visit my school, Newnham Croft Primary School. I think he would visit because it was only a mile or so from his home and so easy to get to.

“It was only right that we should do something like this. He inspired young people. He made an impression on everyone in the city.”

Street artist Kyle Warwick said the work took four or five hours. Picture: Richard MarshamStreet artist Kyle Warwick said the work took four or five hours. Picture: Richard Marsham

Kyle painted the Prof Hawking portrait following the death of the theoretical physicist at his Cambridge home on March 14, aged 76.

The ‘Be Curious’ mural further along the wall was by Tim Shuker-Yates. The two artists sometimes work together. “I’m Cambridge born and bred myself, I’m a freelance artist and I do tattoo work plus commissions,” said Kyle.

Tim lives outside Cambridge and is a counsellor by trade. “He works on his art from time to time. We used to work for the YMCA, and started working for youth projects.

“We went to primary schools across the country for projects involving murals.”

Professor Stephen Hawking in March 2015. Picture: Andre PattendenProfessor Stephen Hawking in March 2015. Picture: Andre Pattenden

The Mill Road painting was started and completed on March 25, ahead of Prof Hawking’s funeral at Great St Mary’s Church in Cambridge on Saturday (March 31).

“I literally had a Google image of his face on my phone, and sketched it out from there. In general, my style is to make things a bit more surreal but keep the practical emphasis.

“It took four or five hours in total. With spray cans the paint bursts out of the can so it’s a very quick process.

“First it’s marked out with spray paint on the wall as you would with pencil and paper. There’s four or five colours involved, and maybe anything up to 15 sprays – just because of the need of getting the variety of tones for each colour.

Some graffiti inspired by Stephen Hawking has appeared near Mill Road soon after his funeral.
Pic - Richard MarshamSome graffiti inspired by Stephen Hawking has appeared near Mill Road soon after his funeral. Pic - Richard Marsham

“I’ve done art all my life but it’s six years I’ve been doing graffiti now, I’ve done projects all over the country.”

The wall beside the bridge has long been a free spot for graffiti artists to have a go, explains Asim Khairdean, secretary of the Argyle Street Housing Co-op, which owns the property beside the bridge.

Known as ‘the co-op’, the premises provides homes “for those who don’t have alternative means of accommodation” to more than 80 people in 20 houses.

“We love it,” said Asim of the Hawking mural. “A lot of people in the co-op love it.

Kyle Warwick used a Google image of Stephen Hawking on his phone to create the painting. Picture: Richard MarshamKyle Warwick used a Google image of Stephen Hawking on his phone to create the painting. Picture: Richard Marsham

“We’ve made that wall available for artists to work on for quite a few years. It’s part of the co-op. It’s available for people to use. It’s self-managed by the artists: I believe a couple of collectives use the place.

“The Hawking mural has been up a couple of weeks now.

“It’ll be gone soon – it’s constantly being painted on. Everyone loves the Hawking one, it’s very popular.

“People related to him and to his politics too, he was a critic of apartheid, of Catholicism, of Israel... he was quite vocal and was someone who had a great effect.

Kyle Warwick painted this street art tribute on Mill Road bridge following the death of Prof Stephen Hawking. Picture: Richard MarshamKyle Warwick painted this street art tribute on Mill Road bridge following the death of Prof Stephen Hawking. Picture: Richard Marsham

“He was someone that working class people can relate to.

“And with the NHS and attacks on the most vulnerable people in society, Stephen Hawking is a good figurehead for society.”

“I’m surprised it’s still there,” said Kyle of the painting’s extended lifespan.

“Sometimes it’s just 24 hours before it’s painted over by someone. This spot is legal so people are allowed to come here. You just rock up.”

The funeral of Professor Stephen Hawking in Cambridge. Picture: Geoff Robinson PhotographyThe funeral of Professor Stephen Hawking in Cambridge. Picture: Geoff Robinson Photography

It may be gone soon but, like its progenitor, the Hawking mural has now been properly immortalised in hearts, minds – and eyes.

For those who prefer their art to be cinematic, an alternative might be another look at the blockbuster The Theory of Everything, which is being screened for one night only (Thursday) at the Light Cinema Cambridge. All proceeds will go to the Cambridgeshire branch of the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Kyle Warwick’s Instagram account is ‘Kyle._tattoos’ and Tim Shuker-Yates’ is ‘ab._.de’.

College porters from Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, carry Prof Hawking's coffin out from church after the funeral service. 
Picture: Richard Marsham/Cambridge IndependentCollege porters from Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, carry Prof Hawking's coffin out from church after the funeral service. Picture: Richard Marsham/Cambridge Independent

Read more

Stephen Hawking’s scientific legacy: Black holes, event horizons and an exit from eternal inflation

Cambridge says goodbye to Professor Stephen Hawking

The funeral of Professor Stephen Hawking in pictures

Review: Stephen Hawking remembered by Cambridge Philharmonic Orchestra

Prof Stephen Hawking, his world and work in his own words

Tributes paid to Stephen Hawking from across the globe

Professor Stephen Hawking dies at 76 and leaves an indelible legacy

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