Cambridge street artist Kyle Warwick discusses his Mill Road bridge tribute to Prof Stephen Hawking
A second artist, Tim Shuker-Yates, created the 'Be Curious' graffiti art
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
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’.