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style notes: alfie kungu

Yorkshire born Alfie Kungu paints the familiar, while keeping things abstract. His pieces of work are nostalgic. Soft pastels haze around vivid blues, reds and yellows. Spying through the chaos lurk fragmented details of faces, clouds and castles. They resemble the inner workings of a ‘90s cartoon brain on a Gameboy Colour mission.

 

Kungu’s ‘Legs’ series is similarly playful. Bendy strides engulfed in Nike and Adidas sportswear stretch across tall wooden canvas. Upbeat and eye-catching, his work is totally refreshing. With minor elements of Jeff Koons and Basquiat, Kungu instills moods of warmth. Rich with energy and a care-free nature, he is riding his own wave, right foot forward.

 

Things are going well for the boy. Since graduating in 2016 with a fine art degree, he has exhibited his work at ICA, Cob and HVW8 Gallery Berlin. Now, he’s collaborating with British clothing company, Folk. Folk make elegant streetwear. Engineered with fastidious precision, their clothing is built to last. Blurring the line between classic and casual, the pieces carry engineered precision with loose design. Creating something that’s both visually striking and refined, it boasts an exciting step forward for men’s style.

 

Visit Alfie’s London Fields studio for a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the new SS19 Folk collection, as we chat about his background into the arts.

Photography: Stephie Devred

Styling and creative direction: Woody Cecilia

Congratulations on your collaboration with Folk! How did it all start?

Thank you! I was approached by their print team. After meeting to discuss colour palettes and initial ideas, they gave me total creative freedom to start working on a range of designs on paper. After producing a series of drawings using the colour palettes we’d discussed, we met again and they selected three main designs which would eventually be used as prints for the garments. These were then developed and translated into large paintings on canvas.

What’s your favourite piece of clothing from the collection?

I really love the darker shirts. I feel like my designs work really well on them, and they really stand out. I also especially love the bucket hats – I’m a big hat man, myself, so it means a lot to have designed one of my own.

Alfie wears

T-SHIRT: Folk

SHIRT: Folk x Alfie Kungu

TROUSERS: Folk

SOCKS: Folk

What have you loved the most about the whole experience?

I’ve really enjoyed the ease and simplicity of working with the Folk team. The support and trust they’ve had in my creative process means a lot to me. I’m also just really thankful they gave me this opportunity, as it’s allowed me to take my practice in a totally new direction.

If you were to describe the collection in three words, what words would you use?

Bold, energetic and playful.

How do you begin your paintings? Do you start with a colour palette and subject matter in mind, or do you take to the canvas quite uncontrolled and free?

It’s usually a mixture of all of those… I tend to have a subject or something I’m into at the time in the back of my mind which will influence my paintings though. In terms of colour, I’m really inspired by the combination of tone and texture – but, once I start working, I tend to leave room for happy accidents.

Alfie wears

PULLOVER: Bella Freud

TROUSERS: Bella Freud

SOCKS: Carne Bollente

SHOES: Wood Wood

I know you’ve said your trip to Kenya as a kid really helped develop your sense for creativity. Having lived in both worlds, what changes would you make to the UK in order to better the way we approach the arts?

I feel like it’s important to support emerging creatives and give them opportunities to exhibit. We should be supporting their ideas and we should take them seriously – starting at school. I don’t think enough funding is given to art departments or creative subjects within schools at the moment. They’re not valued, and they’re viewed as being unsustainable. However, there is a fundamental need for creative output in all industries. Supporting grass roots is important too.

How did you get into painting? 

I’ve always been familiar and interested in it, as my dad’s a painter, so I grew up around art. There were always paints out at my house, and I was always encouraged to take part – but it was less art and more mess! Painting from a young age gave me a certain level of open-mindedness to experiment with drawings and paint. It’s always been something I’ve really enjoyed, and I’m not afraid to make mistakes.

Alfie wears

T-SHIRT: Polari

LONG SLEEVE: Carne Bollente

TROUSERS: Nanamica

SOCKS: Carne Bollente

SHOES: Adidas

PICNIC BLANKET: Carhartt WIP

What was it like having your work up at ICA?

Having my work in the New Contemporaries show at the ICA was amazing! It was the first time I took my artwork seriously – seeing it in such a prestigious context among so many other great artists. It was a really proud moment for me – something that I will always be grateful for, and I felt privileged to be sharing the space with such a strong group of creatives.

 

Have you got any big plans for the future, or are you taking things as they come? 

I’ve been applying for a few different residencies, so hopefully I’ll be able to make some new series of work… However, I do also just take things as they come. I’m at my happiest when I’m painting, so as long as I’m able to do that, things are good!

Follow Alfie Kungu on Instagram

Follow Stephie Devred on Instagram

Follow Woody Cecilia on Instagram

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