We had the opportunity to talk with Russ Hawkwood aka Russart77 . Russ is a former Fashion graduate and Royal Marine Commando who has worked internationally as both a body guard and covert intelligence operative. But we where not meeting to discuss the global security situation or what it’s like to provide security services to the global elite. We where meeting to discuss British folklore , mythology and magick and how that influences the amazing art work he creates.
We started off by asking Russ about how he got interested with this unique genre.
I’ve had a life long interest in folklore which was probably nurtured by my parents. My farther, an antique dealer, would always bring items home for my brother and I to look at, this really installed a passion for history and a real sense of connection to the past. We would often visit places rich in legend and folklore, most notably Devils Dyke in Brighton and Chanctonbury ring.
The ring, really made an impression on me from a young age, it always felt like a special place, my father would take the time to point out our history hidden within the landscape, the burial mounds and earthworks that make up our South Downs. I still have oyster shells I found in the ring that would of been made as offerings at one of the two Roman temples that where situated there. Folklore isn’t just a good yarn to be shared over a pint or at a child’s bedtime, it represents a cultural collective memory, it’s part of who we are.
Is folklore relevant today?
Absolutely! It’s part of our cultural heritage and our nations story. Folklore is for everyone and it’s part of our future.
Interestingly it’s still relatively new for archeologists and historians to pay attention to folklore when they’re investigating places, so a lot of finds that relate to folk traditions (witch bottles, mummified cats buried in walls etc) were largely ignored until the 70’s & 80’s. Thankfully these artefacts and stories are now being preserved and carefully catalogued and studied.
It’s a really exciting time for people interested in this genre as we are experiencing somewhat of a renaissance, with Folk horror in films and literature, amazing Artists such a Ben Edge and Dan hiller, as well as folk singers such as Elspeth Anne blazing a trail. And I have to mention Boss Morris and blackthorn ritualistic folk who are doing incredible work in the field of Folk dance. There’s a real buzz at the moment. People are reconnecting with the land and their culture bringing our customs and traditions firmly into the 21st century. One of the most important aspects of all this is that the actual stories are not just being preserved but retold. Scotlands Eileen budd is doing remarkable work and is an absolute pleasure to listen to. She has worked tirelessly preserving and sharing these stories with adults and children alike. It’s really valuable work. As for me, I’m thoroughly enjoying playing my small part in it.
Where do you find your influences for your work. And what do you plan for the future.
Obviously folklore and the afore mentioned people have had an impact on my work but I also draw inspiration from the work of Joseph cambell and Karl Jung.
Myths and legends, in particular Wolfram Von-Eschenbach’s ‘Parzival’ a copy of which I’ve had my whole life and works such as the Mabinogion and Beowulf.
Having moved to North Devon from Brighton a year ago I find inspiration everywhere, I can often be found in an old church or a stone circle and living in such a rural location I feel far more in tune with the natural world. As for the future, as a keen biker I would love to build a folklore themed custom bike not sure exactly what that would look like but I think it would be a great project.
I’m looking forward to getting a collection together for a show in the new year. But other than that I’m just enjoying myself.
Russ has worked most recently on a project ‘Folktober2’ which seen him create and post a new creation every day for 31 days during the month of October. You can find his intricately creative works on instagram ‘Russart77’ and coming to an art gallery near you soon.