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London Street Art: An Unlikely Source of Inspiration

19/01/2012 13:02 | Updated 19 March 2012
Video: Filmed by Anthony Lee Music: Jaymin Shah

A student from Mitcham is an unlikely source of inspiration for a world-renowned street artist but James Cochran - who has painted in London, Paris and New York - was so impressed by Javon Davies, a pupil from Richmond College he painted a mural of him in the East End.

The portrait depicts the 18-year-old with his hood up, staring out into the street. Behind his face are purples, pinks, and oranges blended by squiggles of spray paint, and to his right buildings on fire are visible under the backdrop of a night's sky.

James Cochran, who is 38, was born in England but his family moved to Australia when he was five and he studied Fine Art at the University of South Australia. He now lives in Shoreditch and his latest piece is one of three murals he has done in the area.

Cochran found an unlikely friend in Davies when the teenager asked to film him painting. The graffiti artist was so impressed by the footage he was eager for them to collaborate again so he decided to surprise the college student and paint his portrait.

"I was coming back from a video shoot for my friend's clothing line when I first met James. I saw him painting and I asked him what he did and we started talking," Davies said.

Cochran was "inspired" after meeting the young filmmaker for the first time because of his "drive". The graffiti artist thinks that London can be a "tough" city to live in and you need to have a "courageous" and "strong" spirit to remain positive sometimes. It is this strength of character that Cochran admired in Davies.

The teenager has exhibited a lot of talent, he studies Btec Business and Graphics at Richmond but in his spare time he also has his own clothing line and YouTube channel Secret Progression.

"I am very privileged to have a painting of me done by James. I have researched him and he is known across the world. To get myself on a wall that everyone walks past makes me feel proud," he said.

Cochran says the portrait is about taking something that could be seen as negative and transforming it into a positive experience. The mural touches on the London riots and the street artist feels that there are stereotypes around young people, particularly those that wear hoodies - stereotypes that Davies does not conform to.

"It is funny how James was able to judge my character so well," Davies said.

"The portrait being about taking something bad and turning it good is relevant to me. That is what a lot of young people are trying to do today. The area you live in might not be good but we are all trying to do our best. Drawing yourself away from what is going on around you and becoming a good person."

"I would like to be an inspiration one day but right now it is just the beginning. It is a great privilege to be able to work with him [Cochran]."

Cochran's art always comes from living in the city and he paints real people. He said: "Some art is straight from the imagination more sort of dreamlike but mine relates more to the gritty side of the urban environment."