The connoisseur: Camille Walala
With her geometric city murals and pop-up sculptures emblazoning everywhere from London to Hong Kong, chances are you’re already familiar with the technicolour works of Camille Walala. High Life sits down with the London-based French artist to talk fake food, dream cities and how to plan a holiday on Instagram
The last country I fell in love with was Mexico. I only visited the country earlier this year, but I already want to go back and settle in amongst the weavers and pottery artists and painters. The artisan communities of Mexico City and Oaxaca are so incredibly good.
The most memorable souvenir I own is fake food from Japan. You know how restaurants in Tokyo sometimes have fake food outside? To show you what’s on the menu? I got really obsessed with them and bought a fake 1970s-looking flan with a cherry on top and a big strawberry ice-cream sundae. They sit in my studio and are completely ridiculous.
My greatest travel companion is my partner Julia. We love the same things, but our travelling styles are quite different. I’ll be the one finding people for us to meet, she’ll be the one guiding us on Google Maps. We balance each other out.
I destress on holiday the same way I destress at home: with a sketchbook, pencils, paint and a good breakfast. I love being creative on holiday. And I love breakfast.
My most memorable meal was in New York (an amazing city for food) at a place called Crown Shy in the Financial District. It’s hidden away in an Art Deco tower and served the best sticky toffee pudding I’ve had in my life. Runner-up is ABC Ramen, in Ginza, Tokyo. Very low key and authentic.
The best way I get a feel for a new city is by doing a coffee crawl. I’ll zone in on one neighbourhood and research great coffee places to check out. Then it’s just a lot of walking, drinking and settling in.
The way I plan my travels is on Instagram. A lot of the time, I’ll comb through and pin different restaurants, cafés and art studios to my saved collection. I follow many artists on Instagram and will often contact them and arrange a studio visit before I fly.
A great hotel is somewhere that’s worked with local artisans to create it. And somewhere with big windows, great lighting and lots of space so I can work.
The first thing I’ll do when I get to a hotel is go straight back out again. I’m happy to leave everything in my suitcase (my partner will empty out everything right away, she’s much more organised), and focus on getting back outside and into the neighbourhood.
If I could only shop in one place in London, I’d stay loyal to my area and stick to Broadway Market in East London. I do all of my shopping there: 69b for clothes, La Bouche for coffee, Fin and Flounder for fish, The Broadway Bookshop… You’ve got everything on that street now.
If I didn’t live in London, I’d live in the south of France. I was born there but have lived in London for 20 years, so I’m currently debating a move back. I think Marseille, in particular. It’s a seaside city with an emerging artisan scene, which I’d love, and it’d be quite easy to get back to London if I needed to.
My secret to happy travel is connecting with people on the ground, often before I even set off. I always want to be shown a place by a local. I don’t want to figure things out on my own; I want to be taken around studios and introduced to new foods by those who live there and know what’s good.
My artistic obsession is architecture. I love bold, strong lines and Brutalist structures – I’m a big fan of Le Corbusier and his buildings. Also, the work of Luis Barragán in Mexico. Really, anything that’s geometric and filled with colour.
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