The Compton Cricket Club: Where Cricket and Gang Tattoos Meet
A few miles south of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood lies Compton, an area of Los Angeles synonymous with poverty and crime. It was from this environment twenty years ago that Compton Cricket Club was formed as an initiative to help encourage and empower the disaffected youth of a neighbourhood pulsing with gangs and lawlessness. It is their amazing story, rich in character and powerful in emotion that I am inspired to paint.
Those are the words of British artist Edward Sutcliffe who is currently exhibiting a selection of portraits of the Compton Cricket Club players at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Compton Cricket Club was set up in 1995 in one of the most notorious areas in LA and is used as a beacon of safety and structure, it is also a place where gang tattoos and cricket live side by side. Sutcliffe chose to document members of the Compton CC after winning the £6,000 BP Travel Award.
“Everyone knows about Compton, about the connotations of gangsters and crime...Then you have this apparent oxymoron of a genteel Victorian English game being played there. That was what attracted me.”
The Compton CC was started over 20 years ago by homelessness activist Ted Hayes and movie producer Katy Haber as a way of helping disadvantaged and vulnerable young people off the streets and away from the gang violence that is daily life in the area. So instead of joining the Bloods or the Crips kids in Compton could play cricket and stay out of trouble. It was the successful clash of worlds that Sutcliffe wanted to catch and he spent hours sketching and painting the team members before completing his final portraits.
The portraits by Sutcliffe are as bold and varied as the players themselves, two sitters Ricardo and Steve had both spent time in prison and both wore gang tattoos!
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“With the portrait of Ricardo, I wanted to combine the tattoos, those visual aspects of his presence, with a rather regal and traditional portrait – one that you might see at the MCC or even in the upstairs galleries of the National Portrait Gallery...It seems to encapsulate what Compton Cricket Club is about.”
Sutcliffe's portraits are an awesome collection of art that show how two opposing cultures can come together and create something beautiful. They also include some serious ink love, because what's more eye catching than a cricket player with gang tattoos!! Be sure to head over to Sutcliffe's website and see more of his brilliant work!