This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 14/08/2017.
REVEALED: This is the artist behind the stunning ‘Banksy-esque’ Princess Diana mural in Croydon
The artist behind a stunning mural of Princess Diana, which has recently appeared on a historic building in Croydon town centre, can be revealed.
The mural sprung up on a black hoarding on the former pumping station in Exchange Square and caused debate as to whether it had been created by the world-renowned artist Banksy.
However, the piece of art was actually sketched by Croydon-based artist Rich Simmons who was flattered by the speculation online that it was comparable to the work of the elusive graffiti artist.
“Banksy is one of my heroes and the artist who inspired me to get into stencils but I’m trying to focus on being my own artist and doing my own thing,” said Rich – who only completed the project at the weekend.
The 30-year-old, who has made a name for himself partly through creating some breathtaking murals across Croydon, explained that the idea of doing a Princess Diana mural has been one he has had for some time.
He added: “I walk past the water tower every day and I have had the idea of doing a princess in the top window for a year now.
“That idea evolved into Princess Diana locked away in the tower waiting for a new prince but the only people chasing her still are the paparazzi.
“Even as a ghost trapped in the fairytale castle, she is the one being haunted by the press.”
For a previous piece Rich used a cherry-picker to sketch another stunning mural, depicting a gay kiss, on the side of a wall on Don’s Café, near Matthews Yard.
Because, he still had the cherry-picker for a few more days Rich thought it was the ideal time to put the stencil drawing of Princess Diana up on the pumping station, adding it on July 30.
Mr Simmons then waited a fortnight to finish off the artwork, and on Saturday (August 12) he added in the drawing of the paparazzi looking up at Princess Diana.
Before the piece had even been completed, the mural sparked a debate as to whether it had been created by Banksy.
Rich added: “I live next to the pumping tower and see that tower pretty much every day. I remember sitting in Brgr&Beer last year and saying it had perfect backboards and from that I got the idea of a princess being locked in the tower.
“She was arguably haunted by the paparazzi [at the time of her death] and she is always in the media still to this day – so that is why they are looking up at her.
“Once the artwork was finished I was happy to put my name to it. I think it is really cool that people were considering the artwork to be a Banksy as I consider him a genius, so for them to think that it is something in his league is a compliment.
“It had a lot of people talking about it and debating whether or not it was a Banksy.
“But it is not a Banksy – it is by me.”
Rich has a studio in Croydon’s arts quarter in St George’s Walk and has been working with the RISE Gallery to grow the art scene in the borough.
Kevin Zuchowski-Morrison, who is the owner of the RISE Gallery, thinks the Princess Diana mural is a brilliant piece of work.
He said: “Rich’s work continues to excite me and this new piece in the tower is one of his best yet.
“To use the tower in the narrative of the piece is very clever and I can see why people thought it was a Banksy.”
Mr Simmons says he is taking a brief break from designing art on the streets of Croydon, and will be flying out to South Korea and New York over the next few weeks to take part in new projects – but he vowed that his next work in the borough will be even “bigger and better”.