The 30-year-old artist, known for his vivid colors and thick, gestural strokes, did not always feel such affection for his hometown. "It didn't really do anything for me at first," he says from his studio in Bermondsey, East London. "Then, suddenly, it became this incredible, beautiful place. I got inspired by it — the shapes, the light. I began to feel like a Londoner."
He's hoping that passion rubs off on the rest of the city's inhabitants. "This exhibition is about how these views of London are disappearing in people's minds because they're mundane and overfamiliar," he explains. "I want to reintroduce people; get them excited about their surroundings."
But London isn't Jafri's only obsession. In May, he helped launch the international art campaign "Blood on Our Hands," with George Clooney and Don Cheadle, to raise awareness about the genocide in Darfur. Jafri is one of six artists, along with Damien Hirst, Peter Blake and Yoko Ono, creating images using handprints collected from celebrities, human rights activists and politicians. The pieces will go on tour in September.
Clooney and Cheadle aren't Jafri's only boldfaced pals. David Beckham, Kevin Spacey, Jude Law, Sophie Dahl and Prince Albert of Monaco are among Jafri's collectors, and he has been touted by British critics as one of the most exciting painters on the contemporary art scene.
And Jafri is just fine with that. "You're always an artist inside, but you're never sure that you can make that your reality," he says. "It's only been the last collection where I've suddenly realized, 'Oh my god! I'm an artist! That's what I do.'"