By day she’s a pop star, but by night she’s a guerrilla graffiti artist whose work is bought by Brad Pitt. The identity of the musician finding critical and popular acclaim as the female Banksy is a secret shared with only her manager, her mother and Banksy himself
Some of the stars with whom she mingles are currently snapping up edgy graffiti images by cult street artist Bambi. What they do not know is who painted them.
For the identity of the musician finding critical and popular acclaim as the female Banksy is a secret shared with only her manager, her mother and Banksy himself.
To protect it, and her identity, she works at dawn, in white overalls, dust mask and goggles, to the sound of urban foxes squealing.
She often erects a tent marked ‘Danger – Workmen’ to camouflage herself against the cityscape that is her easel.
Now the work, which burst onto the international stage with a portrait of Amy Winehouse on the wall of a north London supermarket in 2011, is sought after by A-listers such as the Beckhams, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Kate Moss and Rihanna.
Bambi, however, is still on the run. She scatters tantalising clues in her wake but when Event tracked her down – by phone, not in person – she was determined to maintain the mystery that is consuming the art world on both sides of the Atlantic.
What we found out is beguiling. Bambi drives an Aston Martin (she loves all things Bond), wears designer clothes (Vivienne Westwood and Agent Provocateur) and has a penchant for Paul A Young handmade chocolates.
She is a karate black belt who swims every morning and runs at weekends. She will not reveal her age – although sources suggest she is in her early 30s.
We know she was born in Liverpool Road, Islington, north London, the daughter of a jazz musician (her father, who died three years ago) and a prosperous artist (her mother), in Hoxton, east London.
Her father nicknamed her Bambi, after the Italian word Bambino (or child).
‘I cannot recall him calling me anything else,’ she says.
Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend (left) and the Amy Winehouse portrait (right) which introduced Bambi. The artist is determined to maintain the mystery that is consuming the art world on both sides of the Atlantic
Just as she reveals, Bambi is careful to conceal, painting a picture of a nomadic childhood.
‘I’ve been to 22 schools. We lived in several countries, the States, Canada, France and ending up in the UK.’
She will confirm that she went to the City & Guilds of London Art School, in Kennington, south London, before doing an MA at St Martin’s School of Art. After college she became distracted by music, eventually making her name as an international pop star.
These tantalising clues have led to increased speculation. Could Bambi be the flamboyant north London based pop star Paloma Faith?
She seems the perfect fit. Faith attended St Martin’s, is the right age, is well known for her artistic take on pop and even used to work in Agent Provocateur.
But when we call City & Guilds they claim she was not a former student there. What about the rapper M.I.A.?
She too has the right credentials and went to St Martin’s but claims she was born in Hounslow, not the Liverpool Road.
Whoever she is, Bambi does admit she has followed careers in both music and the arts.
‘I just didn’t know which way to go first,’ she explains. ‘In the back of my mind there was always this unfulfilled passion, my big love, which is painting,’ she says.
She has been working as a graffiti artist for six years now (‘It’s like coming back home’) and has watched the art form grow from an outlet for the disillusioned to a multi-million pound industry.
Unlike Banksy, whose work is a running commentary on war, globalisation, child poverty and other social issues, hers is less politicised.
Her best known piece is the Winehouse portrait, with its row of interlaced hearts suggesting the real warmth of a personal relationship.
The tribute appeared on the singer’s birthday, two months after she died of alcohol abuse.
It was unveiled from a workman’s tent 24 hours after Bambi had completed it, by which time she was at home safe from both police (she has been arrested twice, once in the UK and once in Canada) and the prying eyes of her music fans.
‘I love Amy,’ she tells me, ‘and I knew her, so I have many amazing memories to work from. I painted her twice, once using an album cover.’
It’s another clue: but still doesn’t tell us who she is. Nor do her other works, although they suggest she loves her home country.
They include a cheeky Royal wedding picture of William and Kate, draped in bunting, and titled A Bit Like Marmite, bought by Brad Pitt for fiancée Angelina Jolie in reproduction form in 2011.
The following year there was a young Queen Elizabeth II on the throne playing cards with the tagline ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,’ and a stunning bright yellow vision of Mo Farah.
She has also painted David Beckham, whom she knows in her other life, the one she lives behind the red velvet rope of celebrity.
‘I have met David Beckham in my life as a singer – he looks and smells very sexy – but he hasn’t a clue that I am Bambi,’ she says.
Her portrait of him, painted on a metal sheet, hangs on a wall at Beckham’s home, while a second, paper version, has pride of place in the ex-England star’s favourite greasy spoon, Tony’s Pie And Mash shop in Waltham Abbey, Essex.
So she’s playing an interesting game with not just the fans who make pilgrimages to view her newly unveiled graffiti but also with those with deeper pockets who can afford her work. It’s hard to know how long she’ll be able to keep hidden.
She’s taking lessons from Banksy, the godfather of graffiti with whom she held a joint exhibition, ‘When Bambi met Banksy’ in London last year.
‘We’re like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in the film Mr & Mrs Smith,’ she says.
‘We don’t discuss our day jobs. I love having a secret life. It is like being a spy and it’s easier to be anonymous because I’m already in the public eye.’
PUBLISHED: 22:00, 23 August 2014 | UPDATED: 22:42, 23 August 2014