Saturday, April 25th 2015
We decided to take a little walk around the Spitalfields area. There is always plenty going on there and the neighbourhood is interesting in itself. Today it is part of the City of London but in the past it has been the arrival point of several waves of immigration and continues to be so still today.
In times past, the Huguenot silk weavers set up their looms in houses in these streets and today it is a stronghold of the Bangladeshi community. Houses built in the 17th century stand cheek-by-jowl with modern office tower blocks.
Historical traces abound as here where this splendid set of four sculptures of bakery workers decorates the front of a 1926 building that was once the Nordheim Model Bakery. The artist was Philip Lindsey Clark.
Broad thoroughfares heavy with traffic alternate with narrow alleys, passages and courts, still alive with small shops and taverns as they were in the 17th century.
On the corner of Artillery Lane and Crispin Street, we found two doors or, rather what had been doors but were now windows. There was one for men and another for women. But why?
Because every evening, from 5 pm, up to 300 men, women and children would seek a place to sleep here. This was a Catholic charity that opened in 1860 in Providence Row but moved here in 1868. Its facilities were unusually good for the time and once in, people could stay for up to three weeks, though in theory they needed a reference to say that they were people of good character worthy of such support. Later the building became the Convent of Mercy but is today used as a student residence under a new name, Lilian Knowles House. The original charity, now known simply as Providence Row, continues to work for the homeless.
We crossed Brushfield Street and entered Spitalfields Market, emerging from the other side of it into Lamb Street. Here there is a small open area with benches.
Here we found a sculpture. It is called Vortex and it was made by Barbara Sandler at the behest of St George PLC, a development company. (Click to see a slide show of views.) From one side it looks entirely abstract but from another side seems to represent a crouching man.
We were now heading into street art country and in Hanbury Street found this large panel, apparently entitled Evoca1 and signed by Pixel Pancho. The artist is Italian and seems very prolific, as you can see for yourself on his Facebook and Flickr pages. (I had to remove obstructing bystanders for this photo – see below.)
In the doorway next to the painting is a three-dimensional figure. Lounging drunkenly with a drinking vessel in his hand, this seems to be an effigy of Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. I do not know of any embarrassing incidents in this man’s life involving booze but Johnson has been known to boast of his capacity for alcoholic beverages – for example, see here. I do not know who the artist is.
In a nearby yard, two large paintings grace the end of a building. The monochrome big bird is probably by Roa, well known for his large animals. The hand-standing guardsman is signed by Martin Ron. You may notice that this painting runs over a white framework incorporated into the building. Whereas the guardsman is painted over the framework, as though this does not exist, his jacket, in contrast, is folded over one of the crossbars. Both images have already been encroached on by graffiti, much as bread, if not protected, acquires mould.
A few yards further along Hanbury Street we find this red head in profile, seemingly severed but held on a green support, girt with a golden chain. The face looks alive but is it perhaps a glove puppet? The left end has been partially obscured by a set of eight paste-ups. The artist is unknown to me as I could see no signature. These paintings succeed one another fairly quickly (as a glance at Google Street View quickly affirms) and next time we pass this way, I expect another painting will occupy this space just as it has itself replaced what preceded it.
Still in Hanbury Street, this wall has been turned into an art gallery. While most of the paintings could have been made by artists standing on the pavement, some intrepid souls have placed objects higher up, presumably by using ladders. (Click to see a larger version.)
A few more steps along the road and we came upon an artist at work. I used the caption ‘Busted!’ because when he saw me taking the photo he looked rather guilty. Possibly he thought I was collecting evidence or something. He calmed down when I enquired how long it would take him to complete the work (three to four hours) and we parted amicably. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask his name… You can see on the ground between us a set of stencils. He had used these the sketch out the main lines of the painting.
This painting occupies a whole wall. It is so perfectly finished that I suspect it has been commissioned. What it lacks in spontaneity and the vigorous but loose brushwork of typical wall art it gains in precision of line and perfection of finish. I could see no signature. (Click to see a larger version.)
Most street art is static. It may get painted over after a few days or weeks but, in the meantime, it stays where it is. But there is also art that moves. The first time I saw what I then characterized as a “graffiti van” was in 2007 during our trip to Paris (see here). Since then, I have seen more and more painted vans and the one pictured is but a single example of a growing trend.
In Princelet Street, a doorway is home to a rather angelic figure by Mondi Studios. While the figure itself and the artist’s name are original, I suspect that some of the additions are later intrusions. Mondi seems rather fond of full-bosomed ladies with angel’s wings.
Finding ourselves in Brick Lane, we revisited the yard of the defunct pub Seven Stars (see Floating books and wall art (2) ). The yard seems to have been taken over by someone as a car park but its walls continue to display an ever-changing parade of wall art. The pair of portraits above are by Kaes (aka Jay Caes) and Tizer, respectively.
In the above mentioned post, you will see a panorama shot in which an artist is preparing a section on wall for his painting. The above is very possibly the work that followed and is signed by 0707. The two portraits above this one are to the left of 0707’s painting and if you look at the panorama, you will see that they are not yet present. (I suspect that the smaller face at bottom left is an intrusion.)
This sensitively drawn head of a chick is signed “HOR ROR”. I have not found an artist of that name but there is a group called Horror Crew. Is this by one of them?
In one corner of the yard and obstructed by a parked car (and by someone else, as I explain below), is this complex crowd scene by Misha Most. Cheerful civilians are hedged about by grim-faced soldiers. A warning about possibly futures, perhaps.
At weekends, there are many people viewing the street art and taking photos. That’s fine, and I am happy to await my turn, moving away as soon as I have finished to let others have their go. This afternoon, however, we were dogged by a couple who seemed to consider it acceptable to stand or sit in front of paintings while discussing their photos. They obviously thought themselves more entitled than the rest of us. I had to wait quite some time for them to move so I could get the above picture. They also got in my way when photographing Evoca1 (see above). In fact, I was reduced to taking the photo with them in it. If you can’t see them, that is because I applied a little editing magic and managed to eradicate them but if you look closely at the picture you might see the traces of how I did it…
Next to Misha Most’s painting is this one, the word “STAR” formed by inflated letters. It is so well done that you almost expect to see yourself reflected in the shiny surface of the letters. As a realstic representation, it could not be bettered and shows both observational and artistic skill. Unfortunately, I do not know the name of the artist. (Update: the artist is, of course, Fanakapan.)
As well as paintings, there are three-dimensional figures. Should we call them ‘sculptures’? Or perhaps ‘installations’? It doesn’t matter what you call them. They are there to surprise, amuse or mystify us and ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’.
Before we took the bus home, my attention was caught by number 47 Brick Lane or, rather, the door of that establishment. What looked like an abandoned shop claims to be Suzzle, ‘British restaurant · Art gallery · Deli’, according to its Facebook entry.
The rather haunting painting of a female face is signed by Dank, the brush name1 of Dan Kitchener whose Web site you will find here.
1I assume that if a writer can have a pen name, the name under which he publishes his writing, then an artist can have a brush name with which he signs his paintings.