Friday, October 2nd 2015
Shoreditch is these days a huge gallery of street art. New paintings are continually appearing at the expense of existing ones that they cover up. Travel along Great Eastern Street, for example, and examine the paintings. Then return a couple of weeks later and there will already be new paintings, older ones having disappeared for ever. We like to tour the area periodically to see what has changed and to photograph new works that appeal to us. We did so this evening on the way home from work.
I will show you some of the paintings that I photographed. There is no longer the stigma attached to ‘graffiti’ that there once was, especially in places like Shoreditch where street art is tolerated. No longer fearing to be arrested, fined and made to scrape off the paint that they have so carefully applied, street artists now often sign their work – but not always. Sometimes, a work will have an obvious title – but not always. In what follows, where I am confident that I know the title, I put it under the picture in bold type. If I am confident that I know the name(s) of the artist(s) I add it or them in italics. Where I don’t know one or the other, I leave a blank.
Some paintings, such as the first one below, may be very wide and fitting them into the dimensions of the blog makes them appear small. So please do click on the images to see larger versions.
The full text of this painting consists of three sentences: I may be a child – I may live on the streets – but I am somebody. It is the work of three artists, Joel Artista, Bec Dennison and Meghan O’Malley, and is probably the most complex of the set. For example, look at the detail in the face:
Today’s street artists generally use spray cans. Whereas once they might have bought these from car accessory shops, they now use special low-pressure cans designed for this purpose. Even so, the level of skill employed is remarkable. As well as working in the open air, many street artists also paint on canvas and sell their paintings through art galleries at eye-watering prices. They have left far behind them the scornful label of ‘graffiti artists’ and I suspect that not a few future Van Goghs and Picassos are to be seen at work in city streets.
The fences erected around building sites, being both smooth-surfaced and extensive, have proved irresistible to street artists, though I think that in many cases their creations are tolerated when not actually invited. There is no doubt in my mind, at any rate, that an ever-changing display of imaginative and dramatic paintings is preferable to acres of grey emulsion.
This figure, with a headdress reminiscent of those in Aztec paintings, is labelled ‘Public Enemy’. As he carries a spray can, is this an ironic reference to street artists? Surely, they are no longer considered public enemies. The figure also carries a torch, traditionally the symbol of knowledge, learning and enlightenment. The painting is signed ‘Lost Souls’, a group of artists who work collaboratively.
We came across this chair in the street. Is it an artwork, an installation, for example? Or just an old chair that no one wants? What gives one pause for thought is that the word Fugazza is written under a caricature of a man’s face. Fugazza is a type of bread but can also be a name. Is this a humorous or mocking portrait of someone called Fugazza? This brings to mind the endless debate around the question ‘What is art?’ If we think we know how to define art then we must be able to say what entities are not art. As I can see no possible way of defining something as not-art, then by the same token I consider it impossible to define art. Art or broken old chair? You decide.
Unlike an artist’s canvas, a wall is not smooth. It may be pierced with windows and other holes; things may be attached to it such as pipes or wiring or the broken remains of sign boards; there may be protrusions such as window sills and overflow spouts. The artist cannot do anything about this but must either camouflage them as well as possible or perhaps incorporate them into the art in some clever way.
Paint is not free. It costs money and artists use a lot of it. There is always the question of how to pay for it. (See also below.) It seems that for this painting, the paint was supplied or paid for the small business called Peter the Pleater whose shop is adjacent to the painting:
Nearby, we were fortunate enough to encounter one of my favourite artists, Amara por Dios, at work.
Gone are the days when ‘graffiti art’ implied a quick squiggle of paint on a unprepared surface. Today’s artists think big and a painting may take from hours to days to finish and may be too large to complete from ground level. It’s not unusual for street artists to come prepared with ladders or other devices for working above floor level. Returning for a moment to the question of finances, you can see in the picture a bucket labelled ‘PAINT FUND’. Well, that’s one way to do it…!
Across the road is another, older, painting by Amara por Dios. This shows, incidentally, that street artists are not coy about using surfaces that are a little difficult to access. You obviously have to be fit to be a street artist!
I photographed these two paintings together though I think they are by different artists. I’m not sure sure that any of the signatures in the vicinity apply to them.
This untitled painting is by one of Tigger’s favourite painters, Dan Kitchener, who also sometimes signs himself DANK. He specializes in rainy urban landscapes, particularly at night when the scenes are lit by artificial lighting, including the lights of vehicles passing in the street. I would characterize his style as ‘impressionist’ (using a small ‘i’), giving his pictures dreamy, almost mythical quality. He captures wet-surface reflections and the halo effect of wet air on lamps to perfection.
This picture of Clint Eastwood, presumably taken from the film A Fistful of Dollars, is by John Bulley, or John Bulley Art, as he signs himself. He’s perhaps a fan of Clint Eastwood – or his screen alter ego – and this may explain the plaintive note that appears on the blue background below Clint’s right ear. It reads as follows:
“I wish I was like Clint Eastwood
in a fistful of dollars…
I wouldn’t be afraid anymore…”
I have no reason to suppose that it is not the artist who wrote that but the inclusion of inverted commas made me wonder whether this is a quotation from somewhere. If so, I have not been able to find the source.
I think I have already included this portrait in a previous post but if so, I haven’t found which one. I don’t know who the artist is but it is a splendid piece of caricature, completed to a high-quality finish. Is this a real person? If it is, then I expect anyone who knows him would immediately recognize him from this portrait which conveys both physical appearance and personality.
This final example is by Olivier Roubieu .Entitled Cee-Roo, it advertises Cee-Roo and Soundcloud (Switzerland). I usually skip blatant advertising but tthis can perhaps be classed as a painting expressive of the artist’s admiration and interest in Cee-Roo and Soundcloud. I also have to admit that I haven’t the faintest idea what they are! Perhaps you, dear reader, are less ignorant than I.