This year has seen some real quality street art around the environs of London with the East End in particular playing host to some of the Worlds best artists. Combined with the home grown talent who regularly add their mark to the walls of the capital, it makes for an eclectic mix.
For Inspiring City, the end of 2013 marks the first full year of this blog. In that time I’ve been able to document the ever changing walls of city, speak to many of the artists and visit many of the shows and exhibitions which pop up around this area. So far the blog has achieved just short of 40,000 views and hopefully provides a valuable resource for finding out a few of the Inspiring things about London. It has even built a decent little following and I am so very grateful for the contributions of everyone who reads and who interact with the blog in some way or another either on wordpress, facebook, email, twitter, instagram, tumblr or pinterest. It keeps the blog going and it keeps me on my feet.
So without further ado here we have the Inspiring City review of 2013 with some great art and some great artists, here’s to an equally inspiring 2014.
The year started with a bit of a bang when Italian artist Alice Pasquini visited town painting a number of murals, a regular visitor to the area she has a lovely whymsical style and her portraits are always a treat to come across. The other big artist present on the London streets in January was Sheffield’s Phlegm, one of the biggest street artists in the UK, an illustrator who paints big fantastical characters. His village Underground wall was the first of the year and was spectacular. This wall, painted by big name artists from around the world has been organised by Street Art London and has become one of the must see spots on the street art tour of Shoreditch.
For me one of the the biggest moments of the year was in February and was again at the Village Underground wall when local artist Stik collaborated with Frenchman Thierry Noir to produce one of the pieces of the year. It was a tour de force by Street Art London to get these two together and I remember waiting around in the cold to watch them finish. Noir stuck around for a bit and painted a number of walls in the area, he was famous for painting the Berlin Wall with his unique characters before it fell and when it was really quite risky to do so.
Another French artist also visited town this month was Christian Guemy, sometimes better known by his tag C215. In the same vein as Alice Pasquini he produces stencil portraits which are pretty special. Unfortunately he found his work falling victim to vandalism by people who either didn’t like him or his work and they were quickly tagged over.
As a final treat and to continue the French based theme of the month, London based trio Animaux Circus painted the hoardings on the side of Great Eastern Street with an elaborate marriage proposal. The three designers specialise in brightly coloured illustrations and their work is great to see. It got a good response and they have continued to make bright fun murals throughout the year.
March was a bit of a quiet month for the blog but there were some highlights including the next Village Underground wall to catch the eye from the Rolling People, renowned for their elaborate pop-cartoon style and big murals. The Great Eastern Street hoardings also got another bright facelift from David Shillinglaw and local based artist Benjamin Murphy put on a solo exhibition of his tape art at the Bear Gallery.
It was two female artists who caught my eye during April primarily due to their fun and cartoony style, they even collaborated producing one of my favourite pieces of the year on Club Row. Artista and Binty Bint are fun to look at, Bint favours the Leake Street tunnel and her snooty chickens can be seen adding a little bit of colour to that dingy place. Artista draws little triangle people in a whole variety of situations. She collaborated with a number of artists during the first half of the year and produced some of the best and most fun murals of the year.
May was a busy month, Swedish artist Amara ‘Por’ Dios visited the city and held her first solo show ‘Piece of Mined‘ at the Bear Gallery on Great Eastern Street and even painted the hoardings outside as part of Global Street Art’s Walls Project. She paints some fantastical and colourful characters and it has been no suprise that she stuck around and has now produced a number of murals around the city. Also during the month Belgian artist ROA returned to London to paint a huge and spectacular mural in Bethnal Green, it was his work in London that really made this exceptional artists name and now he paints his huge animals all over the world. His return to the city was a welcome one and his mural didn’t disappoint. Another artist to make a stir, not only during May but over the rest of the year too was Italian artist Alo. Painting on walls and old posters to make them look like paste ups, he has a unique style and his work has been popping up everywhere.
One artist who really made a splash during May though was Chinese talent DALeast. He visited the city to put on a show and produced one of the best outdoor galleries seen in the city all year. Seven pieces of work were created in and around Shoreditch and all on an exceptional scale. Spotting them was one of the highlights of the artistic year and produced many photographs on many a street art tour. His orange tigers on Hanbury Street and Pedley Street where the highlights for me but even the best art doesn’t last long in Shoreditch and they have long since been painted over. At the time of this post, his remaining pieces can be found in Shoreditch on Dereham Street and on Sclater Street
Finally May, already an exceptional month saw two festivals of note, the Streetfest celebration of street culture in Shoreditch and the Baroque the Streets festival in Dulwich. Both were good but the latter, an arrangement between the Dulwich Picture Galleries Ingrid Beazley and Street Art London, brought a whole new dimension to the term ‘street art’. This blog has posted a number of times about this innovative festival bringing art to the suburbs and has even been classified in it’s own right as an Outdoor Gallery, perhaps the first of it’s kind. The work here is some of the best in London featuring some really top talent and what’s more it’s continually being added to. The Dulwich Outdoor Gallery is linked to the Dulwich Picture Gallery in that the majority of the works on the street have taken, in some way, inspiration from works of the baroque hanging in the Picture Gallery itself.
Ben Naz’s F**K you Cancer event saw the Leake Street Tunnel totally transformed with a paint jam during June with some great artists featured. Naz, himself an artist, has been recovering himself from Cancer and a number of events where hosted to raise money for Cancer Research. Another exhibition worth seeing was the Street Art London show featuring RUN and Dscreet with Italian artist RUN having also painted the Village Underground wall.
Other highlights included a new and cool piece from Sweet Toof and Paul Insect popping up in the courtyard of an old abandoned building opposite Bromley By Bow tube station and an interview with London based French street artist Zabou. I’d been impressed with Zabou’s work as it popped up around Dalston in the first half of the year, she tends to paint empowered women in a variety of society confronting scenarios. Although not the first interview of the year it was the first pre-arranged as she painted at the Dalston Social Club becoming one of the first in a line of Inspiring Interviews throughout the rest of the year.
There were a number of talented street artists who visited the city during July. Of all the most noticable, Spaniard Francisco De Pajaro’s imaginative use of trash took the world of street art by storm. Turning up just as the bins were turned out Francisco transformed the rubbish on the streets using his Art Is Trash tag into fun characters and it become the ultimate in ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’ art.
Also during July the blog covered work from French and Austrian duo Jana & JS, the incredible Hanbury Street Octo-Elephant piece from Alexis Diaz and the boat art on the Thames organised by Propa Stuff and featuring some excellent artists. It also saw the return of the excellent Whitecross Street Party and an interview for the blog with Brazilian artist Mateus Bailon. Bailon had been drawing fantastic birds and fishes around the city and was beginning to get a bit of a name for himself.
The Hackney Wicked festival saw the Wick and it’s many artists open their doors to the public for a celebration of art in the area. This is a great festival and shows off the Wick at it’s best, I’ve been there a number of times this year and the Wick is becoming ever more interesting in terms of the art on display. The month also saw the Southbank festival in Waterloo celebrating street culture, a whole weekend dedicated to it. Stik painted an interactive mural on which members of the public contributed by adding their own little additions, it was great way to get people engaged with street art and the artists. Also painting murals in the area, the likes of Dan Kitchener and the Lost Souls crew painting in the centre of town and attracting large crowds.
August also saw the coming of a number of Brazilian artists adding their mark to the area and supported by Pigment an organisation supporting Brazilian artists coming to the country. Alex Senna, Cranio and Mag Magrela visited and painted all over the place including some spectacular sleeping giants near to the Blackwall Tunnel. Another combination of artists were brought together in Walthamstow as Global Street Art joined forces with local campaigners to paint a mural in a dingy underpass in the marsh. The resultant mural was a huge advancement on the nothingness there previously.
Finally there were a couple of Inspiring Interviews in August with Hannah Adamaszek, an up and coming artist who paints some lovely native american inspired strong women and Martin Ron, an established Argentinian muralist. With Hannah I first met her at the Streetfest event in Shoreditch and was intrigued when I found out that she would soon have her first solo show at Whitecross Streets Curious Duke Gallery. Her work is a favourite of mine and I look forward to seeing what she’ll come up with next year.
Martin Ron had come to town to paint the famous Village Underground wall, producing one of the pieces of art of the year, a satire on the Badger Cull. He was supported whilst here by Buenos Aires Street Art and back in his home town, the Argentinian is well known for his enormous surrealist murals .
Having spent a few weeks travelling round Europe after finishing his Village Underground wall, Martin Ron returned to London to paint another huge mural next to the ROA Crane on Hanbury Street. In such an iconic spot this could really only be pulled off by an artist of his calibre and of course he did it producing a hand-standing bearskin guard. He is the master of the surreal of that there is no mistake. He may well come back to the city in 2014 and we may expect some spectacular additions if he does.
Some key shows during September included the Hannah Adamaszek show at the Curious Duke Gallery and it was at the show that I interviewed Eleni Duke the owner and curator of the gallery. In the two years the gallery has been open it has supported new talented artists and showcased some of the best work around. In fact the Curious Duke become a regular feature in the blog and it was also here that I first met German artist Kef who himself became the focus of an Inspiring Interview. Kef’s work had always intrigued and his harmonic patterns are fun to look at, he is always innovating and evolving his style, there will be more to see from Kef and the Curious Duke in 2014.
Further shows this month included the long looked forward to ‘George the Dog, John the Artist‘ with work by John Dolan and others in Shoreditch. Dolan had been sitting in the same spot every day for the past three years painting the world around him. He had been in and out of prison and at one point was homeless. The show brought together street artists from around the world who worked on top of drawings from Dolan himself. Another show of note was the ‘Orchid and White Foxes‘ exhibition from Japanese born London local Saki & Bitches. Saki was also interviewed by the blog and her show was a treat, prior to it she had been putting up her unique instantly recognisable cartoonesque women all over Shoreditch.
Big news in October was the Moniker Art Fair, which combined with the ‘Other Art Fair’ on Brick Lane produced one of the biggest art weekends of the year attracting artists from all over the world. I was able to interview a number of people over the course of the weekend including American muralist Beau Stanton who produced a oil painted sinking ship on Pedley Street and Alex Face a Thai artist who along with his friend MueBon painted a number of murals all over town. One of the highlights though of the fair for me was the interview with Greek Artist Ser whose art satirises the Greek economy and who has a fun cartoon style. His work with Simoni Fontana was some of my favourite of the year.
Also in October, the street art themed Far Rockaway Bar on Curtain Road opened to the public for the first time with work on the walls from over 100 artists. I visited just before opening day and spoke to a number of people involved in the development of Shoreditchs latest hip venue including artists Saki & Bitches and Yvonne Wayling as well as the curator of much of the art on display, Ben Oakley of Ben Oakley’s Gallery. It’s a great addition to the Shoreditch scene and has played a key role in supporting artists since it has opened.
November saw more shows and more interviews, fellow blogger Stephanie Sadler, the Little London Observationist put on an exhibition of her photographs. Using crowd sourced funding from Kickstarter she managed to put on her first solo show at the Chance Gallery in Chelsea. Stephanie has often supported artists and people around London with her blog so it was great to see so many people supporting her in what was a great show.
London’s Louis Masai also had a show in November but in Bristol. Masai has to be one of the most talented artists around, a campaigner for the protection of endangered species his work often represents those species at risk. ‘Last of my Kind’ focused on birds and he produced a number of works which celebrated the majesty of some of the worlds most spectacular and endangered species.
Finally the Cre8 Gallery in Hackney Wick put on a couple of shows one after the other, the first with Italian artist Hunto a regular feature on the streets of London showcasing his unique Picasso inspired style. The second with Brighton based artist Req, a street art pioneer having started life as a graffiti writer in the early 80’s. Both were interviewed on the blog and put the Cre8 Gallery on the Inspiring map.
After the interview fest of the previous month, December returned to some good old wandering around and an invitation from Nokia to try our their new camera phone, the Lumia 1020, was too good to turn down. Led on a tour around Shoreditch from Dave ‘NoLionsinEngland’ Stuart, founder of Shoreditch Street Art Tours, a whole bunch of street art and lifestyle bloggers were led around the area spotting art and taking pictures. It was a really fun day and good to see so many like minded people enjoying the art.
December was also the first time I’d really explored Camden Town which over recent months has seen some great art going into the area. Often supported by The Real Art of Street Art, the area is growing in street art popularity and there is some great works to see. Another area visited, and not for the first time, was Hackney Wick. Accompanied by street artist Kef we we’re looking for places to paint and ended up pounding the streets looking into every nook and cranny.
Finally there were two shows of sorts in December, the Nero exhibition with collaboration work from Benjamin Murphy and Italian artist Millo who I interviewed. The show ‘Nero’ was a perfect blend of both their styles painting as they do in cartoony black and white. The other was another collaboration although this time it featured original hand drawn paste ups on the streets of London from My Dog Sighs and Portsmouth based artist Midge. The works are of such high quality they were a delight to come across and I did my best to find them all although I doubt I did. The two created a bit of a sensation with the work they produced and the resultant outdoor gallery of their work was something special to finish off the year.
So there we have it, the Inspiring City review of the year. In 2014 the plan is to keep going and to evolve the blog, with more features, more interviews, a bit more history and of course all the very best art on display. For more Inspiring City reviews of the year have a look here and here.