There’s no doubt that interest in street art is growing. Around the World, the movement is evolving, cities are getting involved, books are been written and festivals are being arranged.
It’s becoming a bit of a phenomenon and one which has really captured the imagination. In London, organisations such as Global Street Art and Street Art London have led the way in terms of bringing public art to the cities. Whilst knowledgeable experts from the likes of Shoreditch Street Art Tours and Alternative London have begun to meet growing consumer demand by putting on more and more guided street art tours packed with enthusiastic tour guides and eager tourists.
Street Art it would seem really is evolving and that’s an area we’ve touched on before at Inspiring City. In fact I’m not even sure that the terms ‘street art’ or ‘graffiti’ are even that helpful any more, they are easy to say but all too often find themselves polarised and don’t necessarily represent my view on what the art form really is. Rather, I prefer ‘urban art’ that is art in an urban space which could be lettering, more traditional picture based images, installation or anything else you could think that might fit neatly into this latest little box.
Even professional speech organisation TED have realised that there is a lot of interest in this subject. The topic formed one of the centrepieces of the latest TEDx show which took place in Limassol, Cyprus earlier this year with French artist Zabou giving one of the key note speeches on exactly that subject. Her seminar ‘From Graffiti to Street Art, the evolving nature of Urban Art’ was part of a series of seminars exploring topics with the overarching narrative of ‘Everything you know is wrong’.
Zabou is representative of a new wave of artist. Originally from France she works as a graphic designer in London whilst steadily building a reputation for herself around the World as her art constantly evolves and she continues to get bolder and braver. To be asked to speak at a TED conference is a big recognition of that and the narrative meant that Zabou could address her thoughts on the changing nature of the art form.
What could have been a big ask of the 24 year old, who has never done any previous public speaking, was met head on as she tackled the subject of what is the evolution of graffiti and street art. Alongside some insightful commentary on the subject she also managed to tackle areas such as women in street art, how to bring street art into the community and the re-generational potential of street art in urban spaces.
Of course we are a little bit bias too, Zabou has long been someone we’ve enjoyed following. She featured as one of this blog’s first set piece interviews in 2013 when her art started to pop up in places such as Dalston in the East End. We’ve enjoyed covering her work and we’ve seen her style evolve into one of the most accomplished stencil artists around at the moment. Far be it from us to boast, but we reckon we can spot talent when we see it.
It was this relationship which also put us into a good position to help when the opportunity to give the talk came along. Public speaking is no walk in the park at the best of times never mind the fact that to be asked to speak at TED in front of a paying audience is one of the biggest stages there is. Luckily we’ve got a bit of experience in this area and a few coaching sessions gave us the opportunity to help work with Zabou so that come the day she was as prepared as she could be. It was a great experience and Zabou ended up producing an excellent speech which you can watch below.
Watching the speech on a live stream from Cyprus in the heart of the East End was perhaps not as glorious as being there enjoying the Cypriot sun but it was pretty close. Her take on the ‘Everything you know is wrong’ theme centered around the misconceptions that she herself has come across during her time painting on the street. Themes such as the growing acceptability in communities across the country, the fact that women are now more involved with street art now than ever and the transformational potential of street art were all addressed.
There is no doubt that over a year and a half since our first meeting with Zabou, this exciting young French artist is growing into a really exciting street art talent. As we approach the end of 2014 with more projects planned for the coming months and well into the new year, Zabou is one of the artists you really need to know about and definitely one you need to watch.
Zabou is a French street artist living in London, she spoke at the TEDx Limassol conference in Cyprus on 22 October 2014 and her website is www.zabou.me. An Inspiring City interview with her can also be read here.