The 2014 Inspiring City London Art Review of the Year
The second full year of Inspiring City has seen the blog diversify into different genres and a spreading of our wings into different parts of London. We’ve interviewed artists, seen a lot of shows, taken a huge amount of pictures and slowly but surely begun to build relationships within the fast growing London art scene.
This year has been jam packed with events and the blog has seen itself move away from it’s traditional home of street art into many different areas of the art scene in the city. Although street art remains a focus for us the landscape for the medium seems to be changing. Although the quality art is still flowing there seems to be now more emphasis on the gallery show or the paint jam with a number of big set piece events taking place. Kickstarter and the rise of crowd funding has also caught the imagination and that has opened up a new avenue for artists who want to find a different form of outlet in order to express themselves.
So in order to celebrate the year in style and in the best way we know how here is the 2014 London Art Review of the Year from Inspiring City.
It was a slow start to the year with the weather preventing a lot of outdoor activity from going on and the galleries in a bit of a lull after the Christmas period. It prompted us to get out and about a bit exploring the likes of Brixton and Trinity Buoy Wharf in order to discover the street art outside the East End bubble. We also looked at the art of Jonesy with a special feature on the work of one of London’s most mysterious yet talented artists. Described as the artist who “is our little secret” his work is always pointed out on street art tours yet a google search of him didn’t yield much so we thought we’d explore his art a little.
Show wise, towards the end of the month we featured a couple, the first from Japanese artist Aito who packed out the Graffik Gallery in West London and the second by the London Urban Sketchers who showcased their work at the Timberyard in Covent Garden”>London Urban Sketchers. It was to be the inaugural exhibition put on in this cool little coffee shop in the heart of the bustling West End.
February saw the first set piece experiential show from new gallery on the block, the Howard Griffin recently opened on Shoreditch High Street. The popular street artist Phlegm turned the space into an immersive experience that would set the benchmark for this type of exhibition and prompt the Griffin to think about ways in which they could match it for any future shows they might have planned. Phlegm has long been a favourite on the street art scene and this show was unique in that believe it or not you couldn’t buy anything.
The first Kickstarter campaign of the year saw fabric artist Lucy Sparrow try to raise funds for the creation of a corner shop made out of felt and wool. Throughout the year this was a project that would capture the imagination and Lucy has spent the year sewing corner shop goods as a result to massive acclaim and publicity. We would go on to meet her three times during the creation of the shop so keep reading to see how things went on.
An interview with Lucy was followed by further interviews with the likes of Lana Alana, Dubai based Steffi Bow and Ayaan Bulale the organiser of the upcoming Femme Fierce. All these interviews were an attempt to publicise the World’s largest ever gathering of female street artists due to take place the following month in the famous Leake Street Tunnel. They gained a massive amount of publicity and really seemed to capture the imagination.
Other events of note included our friends at the Curious Duke Gallery moving premises to a different location on Whitecross Street after a successful 2013. One of the first major paint jams of the year also took place in an abandoned building in Bromley By Bow with some of the areas top artists including Thieu, Amara Por Dios, Kef, Hannah Adamaszek and Vanessa Longchamp getting together to breath a bit of life into it’s crumbling walls.
A lot of March was about Femme Fierce, it was an event that we really backed and enjoyed being a part of. Taking place on International Womens Day the tunnel of Leake Street was painted bright pink and some of the World’s best female street artists descended upon it to turn it into the most remarkable pop up gallery. An interview with popular street artist Artista at the beginning of the month helped set the scene and then a couple of posts explored the huge success of the event in photographs with shots from the day as well as an alternative look at the art in the tunnel.
Following the event a lot of collaborations started to happen and we covered one of these taking place in Dalston featuring Zabou and Hannah Adamaszek, two artists who would continue to grow during the year. Zabou also featured in a post about the sheds of Camden Market where ‘The Real Art of Street Art’ has started to transform the market into a gallery with street artists from far and wide coming down to paint there.
Charity Depaul joined forces with artists around the East End to raise awareness for homelessness. The art featured portraits and quotes from homeless people in a powerful campaign supported by the likes of Ben Slow, Josh Jeavons, Best Ever, David Shillinglaw and Jim McElvaney taking part. Finally we interviewed Roy’s People as he prepared for his first solo show at the Curious Duke Gallery. We would follow his progress eagerly over the year as we would with a number of the exciting talent supported by the gallery.
The month kicked off with a return to Trinity Buoy Wharf and an interview with Garry Hunter as he prepared to open up his studio for people to visit. Hunter has been the driving force behind street art in the Wharf area and over the year has organised a number of art events around the country. We also featured the Forest Recycling Project in Walthamstow and the work they do to reuse and recycle unwanted paint. The FRP as they are known take unwanted paint and remix or find ways in which in can be reused. In fact it was from FRP where the gallons and gallons of pink paint needed to paint the Leake Street tunnel as part of Femme Fierce came from.
In terms of shows, Thierry Noir took over the Howard Griffin Gallery and Australian artist RONE visited London for an exhibition at the Stolen Space gallery painting a few walls around the area for good measure. The month also saw the launch of the impressive ‘Street Art, Fine Art‘ book by Ingrid Beazley the curator and founder of the Dulwich Outdoor Gallery. It was a particularly proud moment for Inspiring City as we wrote one of the forewords to the book.
We caught up with Roy’s People again as he joined forces with the Big Issue to put on a ‘Little Man Hunt‘ in Covent Garden and we joined him in hiding the little guys around the area. We also managed to make a return visit to Camden Market to see how the art project was going on and caught up with Spanish artist Boxhead to see her in the process of painting one of her biggest ever murals. Finally we managed to interview Ben Wilson the chewing gum man and speak about his herculean attempt to create an artistic trail of chewing gum over the millenium bridge. He’s become a bit of a fixture there and the chewing gum art trail has been gaining a lot of fans.
May saw a collaboration between Inspiring City and our good friends at Dutch Girl in London as we worked with Kef to put on a show at the Genesis Cinema in Stepney Green. For both of us bloggers it was the first time we’d attempted anything like this but working with an artist the standard of Kef made that process a whole lot easier. The show lasted just over a month and was so successful the cinema invited Kef back later in the year to once again decorate their walls.
The next big set piece paint jam also took place in May with a whole variety of artists getting together to paint the popular Sclater Street car park wall. Meanwhile around the city Louis Masai and Jim Vision painted a series of collaborations to raise awareness for the ‘Save the Bees‘ campaign which culminated in a finale celebration at the ‘End of the Line’ headquarters at Rockwell House. Whilst at the Museum of London artists RUN, John Dolan and Thierry Noir got together to paint the rotunda in an event organised by Street Art London.
In terms of interviews we met up with Andrea Tyrimos a couple of times as she prepared for her show ‘The Roadz’ at the Curious Duke. Andrea has long been an artist whose work we have enjoyed and her ‘brick’ paintings have become very popular. We caught up with her as she created some on Blackall Street in the East End for the show and then at her studio in North London.
Another Kickstarter campaign took our interest in June when Jenny Judova from Art Map London looked to raise funds to transform her website. We met up for an interview on Brick Lane where she explained her thoughts behind the setting up of a site dedicated to the arts and artists. She did in the end raise the money which means the new and improved Art Map London site is now up and running.
The day after we visited the Ben Oakley Gallery to meet Rugman as the artist inspired by tattoo culture returned to the scene with a his first show in a number of years. It was to be the first of a series of interviews we’d host with the gallery as they continued their reputation for putting on excellent shows.
Other big art events over the month included the return to London of South African artist Faith 47, the exceptional exhibition ‘Morella‘ from local favourites Ben Murphy, Pang and Sophie Mason and the painting of a giant Chihuahua in Poplar. The latter proved to be very popular indeed and has certainly caught the imagination of the locals around Chrisp Street Market where it stands guard panting and pouting.
We kicked off July by re-visiting Lucy Sparrow who was now just one month away from creating her epic felt cornershop. Interviewing her at her home in North London gave us quite an insight into what was in store with every nook and cranny crammed with felt goods. Another interview during the month was with the winner of the Curious Duke Galleries Secret Art Prize, Mohammed Sami. Sami has had an incredible journey on his way to the prize and his story is a remarkable one. Iraqi born he has escaped from life threatening situations no fewer than three times before seeking refuge in Sweden.
Another artist to make a real impression in July was Italian artist Alo who has been painting the streets of London for the past three years. None other than the Saatchi Gallery noticed him and he created his first ever solo show in one of the most prestigious galleries in the city. We have been following his progress for a while now and interviewed him just before the show came out.
Big events during the month included the Whitecross Street Party which always brings the best artists out to play and the Meeting of Styles festival which took over many of Shoreditch’s key street art spots in order to create some fantastic murals. We also covered the Archikids festival which promotes architectural learning to children through art and the John Dolan show at the Howard Griffin Gallery which was the second time the Shoreditch based artist had exhibited there.
Rather unexpectedly we also had a bit of a viral hit with our post about a man dressing in a suit made of real chicken skin. Artists Victor Ivanov and Lewis Burton had devised the suit and then chose to show it off around Tragalgar Square, getting a lot of attention in the meantime. This was a project supported by our friends at Art Map London and so we managed to get the heads up on where the chicken suit would be, managing to get some great pictures as well as a heap of publicity as our pictures were picked up and used all around the world.
We kicked off the month of August with a visit to the Hackney Wicked festival which is a celebration of all things Hackney Wick and a great chance to meet artists via the open studio. We also covered the remarkable installation taking place at the Tower of London where ceramic poppies were beginning to take over the moat. It would become one of the most iconic and impressive art projects of the year and a tremendous tribute to the fallen.
Interviews for the month featured Curious Duke artists Sam Peacock and Roys People in a joint interview with our friend Dutch Girl in London as they collaborated with each other to put on a show at the Timberyard in Covent Garden and Ilaria Bianchi Head of Communications for International Alert. The International Alert link marked the start of a series of features as they prepared for their Talking Peace festival which took place in the East of London with lots of artists taking part.
And of course who could forget the Cornershop! The epic undertaking was finally upon us and of course that meant revisiting Lucy Sparrow but this time in her shop in Bethnal Green. It was a huge success and she got a lot of publicity proving that this labour of love really managed to capture the imagination. We also covered the popular Sclater Street Stalls which had been taking off in the East End and compiled our list of the top 10 places to see street art in London.
International Alerts Talking Peace festival dominated September with a whole host of events talking place including live painting in Shoreditch Yard and on the art wall. There was also rooftop painting at the Queen of Hoxton and in Old Street station with all art being sold to raise money for International Alerts peacemaking aims. The likes of Artista, Kef, Maggio, Hannah Adamaszek and Andrea Tyrimos all took part in the event alongside a host of other artists. What’s more it was all filmed by Lazy Eye Productions.
Interviews during the month took place with Polish street artist AR who had burst onto the street art scene over the last year first painting at Femme Fierce and then honing her style at events throughout the year. Fine artist John McCarthy was next and we spoke to him prior to his solo show at the Ben Oakley Gallery. McCarthy has a unique way of re-interpreting images and his show was not one we wanted to miss.
We also spoke to the director of ‘I Know What I Like‘ the art facilitation group Sabina Andron who curated her first group show at the Curious Duke Gallery featuring artists from the group. The event marked the next stage of the art meet-up groups evolution as a move into curation meant that instead of commenting on and viewing the art, they were now at the forefront of its exhibition. For Andron it was just one piece of a puzzle which made up a remarkable year as she would go on to team up with Global Street Art in order to become one of the driving forces behind the remarkable Graffiti Sessions series of events.
A number of artists caught our eye this month and we found ourselves focusing on a couple of large scale sculptural installations. The Love & Peace flower near Vauxhall Bridge by artist Ana Tzarev was the first. Part of a worldwide showcase of her art, the giant flowers move around every six months or so bringing their message into different parts. We also covered the sculpture park which formed the free section of the Frieze Art Fair with some of the Worlds top sculptors taking over Regents Park for the duration of the fair.
One of the most impressive sculptural pieces of the year though could be found in Covent Garden where Alex Chinneck had recreated part of the old market building to look like it was floating. At the same time the artist had created a wax townhouse in London Bridge with the ultimate intention that over time it would melt. They were installations that were temporary in nature but would get a lot of attention whilst they lasted.
The Other Art Fair also took place over the month of October which alongside its sister fair ‘Moniker’ is one of the most important affordable art events of the year. We decided to visit the fair and came up with our 10 artists you need to know about list featuring some of the work on display which we liked the look of.
Finally the month concluded with interviews featuring Mr Cenz who was promoting his show at the Pure Evil Gallery. Cenz is well known on the street art scene but hasn’t exhibited in a while so it was good to see him put on a show. We then featured the new Lollipop Gallery which has opened in Spitalfields. We looked at the galleries opening show and learnt about some of their exciting plans for the future.
We thought we’d have a bit of fun in November and kicked off the month with an exploration of ‘Who is the new Banksy‘. It was tongue in cheek of course, we always find ourselves amused that anyone associated with any form of street art no matter how different can find themselves compared to the great man himself. We then got a little boost as we found ourselves nominated for the UK Blog Awards. As it happens we didn’t make it through to the judges selection stage but it was still good to be a part of it.
Interviews during the month first took us to Acton to meet ATM the street artist putting on his first solo show at the Ben Oakley Gallery. ATM’s work is spectacular, he creates giant birds using just a brush and palette. He is a fine artist creating great works of fine art on the street. We then met war artist Arabella Dorman in what was a bit of a departure from the usual type of art we cover. But Dorman has a great story to tell and her work documenting her time in Afghanistan embedded with the British Army is impressive.
We finished the month with a celebration of the life of Ben Naz, the street artist who had been fighting cancer for a number of years. His motto ‘Live life without regrets’ had captured the imagination of people who know him particularly as it was a motto he himself lived by. A paint jam in the famous Leake Street tunnel brought street artists together in memory of Naz and a number of tribute pieces were created.
As the street art year comes to a close December is always a quiet month but still some exciting things were happening with the Howard Griffin Gallery kicking things off with an impressive show from Italian artist RUN now known as Giacomo Bufarini. Bufarini has taken a new direction in his art, well known on the streets of London he is now focusing on his gallery work and its great to see the evolution.
But it was working with Zabou that really proved to be the highlight of the month as the French artist was invited to give a TED talk in Cyprus. We’d been working with her to help put the talk together and needless to say she gave a great speech in front of eager fans in the Cypriot sun. Actually truth be known the speech happened some months before but it only went online in December and so that’s when the write up happened and of course you can watch it here.
Finally to wrap things up in what was an exciting year for art, locally based Swedish artist Amara Por Dios painted the biggest wall of her career so far at the Village Underground in Shoreditch. Becoming the latest in a long line of top artists to paint the famous wall she didn’t disappoint as she painted a typically intricate piece using a style inspired by native american art.
So it’s been a pretty full on year and the blog has grown bigger and better which is thanks to all of you for reading and enjoying the posts. Next year is going to be exciting, we have more interviews planned alongside taking an active role in some big set piece events such as Femme Fierce 2015. We’ll also be looking forward to supporting the Curious Duke Galleries Secret Art Prize when it kicks off in January. After the success of the last one we can’t wait for that.
Along the way we’ve met some great people and made some great friends. Inspiring City has become just one part of a supportive artistic community that is pushing the boundaries and helping to make London into the must go to destination when it comes to quality street art.
So here’s wishing you all a really happy new year and a fantastic 2015 🙂