It’s 47 metres high and towers above the city. Painted on a tower block overlooking the train station, Athena Rising, the new mural from Nomad Clan is their largest and most ambitious to date. In fact in the UK it’s the largest mural anywhere.
The Nomad Clan are a street art duo who are at the top of their game. Both accomplished artists in their own right, put them together and they add another dimension which brings out the best in both their works and their styles.
This is a mural that was 8 months in the making and 16 days in the doing with the end result being an impressive giant of a mural a full 10 metres taller than the UK’s previously biggest street piece.
Cbloxx and Aylo, to give their artist names, are artists well known to this blog. We covered their very first murals together as Nomad Clan at the Femme Fierce paint jams in Leake Street and Croydon a few years back, “We’d painted together before of course” they told me “but Femme Fierce was the first time we painted as Nomad Clan and put our name on it”
Meeting up with the Nomad Clan was a must, The UK’s largest mural can’t go without comment for a blog like ours so we headed to Leeds and caught up with them in a pretty green square which is just one of the many places in the city the mural looks down upon. Next to the square is a multi-story car park, a particularly good vantage point from which to see the work against the backdrop of the city.
Athena Rising is the name of the piece. It features a pair of owls, symbols of the city of Leeds but also themselves symbols of knowledge. One of the owls holds a lightbulb in its claws as it flies against a large green moon and feathers from each drop to the floor. The lightbulb symbolises innovation and the creativity of ideas. Geometric patterns are also prominent in the background, an example of sacred geometry representing the way that nature is in tune with itself and the interconnectivity of the environment and everything around us.
Another symbol used on the mural is the etched crown, rougher than the fine detail of the rest of the piece, this is the symbol of the Nomad Clan, a graff symbol now brought in to represent work from the duo themselves. It symbolises status and has a history, it says that the artists are at the top of their game and they deserve to wear it. By placing the symbol so prominently it dares others to disagree, it’s a perfect link back to the time when the duo were starting out in a different crew and finding their way on the graffiti scene and it shows the confidence that these two artists now have.
Their work has been attracting attention and it’s not hard to see why. The project was part of a collaboration by local art agency East Street Arts and took 16 days to produce on the side of a 47 metre high building. The final design was the result of numerous versions from an initial concept involving a steam train, a nod to the steam heritage of Leeds, to the final one with the owls.
They show me several sketches showing the evolution of the piece. All are impressive works of art in their own right and show the evolution and the thinking behind the end result, no less than 10 different versions were created prior to settling on what we now see.
The project itself is part of East Street Arts ‘a city less grey’ programme, a series of street art installations covering different spots in the city. The work by Nomad Clan is by far the biggest and most ambitious mural but it’s a project which also features works from Jo Peel, Joe Dickinson, Kasia Breska and Mike Winnard with pieces dotted around the city.
Leeds is one place where street art hasn’t really fully taken off up till now but hopefully this will be the catalyst for some more murals to come. You only need to look over the Pennines after all to see the impact street art has had in Manchester, it’s transformed the city and it looks great. With Athena Rising this is an impressive statement, will it be the start of things to come for this other great northern city.
Athena Rising the mural by Nomad Clan is part of the East Street Arts ‘A city less grey’ project. It can be seen on the side of the Bruntwood building which overlooks Leeds city train station. The mural was visited and the Nomad Clan interviewed on Thursday 6 July 2017.
Nomad Clan Gallery