The Inspiring City Street Art Review of 2017
As ever it’s been a busy year here on the blog and we’ve expanded our horizons a bit. From focusing mainly on the street art scene of London for the past few years we’ve gone a bit further afield and looked a bit more in terms of what is happening elsewhere.
Some particular highlights for us were Upfest, the massive annual festival in Bristol. It was the first time we’d managed to get over but it certainly won’t be the last. A trip to Barcelona was another. We managed to explore the street art scene in that city finding the best spots and meeting some amazing local artists.
We also started a youtube channel, moving from audio recordings of our interviews to using video where we can. Already it’s got some great content on there so if you want to hear the artists speak to themselves check it out, this is the place to go.
But this post is about the year that was 2017 so let’s start with …
Always a quiet start to the year we kicked off the coverage by featuring a paint jam organised by our pals at the London Calling Blog which was a great way to get things going. We then covered a couple of big murals and an artist who really took the scene by storm and burst into prominence. First, our friend Sr.X jump started what turned out to be a stellar year for him with a painting on the massive Village Underground wall. He would go on to host a solo show at the BSMT Gallery and then later in the year held another in New York, what’s the betting that he’ll just keep going on to bigger and better things.
We also featured the work of Vera Bugatti, an Italian artist whose amazing giant mural of a girl holding a chicken on Old Street found itself getting a lot of attention and deservedly so. The other artist we wanted to draw attention to during the month was Dreph, whose portraits of Black British people really caught the imagination. Each with their own story, Dreph would continue to paint these throughout the year with his work being featured nationally as media outlets really became interested in his work.
Two exhibitions caught the eye in February and included a group showing of Greek artists at the BSMT Space gallery. Works from Simoni & Ser were among the artists showcasing some of the best talent from the Greek scene. The show also represented the first of many times that we would visit the gallery which has rocketed in terms of its reputation and its ability to attract the best urban artists in the business. We also featured the street art sculpture show at the start up Unit 5 gallery on Hackney Road and had a bit of a wander around the graffiti covered streets of Fish Island. It had been a while since we last covered the scene in that part of East London so thought it was about time we went for another visit.
Things started to ramp up in March with Spring bringing the usual upturn in artistic activity. In terms of features we payed a visit to Brighton and showcased the areas impressive street art scene. We also did the same with the Ferdinand Estate in Camden where street art fixers Global Street Art have joined forces with the local council to enhance the area artistically. Both places have a host of great street art to see so it’s worth going along.
In terms of other activity we featured popular interviews with Italian artist Alo having his second solo show at the Saatchi Gallery; American sculptor turned paste up artist JDK whose art was capturing our attention in the East End and French street artist Lolie Darko whose oil paintings of sad faced children took over the BSMT Space. On top of that we also met up with Ser, coming all the way from Greece, to paint the Village Underground in aid of the ‘Education is not a crime’ campaign.
Our main feature this month though really did have to have been the epic attempt to mosaic a house in West London by Carrie Reichardt and a whole host of international mosaic artists. We went and spoke to a lot of them and saw the progress on the house which would eventually be finished later in the year. As far as epic undertakings go, nothing has really surpassed this one in 2017 so we are waiting with baited breath to see what Carrie goes on to do next.
Our features this month showcased the activity happening at the Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park from our friends at Trapped in Zone One. Slightly off the beaten track, the park encompasses some railway arches which are now filled with environmental art and are actually some of the best murals to be found in London. We also featured what was going on at the Nomadic Community Gardens, the pop-up eco village which popped up a few years back just off Brick Lane and which has become such an important part of the street art scene in the city. Finally we covered the street art of Wood Street in Walthamstow, the epicentre of the going street art scene in that part of north London.
In terms of interviews we were also introduced to the work of Wasp Elder in April, whose solo show with the 1963 Gallery in Brick Lane’s 5th Base Studio caught our attention. Another artist who would go on to have a pretty stellar year we managed to interview him prior to the show and from what we’ve seen since then he has travelled the world with his murals just getting bigger and better.
A sad note though also struck us in April when Ingrid Beazley, the curator of the Dulwich Outdoor Gallery, passed away from cancer. Ingrid transformed the scene in her part of South London and proved that street art can find a home alongside more traditional art forms and that, when well managed, can do a lot to enhance communities. Ingrid really was a fantastic trailblazer and you can read our tribute to her here.
May was really characterised by our trip to Barcelona where we met artists and really got to know the street art scene. We wrote a number of features including lowdowns on the area of Poblenou where the prevalence of street art is at its highest as well as on who some of the best street artists are to watch out for in the city. In terms of interviews we managed to catch up with Robert Burt the owner of the Base Elements gallery as well as with ‘Art is Trash’ one of the galleries featured artists. Our trip though wouldn’t have been anywhere near as rewarding had it not been for local artists Rombillos and SecleStyle who took us under their wing and showed us the sights. Big respect to those guys and to the others who made us so welcome there, you can read all about everyone we met here.
Back home, we featured a series of murals in Camden from Lora Zombie. The world travelling Russian artist has really caught our imagination and we love her work. We also caught up with ATM who painted his biggest mural to date in Walthamstow and 1963 Gallery curator Ema Marinova. Someone else who has gone from strength to strength over the year, she transformed her gallery by taking it on the road and by hosting some of the most imaginative art shows of the year in a variety of different locations.
In June we visited Brockley to see the next iteration of it’s street art festival which has curated walls around the area over the past few years. Whilst there we bumped into Naomi Edmondson the typographic artist behind Survival Techniques and quickly interviewed her whilst she finished off her latest piece. Another interview we managed to conduct during June was with blogger turned artist Sara Lucas of Hello the Mushroom fame. Her work had been popping up all over the East End throughout the year and she’s been steadily making a bit of a name for herself.
The month however was really characterised by the dreadful events at Grenfell Tower which suffered appalling tragedy as flames engulfed the building. The outpouring of grief was felt in all communities including the graffiti world and it didn’t take long for tribute pieces to appear underneath the westway close to the tower which we covered here.
A busy month July saw a number of festivals take places including the annual London based ones, the Whitecross Street Party and the Meeting of Styles. Both have become popular events on the calendar and feature some of the best local talent whilst also offering music and other fun stuff. The giant wall at the Meeting of Styles in the Nomadic Community Gardens in particular being one of the centerpiece walls of the year.
Outside of London we also featured the second iteration of the Blackburn Open Walls festival. Organised by Hayley Welsh, the festival already has a great reputation for the quality of its art and shows that street art can work anywhere. We also visited Leeds to showcase the country’s tallest mural which towers over the city’s railway station. That mural from the Nomad Clan being just one of many giant pieces the duo have completed during what was a hugely successful 2017.
The big event though though really was Upfest. The popular Bristol based street art festival just gets bigger and bigger and it now Europe’s largest. We covered the festival extensively featuring the top 20 murals and also interviews with a number of the Bristol based artists involved. We also ran a special feature on the work of Caro Pepe, an artist we’ve admired for a while and who we arranged to catch up with at the festival.
Elsewhere during what was a pretty busy month art wise we started our series of features promoting the new start-up art fair masterminded by our friends Roy’s People and Sam Peacock. The first interview in the series was with Roy himself and we would go on to featuring a number of other artists taking part in the fair over the next month. Finally to top off the month we covered the latest mural to cover the giant Village Underground wall. The piece from Ben Eine was another tribute to the events at the Grenfell Tower.
A bit of a wind down from the hectic month that was July, we continued our series of features promoting the Roy’s People Art Fair and interviewed participating artists DD Regalo and Raffaello Bertolini. Although both are clearly influenced by the street art scene, neither are traditional street artists and so we found ourselves branching out into the world of more contemporary art.
We also covered a couple of big shows, firstly from Pichiavo at the Unit Gallery in Soho whose combination of Greek inspired traditional painting mixed with graffiti has become very popular. There’s not many street art shows where the crowds queue around the corner to get in, but this was one, such is the interest in their work. The other big show was Connecting Lines, a group show featuring French artists in Shoreditch. We even caught up with couple of the artists Samy Stop and Kan DMV and managed a quick interview.
The big event of September had to have been the appearance of a new Banksy mural just outside the Barbican centre. Timed to coincide with an exhibition featuring the works of graffiti and street art pioneer Jean-Michel Basquiat, the piece was a tribute to him and of course gained the immediate attention of the London street art scene.
Further afield we travelled to Leicester to take a look at the street art scene in the city and were not disappointed. We then headed up to Hull and came back with a curious little tale about a piece of graffiti from the 60’s which has found itself becoming a bit of a symbol of the city itself. Known as Dead Bod it’s a tale well worth learning about and you can do that here.
Closer to home we covered the unique Street Art Fans show at the Fan Museum in Greenwich where street artists had teamed up with a renowned French fan maker to create a whole range of unique works. We also continued our coverage of the Roy’s People Art Fair taking place during the month with a focus on some of the participating artists taking part in the show.
In terms of interviews we focused on a group of artists, Sarah Fosse, Michael Wallney and Tom Cox, known as Urban Soup who were having a London inspired show at the Oxo Tower on the South Bank. We also met with Colombian street artist called Stinkfish who was showing at the BSMT Space Gallery and who had been painting murals all around the city. Meeting Stinkfish had been a bit of an ambition for a while having seen and admired his work for years.
Two exhibitions that couldn’t be more different characterised October. The fun Strictly Cardboard pop up show from Artista first took place in Soho with works from multiple artists made only out of that material. It was a show in stark contrast to the exhibition of works from the East London Group at the Nunnery Gallery in Bow. That show, featuring artists active in the period between the World Wars also featured a number of street works which commemorated the group around the area.
Another Banksy meanwhile also emerged during the month, except that this wasn’t a new one but the restoration of an old piece from 2005. His ‘snorting copper‘ had been hidden under layers of paint on the wall of an old toilet block until the developers sent the wall away to be “restored”. The resultant image is now visible under glass in it’s original location on Curtain Road in Shoreditch. It is not however without its controversy, contemporary pictures from the time clearly show that the wall had been buffed considerably meaning that at best the mural on Curtain Road can only be a re-creation.
Finally our interview for this month saw us once again return to Dalston’s BSMT Space Gallery, this time to meet Irish street artist Eoin O’Connor. An artist whose work we’ve admired for a while having first met the artist at the very time when we were only just starting this blog.
We got lucky in November with the discovery of an artist new to us and a local one too in Alexander Chappell. His series of portraits of well known graffiti writers at the Stolen Space gallery caught our imagination. They had been tagged over with the street names of the writers with the end result being a collaboration of sorts. We also interviewed David Walker at the Lawrence Alkin Gallery, another artist whose art has always impressed and who was showcasing a new body of his work.
Elsewhere we covered a collaboration show at the Number Gallery in Hackney Wick with previous interviewee Hello the Mushroom and Mail Mowcka, an artist who we first met earlier in the year in Barcelona. We also covered a mural created in Haggerston by local artists Morgasmik, Frankie Strand and Samer. The piece payed tribute to the recently closed HIVE Dalston which had been a community space in the area for the past few years.
To finish up the year we decided to feature some of the paste up art around the popular Brick Lane area. It had been in our minds for a while to showcase some of the best spots for paste ups and so we took the chance to do it. If there’s one part of the scene that seems to have grown over the past year, the paste up one seems to be it and we have plans to cover more of this area in 2018.
We also popped up to Leeds to finally catch a glimpse of one of the major murals up there, a collaborative piece between the Nomad Clan and Tankpetrol. The mural pays tribute to the mill workers of the city and features ‘Jimmy Boy’ one of the Nomad Clan’s grandfathers as well as John Marshall, a mill owner in the area.
Finally finishing up the year we interviewed the New Zealand artist Abbey Kayte, also known as AK. Having her first solo show at the 5th Base Gallery just off Brick Lane she brought her brand of unique stencil art to the city and we caught up with her before the show. We also managed to catch up with Anna Laurini whose abstract faces have been appearing around the East End for a number of years now.
So there we have it, it’s been a busy year on the blog, we’ve met some amazing artists and visited some great places to see some of the best art around. A big thanks to everyone who makes the exciting street art scene what it is. In particular thanks to the artists who are always pushing the boundaries and who are just getting better and better. Also to the bloggers, fixers, galleries, tour guides and photographers who provide the oxygen of publicity and who keep the scene alive and kicking. Finally thanks to the amazing readers of this blog who keep me going and who make it all worthwhile. Let’s see what 2018 will bring.