Nuart Aberdeen is back for 2021. Billed as a series of residencies, the pandemic has meant that the traditional Nuart street art festival has needed to adapt. This time it’s not just a week long event. The murals and artistic interventions are taking place over the summer of 2021. The end result will be more high quality street art added to the streets of Aberdeen.
Beginning in 2017 the Nuart festival in Aberdeen has proved to be hugely popular. It’s left a legacy of high quality public art across Aberdeen. Something that has put the Scottish city at the centre of not only the UK but Europe’s street art scene. Festivals in 2018 and 2019 added to the work appearing on the streets. Due to the pandemic 2020’s event had to be cancelled but even then Nuart still manage to produce something albeit remotely. That years lockdown editions resulted in series of paste up works appearing across the area.
Artists of Nuart Aberdeen 2021
Appearing for Nuart Aberdeen in 2021 are a blend of local, national and international artists. All from across a number of differing mediums. So far in 2021 murals have been painted by local artist KMG; Norway’s Henrik Uldalen and the UK’s Helen Bur and Fanakapan. Paste ups too have continued to be an important element of the festival. This time there has been a specific focus on poster art across the city. Called ‘Stuck Up’ the collective paste ups are a sight to behold. Artists have been sending work from across the world to be included in a kind of giant Expo de Rue.
Map of Street Art in Aberdeen
KMG – instagram
Launching the 2021 Nuart Aberdeen festival was local artist KMG. Her work is already known in Aberdeen as she’s been creating character based outdoor artwork for over a decade. Her multi eyed black and white character is what she is probably best known for. Called Ken, he is depicted in a number of different settings and this is who she chose to paint on the side of a building on Palmerston Road. Ken is shown as a giant in a kind of Gulliver’s Travels type scene with lots of other little Ken’s hovering around. By some way this wall has been KMG’s largest to date.
KMG has also created a series of pieces across the St. Nicolas Rooftop Gardens in the centre of Aberdeen. Here we have Ken once again making an appearance but this time he is surrounded by other smaller more colourful characters. Some are shown skateboarding and this is a nod to the fact that KMG used to spend her youth skating in this very area. The bright colours used are also a respectful nod to Bortusk Leer, the artist whose work previously occupied the site.
Henrik Uldalen – instagram
Spring Gardens Student Flats
Born in South Korea and raised in Norway, Henrik Uldalen is the second artist in resident for Nuart Aberdeen 2021. The artist describes his work as less of a narrative and more of a running ’emotional diary’. You can see it in the work he produces. Creating hyperreal figurative portraiture which find themselves skewed by surrealist manipulation. To look at the final piece is to reveal a kind of fragile beauty set against a backdrop of dark longing. It’s not the first time Henrik Uldalen has taken part in a Nuart festival. Back in 2016 he painted in Stavanger though this is his debut in Aberdeen.
Henrik’s mural can be found on the Spring Gardens Student Flats in Aberdeen. His piece is a homage to the granite city. Painted in dark hues it reveals a face with crystals growing out of it. It is representative of the granite which gives the city it’s identifiable look and feel. Slowly emerging from the earth’s core, granite crystallises as it reaches the earths surface. Creating the work over four days it’s a reminder of the cities emergence.
Snik – instagram
Returning to Aberdeen for the second time are Snik. The Stamford based duo first created work here as part of the festival in 2018. Their piece on Ship Row called ‘Hold Fast Hope’ overlooked the harbour and revealed a woman being pulled into the air by bluetits. Their giant stencil based work has been hugely sought after. Taking months in the development and that’s just the actual cutting of the stencil, so large and fine are they. The pair have also contributed to the Stavanger Nuart Festival painting there in 2018.
Taking the theme of connection, Snik have created a companion piece to the work they created in Stavanger. It gives the idea of re-connecting across the North Sea. This is especially pertinent given the forced isolation over the past year. Painted onto a connecting bridge which joins Union Street with Aberdeen Market the work also acts as a reminder that time is ephemeral. The market is scheduled for demolition and redevelopment. It means that the actual bridge, market and the artwork will all soon disappear. All that will be left are the memories and it’s digital legacy. According to Nuart, “in the short time of its existence, it finds a way to connect the past with the future in interesting way, much like the bridge itself”.
Fanakapan – instagram
Aberdeen Health Village, Frederick Street
Known for hyper realistic helium balloons he positions them in all sorts of imaginery ways and recreates them on the streets. His work will often play with reflection, perspective and how the light bounces of the surface. Often too incorporating figures from popular culture there is a playful feel to the street art he produces. Certainly it is popular wherever he goes.
Painting on the Aberdeen Health Village in Aberdeen his mural is called ‘Pulling Faces’. Showing two big yellow balloons they are looking and smiling at each other. One of the balloons has been painted in a 3D style, meaning that if you have the right glasses it will pop out of the wall. The other balloon is shown wearing them and looking right up to get the same experience. According to Nuart “the simple act of smiling can be incredibly powerful, even infectious. But in the best possible way, so we hope Aberdonians will visit the mural and be able to smile at the big yellow balloons”.
Helen Bur – instagram
The second time Helen Bur has appeared at Nuart Aberdeen. Her first in 2019 produced a pair of portraits of her friends Ally and Hugo. That work on the front of Greyfriars House on Gallowgate, disappeared in 2020 when the building itself was demolished. Returning for 2021 and there is a real connection with that original, now disappeared piece. The people depicted are once again shown though this time Ally and Hugo have come together in a family unit. Joining them is new arrival Ruby-Rae.
Painted onto the side of building on Union Wynd near Union Row, the choice of continuing the story of Ally and Hugo is a lovely connection over time. Viewers were invited to make their own stories in that original diptych on Greyfriars House. It’s a story that the following two years has allowed to unreel. Painted during world breastfeeding week, Ally is shown breast feeding Ruby-Rae. Turning her head towards a mirror which Hugo is holding up to her, she gives a contented smile. In the background symbols of daily life from what we presume is their home. It’s a stunning work about family connection, love and unity.
Stuck Up Aberdeen
East Green and Aberdeen Market
Paste ups have become an integral part of Nuart Aberdeen 2021. In many ways it’s always been a feature, paste up and poster art has often appeared around the periphery of the major murals. Street art festivals and street art culture will often draw other artists who want to showcase their work and get in on the action. This time managing to secure 1500 square feet around walls in the centre of the city, the paste up art will get a real focus.
Managed by Nuart Project manager Jon Reid, a call out for artwork has resulted in 100’s of pieces being sent from across the world. Spots have been secured across East Green and the Aberdeen Market. It’s an area that will soon be demolished as approval has been given for re-development of the area. The focus on paste up is one that started during 2020. That festival had to be cancelled due to Covid but the artists due to take part still sent in poster art from across the World. The body of work which arrived became known as the Nuart Lockdown Editions.
Clarke Joss – About the Photographer
The official photographer for Nuart Aberdeen’s 2021 edition is Clarke Joss. Local to Aberdeen he runs a photography business in the city. All photographs used in this post are courtesy of Clarke Joss unless otherwise noted. His website is here and instagram here.