Street artists and muralists from across the World once again descended on Aberdeen for the 2023 Nuart Festival. 12 artists created eight new painted murals alongside four street works which primarily featuring paste up and poster art.
It marked another successful return to Aberdeen for Nuart who were celebrating their sixth year of working with the city. As in previous years, the combination of permanent and transitionary artworks provided a real art feast for people to seek out and stumble upon.
This time the theme of the festival was ‘Rewilding’. All the artists working with this concept in mind. It was supported with a series of talks at the Nuart Plus symposium. Something that sets apart Nuart as a festival. It’s become an event which leads in terms of conversation and ideas.
Nuart Short Film
- Nuart Short Film
- Murals of Nuart Aberdeen 2023
- Aida Wilde (UK/Iran) – Crooked Lane
- Eloise Gillow (Spain/UK) – Flourmill Lane
- Escif (Spain) – Rose Street
- Jamie Reid (UK) – Crooked Lane
- Manola Mesa (Spain) – Blackfriars Street
- Murmure (France) – Queen Street
- NeSpoon (Poland) – Whitehouse Street
- Snik (UK) – Thistle Lane
- Stanley Donwood (UK) – Various Locations
- Swoon (USA) – Various Locations
- Tamara Alves (Portugal) – Skene Street
- Thiago Mazza (Brazil) – Frederick Street
- Nuart Aberdeen 2023 Murals Map
- Street Art Cities Map of Aberdeen
Murals of Nuart Aberdeen 2023
Aida Wilde (UK/Iran) – Crooked Lane
Covering the side of a building on Crooked Lane. Aida Wilde’s immersive work is the culmination of a series of workshops with Aberdonian schools. The resultant pieces, the unfiltered voice of those taking part. Only after those workshops would the actual wall be installed in what would turn out to be the quite possibly the largest actual production of the festival.
The result a display which is simply impossible to fully take in all at once. As a whole it’s a powerful social commentary on the world near and far. All expressed against the backdrop of Aida Wilde’s back catalogue all re-purposed and given new voice. Each poster and image all meticulously positioned in it’s own space as part of the wall.
Naming the piece ‘Tetris’ it was as a . result of it’s collaborative nature. Pupils from Northfield Academy, Dyce Academy and St Machar Academy all supported the work added their own interpretation. They included a number of young Ukrainian and Afghan refugees. “You don’t need to explain much to them , you just ask them to make stuff about themselves and what’s affecting them”. In total 120 people would work to first create and then install the final work.
Eloise Gillow (Spain/UK) – Flourmill Lane
A British artist based in Barcelona, Eloise Gillow’s street style diptych on Flourmill Lane was actually the first mural by the artist in the UK. Her work for Nuart Aberdeen a duo of images set as if both were windows into another world. Both positioned just either side of an old 70’s building the location. It once would have been the site of a meadow and a stream which would have served local flour mills.
Originally from Staffordshire Eloise moved to Spain to study languages but found herself in a place where she could also immerse herself in art. Studying classical painting this comes across in her work on the street. Both pieces in Aberdeen featuring a woman set within a green backdrop of nature. Her clothes brown and unassuming they match the walls of the building around her.
Positioned within the canvas we don’t see the woman’s face. In each portrait she is turned away looking perhaps deeper into the world in which she finds herself. Contemplating perhaps and encouraging a feeling of slowing down, of stillness and of taking pause. Eloise is particularly interested in body language and what it says about us. Each version of the woman therefore expresses different emotions as she contemplates her space.
Escif (Spain) – Rose Street
In a yard on Rose Street, a landscape created by Spanish artist Escif. In the foreground bracken and two trees framing the scene. Behind a darkened sky with a lake and what appears to be a beach of sorts. It’s a tranquil whilst at the same time slightly ominous scene.
Notable in this work is the paint which is actually made from pollution. It’s extracted from what is essentially waste and toxins that might otherwise go into the environment. These go through a process of distillation and drying out during which tweaks to the temperature also impacts on the colour. Applying it onto the walls of Aberdeen it’s then recycled by the artist into the mural you see.
The image used is actually one of the the ancient Caledonian Forest. It has reduced in size due to human actions over thousands of years and now it is just 1 percent of it’s original size. It’s a forest that would have once covered most of Scotland.
Jamie Reid (UK) – Crooked Lane
An artist known for his early collaborations with the Sex Pistols. Jamie Reid’s artwork in the 70’s defined a generation and a movement. Anarcistic by nature it’s something that he says that he’s never stopped doing. Reid’s work has always railed against authority. Supporting causes and groups that want to challenge the status quo. Even now working with the likes of Extinction Rebellion and Pussy Riot.
Represented at Nuart Aberdeen by John Marchant of John Marchant Gallery. He has been managing Jamie Reid’s archive since the 90’s. Working intimately with the artist it was Marchant who installed the work in Aberdeen. A work which features a series of his poster art from over the years. With each piece telling it’s own story, the resultant wall was always going to stir emotions. Reid challenges orthodoxy with everything he does and that’s what he’s done for Nuart.
Dotted around the city, Reid and Marchant have also installed a series of running hares. Designed as a kind of adventure trail each should be visible from the other. Eventually the idea of ‘following the hare’ will lead the adventurer into a different part of the city. The hare itself has connections and symbolism in many cultures, particularly Celtic and pagan. Sometimes symbolising cunning and mischief the idea for Nuart was simply to invite curiosity. To explore a part of town that you might not normally go to and to just allow yourself to wander.
Manola Mesa (Spain) – Blackfriars Street
A giant still life of two vases one blue and one green, painted high on the side of a building overlooking Blackfriars Street. This is a piece perfect in it’s simplicity. The idea being one of bringing the inside, outside. Manolo Mesa likes the idea that something so simple can suddenly take centre stage and take on a new importance.
Known for similar paintings across the world there is an imagined history that goes alongside Mesa’s work. The vases themselves will have had their own histories and lives. They will have belonged, often to multiple generations, maybe of the same family. This sense of connection then draws the viewer into the past, wondering what kind of life these ceramic objects would have seen.
Murmure (France) – Queen Street
Painting together for the past 15 years Paul Ressencourt and Simon Roche met together in college and went on to form Murmure. They describe their initial pairing as one of complimenting styles, a meeting of the technical and the creative. It’s something that they’ve developed since in each other, a partnership that has grown within itself.
For Nuart Aberdeen their work features a goldfish confined within a plastic bag. Scrawled along the outside is the anarchy symbol. It’s a work with multiple meanings. It is a piece about rebellion and how people trap themselves. Perhaps re-assuring themselves that everything is ok when in reality they are trapped in systems and processes that control them.
Linking into the idea of re-wilding is the idea that sometimes it is the system that needs to change. One way of rewilding is anarchy and a sense of disruption and challenge of the status quo. Why does the fish need to be kept in a bag? It is absurd but then so too are many of the systems and processes that control us all.
NeSpoon (Poland) – Whitehouse Street
Nespoon is a Polish artist known for her murals and ceramic work inspired by the art of lace making. Her street art in particular aiming to connect with the tradition of the area. The craft is something she associates with femininity and women’s empowerment. Wherever she goes Nespoon will seek out historical sources to find out more about the local traditions.
In Aberdeen the work drew inspiration from local lace maker Evelyn Currie. One of a long line of lace makers in a country whose craft goes back 300 years. Using one of her lace projects to inspire the design of the wall, the central depiction is of the Scottish Thistle. The national symbol of Scotland it symbolises the pride and resilience of the Scottish people.
Lace making as an art in Aberdeen was mainly centered in the north of the old town in the Pitsligo area. Women would look to areas such as lace as a means of employment in an environment dominated by granite quarries. Eventually mass produced lace making would be replaced by machines with hand crafting only happening on a smaller scale. Now in Aberdeen the craft is kept alive by the Bon Accord Bobbins group who keep the art alive in the city.
Snik (UK) – Thistle Lane
Regular visitors to Nuart, the Stamford based duo have painted in Aberdeen twice before. Their first effort in 2018 featured a woman being pulled by a bird and is still up. Their second in 2021 disappeared with the demolition of the old market hall. Now in 2023 their biggest to date overlooks a small car park on Thistle Lane.
The work features a woman seemingly examining a piece of linen. Next to her stand two candelabras and a bowl of fruit. In the background a kind of wallpaper with traces of purple and gold with hints at what may be vines. It is as if the background could one day envelope the woman as she stills still in her repose.
As is always the case with Snik, the work is a painstaking labour of love. The initial stencil alone took three weeks to complete only to be then discarded when used. Everything is a one off. The piece itself has no particular story other than the fact that it brings to mind the romance of an era. Inspired by pre-Raphaelite paintings it was a sense they wanted to evoke in Aberdeen.
Stanley Donwood (UK) – Various Locations
A triptych of posters, all finding space in the wilds of the city. Each piece evoking a feeling of foreboding. Two of the works featuring bare trees whilst the other is less obvious, a hole in the ground below an unspecified shadow. Curated and chosen by festival director Martyn Reed they are rewilding through trespass and the reclamation of space.
Wild posted across Aberdeen they can be stumbled on across the city. Each one illegally posted and many placed in positions where it would have been necessary to trespass. They are a means of reclaiming the wild space, to change the perception of the environment in which the image has been placed.
Swoon (USA) – Various Locations
Caledonia Curry also known as Swoon has been creating paste ups since the late 90’s. Her works intricately created at home and often inspired by the people that she knows. They are immersive and will often tell a story within a story. Look closely at many of her street pieces and you’ll likely discover unexpected details. That said it’s a medium which Swoon has not been doing for a while. As result Aberdeen is a city which now boasts by far the best collection of Swoon’s street art work anywhere in the world.
Certainly Swoon’s work is special to stumble upon. With her work in Aberdeen she has created a trail of street art across the city. Each one a delight to come across with placement and location important in the overall composition. The pieces also take some effort to find. Swoon seems to be encouraging any would be visitor to really explore the city.
Visiting Scotland for the first time she said that it felt right to “come out of street art retirement for the land that named me Caledonia”. Generations back her ancestors would have once lived in the area and so in many ways it was quite a homecoming.
Tamara Alves (Portugal) – Skene Street
From Portugal, Tamara Alves is an artist known for her evocative imagery. Often working with themes that discuss the interconnection of animals and humans. Man, she says, decides where nature grows and where the gardens and the parks are. But this separation isn’t natural when we are all so connected. Within her art she looks to challenge that relationship between human and and nature.
The mural on the side of a residential block on Skene Street is also interconnected with the nature around it. Tamara wanted to include the foliage from the trees so that it also become a part of the wall. Looked at from certain angles the leaves do blend in. The mural is also in some ways unfinished. Section of white reveal that the whole story is not necessarily being told. It is for the viewer to perhaps make further connections about the woman in the painting or of the scene itself.
Tamara Alves will also often use text within her work. The word ‘animal’ on the face of the woman first emphasises the connection between animal and human. Next, a phrase by Virginia Woolf ‘Every Flower Seems to Burn by Itself’. From Mrs Dalloway the flowers in the book could be seen to represent love and femininity as well as the joy and beauty in the world around.
Thiago Mazza (Brazil) – Frederick Street
An artist known for his murals featuring flora and fauna. His work in Aberdeen is a bright colourful mural featuring a combination of red, white and yellow flowers alongside bright green leaves. It’s a work which is in complete contrast to the grey multi story car park on which it is painted. Certainly the highest mural painted at this years festival.
Thiago Mazza is an artist who likes to bring nature into the city. Often he will try to represent the plants of the local area and indeed the composition was inspired by a visit to a nearby botanical gardens.
Nuart Aberdeen 2023 Murals Map
Street Art Cities Map of Aberdeen
For a closer look at the murals of Aberdeen, Nuart and beyond, take a look at this map from Street Art Cities.
Nuart Aberdeen took place over the weekend of 8-11 June 2023. All images taken during this post were taken over the weekend of the festival.