Shoreditch Art Tours (again)

I first blogged about these wonderful tours back in 2014 – see here – and I’m delighted to see they – and in particular Dave Stuart – are still going strong.

The world of street art and graffiti is a sub culture I was unaware of until quite recently. The art is plain to see of course – for the most part – but it’s the stories behind them, explained by the fount-of-all-knowledge Dave, that bring them alive.

This one for instance, drawn by Stik and located near Old Street roundabout, tells the story – from left to right – of Shoreditch past (poor and rundown), present (trendy and confident) and future (looking south, towards the City).shoreditch stik croppedNot all street art is that obvious however. A gentleman named Ben Wilson paints miniature masterpieces on chewing gum. Here’s an example of one in City Road.shoreditch chewing gum croppedWe came upon Mr Wilson recently, lying flat on his stomach on a cold night on the Millennium Bridge. I took a photo of him in action but without his permission I won’t post it here. He first softens the gum with a blowtorch and uses enamel paint and then varnish. Next time you’re crossing that bridge look out for them.

This amazing piece of work – the balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet – adorns a building next to the site of The Theatre (the first purpose-built playhouse in London, built by James Burbage in 1576 and opening shortly as an exhibition centre apparently – see here for a previous blog showing excavations).romeo & juliet croppedThe world of street art is strictly anti-commercial, of course, to the extent that so many of these artists are so hard to get hold of. Ben Wilson doesn’t have a website. Banksy has an Instagram account (with 5.4m followers) but doesn’t follow anyone, and who knows who he is anyway? In a world where the rest of us are desperately trying to sell ourselves through social media it is refreshing, to say the least.

And finally, unknown portrait of unknown person, complete with manufactured drips in the paint – to give the impression it’s done unofficially and therefore in a hurry!shoreditch street art tour (12)Click for details of Shoreditch Street Art Tours.

Patsy Trench
London, January 2019

patsytrench@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Shoreditch street art

As a visual philistine I always thought of graffiti as mindless vandalism by people with too much time on their hands. Now however having wandered the streets of Shoreditch with Dave of Shoreditch Street Art tours I realise there is far more to it.

Shoreditch lamppost

Not just another lamppost

For the best part of four hours we tramped the streets of Shoreditch as Dave, an enthusiast and limitless mine of information, identified the ‘tags’ on the lampposts and walls, explained the difference between street art and graffiti, described to us the complexities of the street art subculture and something of the rivalry and the camaraderie and the stories behind the paintings.

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Street art …

Some of the paintings are astonishingly beautiful, some of them witty, others political – Dave would say they are all political in a sense. But where I saw ugly scribbles he saw the tags of famous (in their field) graffiti artists who, were they to decide to adorn his front door, he said, would be welcomed and honoured.

 

 

... or graffiti

… or graffiti?

The best of them are created for the particular environment they are in: a protruding twig is painted to look like a snake, a hosepipe appears to emerge from an air conditioning unit.

Some of them are ‘official’ but most of them are not, and Dave could tell when a painting was done in a hurry by someone working probably at night-time, in a rush, hoping not to get caught; knowing that at any time the council may come along and wash his art off the wall – though recent budget cuts mean they don’t tend to do that so much apparently, unless there are complaints – or a passer-by might choose to deface their work, either creatively or otherwise (I for one could not spot the difference – see below).

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Spoiled or enhanced?

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A collaboration – two different artists working together

The painting on the left below for instance features three different artists: for the muslim woman in the burkha holding hands with the white man the artist had to first get the approval of the local muslim community. The queen’s head underneath the child on the seesaw was added, at a later date by a different artist, knowing tourists would flock to take photos of the boy and the sunset.

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The painting on the right is recognisably by the same artist as the boy on the seesaw. His theme is innocent victims of militarism and war – look closely at the ‘flowers’.

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This one, of a heart, on what looks like a garage door, was done with a special technique involving a spray can held upside down, or maybe it was backwards, but whatever, it is highly skilled and very beautiful (my favourite of all of them actually).

The fox, below, lies in wait with a trap to capture anyone who tries to pick up the ‘money’ lying under the upended ‘shopping trolley’.

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The urban fox

This one below was painted onto a blob of chewing gum on the pavement. It’s of the local scene and features the name ‘Gary’ – not the artist’s, more likely a passer-by for whom it was painted.

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Miniature masterpiece

And finally …

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Cop with poodle

The real thing, an actual Banksy, preserved behind perspex.

The tour was an eye-opener, for this Londoner anyway. I’ve lived here most of my life but I shall look at my environment with new eyes henceforth.

Dave runs his street art tours daily. He also does night tours. Check them out at shoreditcharttours.co.uk.   Very much recommended.