Sunday, 5 April 2020

Digging In The Archives 1

Two weeks ago today I received a text message from the NHS telling me I had to isolate, though I had pretty much gone into a self imposed lockdown a week earlier when I returned from my Father’s funeral in Ireland. On a daily basis I have been digging through the photo archives and posting some older gems with a few thoughts on why they stood out. This is a compendium of the first two weeks worth.

This first photo I captioned “When dumpster diving goes wrong.” but it was about combining street art with found surreal elements, also the strong colours complemented the colour of Gianni Lee’s character outside Cargo.

Gianni Lee, Mar 2019

Sweet Toof, Rowdy and Knapple shenanigans last year, check their instas for a dose of artistic positivity . This photo reveals the scale of this collab which perhaps isn't so apparent when you view it from street level. Also, light as candyfloss as Knapple is, impressive piggy back stamina from da Toof geezer.

Sweet Toof, Rowdy, Knapple, 2019
Knapple, Rowdy, Sweet Toof, January 2019

In 2009 David Choe dropped a heap of awesome stuff in London, I only found out [last week] that the guy spraypainting the underpass from the passenger seat of a moving car in the opening montage of Exit Through The Gift Shop is David Choe.  Loved this plot.

David Choe 2009
David Choe, Nov 2009

Own that intrigue. Street art stimulates passers by in a way that adverts don't. People notice. Circles by L’Enfant, figure by David David, tile by Nathan Bowen, calligraphy (aka tag) by YAS21. This is the Old Truman Brewery wall that now is a canvas for Shepard Fairey’s Shadowplay mural.

Own that intrigue!
L’Enfant, David David, Nathan Bowen, Yas21, 2018

Although captioned “Give Us A bite”, I will confess that in 2011 I captioned this street photography styled photo of Stik’s family group “Who Ate All The Pies”.

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"Give Us A Bite", Stik, 2009

Of all the weird, wonderful, beautiful, clever and funny stuff that appeared on Cargo’s walls, this by Bortusk Leer has to be the wackiest! Anyone else remember his kid’s tv series?

Bortusk Leer, 2009

A squadron of Banksy Happy Choppers on Holywell Row, Shoreditch, there is a better photo by Steve Lazarides in his “Banksy Captured” book.

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Banksy, 2006

Escif got a lot of coverage in the past week for his spectacular sculpture in Valencia which was torched as part of the Fallas celebrations, though with Spain in lockdown few got to see it actually live. In 2010 Escif had a show at Pictures On Walls in that period when it was welcoming folk in off the street, as opposed to the “by apppointment only” fortress it had been in its Scrutton St and Willow St days. These are POW’s shutters painted by Escif with Petro on window dressing detail.

Escif at Pictures On Walls, 2010
Escif, also feat Petro, 2010

Elbow Toe had a stunning installation at the urban art epicentre The Leonard St Gallery. He visited London more than once in that era. He commented to me at the time that getting up in London felt so chilled compared to NY. This piece if I recall correct was a representation of his wife. 2007.

Elbow Toe 2007
Elbow Toe

This context photo also features then Shoreditch based artist Jawa, and Mudwig is a small puce apparently but the many faults of Mudwig were regularly discussed on walls in those days.

Elbow Toe 2007
Elbow Toe feat Jawa and Mudwig, 2007

Burning Candy owned the East End. Sweet Toof and Cyclops went large here on the plot opposite where CitizenM stands today, before the North London line curved past that building. Back of Chariots for those familiar with that landmark. Also features SNOE TRP, EINE and REAK.

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Burning Candy, Snoe, Eine, Reak et al 2007

If you are going to admire someone else's genius, nothing says "wow" quite as much as having your art admire theirs. Pure Evil’s Pearly Kings express what the rest of us thought of Swoon’s 2007 amazing filigree paste up on Coronet St. Also features Jef Aerosol looking pretty hyper and The Krah. This wall used to host some great street art. Street art photography companion and Graffoto founder Howaboutno and I always disagreed on whether you should clear shit and rubbish out of photos.

Swoon, Pure Evil, Jef Aerosol, The Krah, photo 2008

Judith Supine from NY made surreal psychedelic art which really paid attention to its surroundings, location was everything. This one is by the entrance to the long lost iconic Dragon Bar. Such a shame we don't get visits from Judith Supine any more.

Judith Supine, 2007

Nurses and doctors are the front line, they are performing heroics without thought of their own safety and in the face of apparent shortages of safety equipment that would render their service less fraught with risk. It is saddening to hear just now (when first posted to Instagram) of two nurses in the UK who have passed away after treating patients affected by COVID-19. Both were mothers of 3. My thoughts are with the family. This piece by Stik now seems sadly prophetic.

Stik 2009
Stik, 2009

Roa had been dropping an amazing menagerie of dishevelled creatures in Shoreditch since 2009 but this gate in 2012 kicked thing up another level in terms of making visible a degree of #gore which characterised man’s relationship with his fellow creatures. If it was shocking then, you hadn’t been paying attention. Also, this was one of his less long lived London pieces and is correspondingly less well known.

ROA, 2012

Damn tourists getting in the group portrait, Suriani’s dramatic pasteups made great photos.

Suriani 2009
Suriani, 2009

Standby for more blasts from the past for as long the shutdown prevents my return to work.

Art credits and links are by each photo. All photos: Dave Stuart

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Jace's Small Faces

Jace is a street artist who puts up charming and idiosyncratic sculptural faces on walls, usually not troubling wall owners with requests for permission. At the turn of the decade, three weeks ago, Jace revealed he had put up 253 faces in an impressive 47 cities in a staggering 21 countries. I can relate to this kind of OCD stats collection.

A new crop of Jace faces surfaced last weekend including a renewal of Jace’s ongoing homage to Stik’s iconic Brick Lane Couple.

New Couple, Jace, Jan 2020
Brick Lane Couple by Stik; Jace couple (at eye level),January 2020

This homage piece has by Graffoto’s reckoning been through 5 different manifestations since it first appeared in 2017.   The first face on this spot was actually just a lonesome bachelor in February 2017, but he did have a wonderful fresh complexion.

Jace Bathelor Small Face, Feb 2017
Bachelor Small Face, Feb 2017

It was joined by its partner in around May 2017

Stik Homage, May 2017
Homage to Stik

By October 2017 the resilient female had endured a few chips but and chosen a new partner.

Jace October 2017
October 2017

This partner was tragically and mysteriously taken, our heroine moved on to another new partner in April 2018, this couple were noticeably closer than her previous relationships and now she preferred brown eyes to blue.

Jace April 2018
April 2018

After a long affair and following the pattern, the gentleman somewhat unchivalrously disappeared leaving the poor lady all alone. Her next partner in July 2019 wasn't exactly what you would call a looker but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Jace, 2019
July 2019

Then, unexpectedly, the couple disappeared, maybe they eloped together. Last weekend a new couple were drawn to this most romantic corner, in fact one would attribute an almost post coital glow to this cheeky pair.

jace, Stik Homage Jan 2020
January 2020

jace, Stik Homage Jan 2020
Looking pretty damn pleased with themselves, January 2020

So why do these disappear? As it doesn’t seem to be the council nor is it likely to be the wall owners removing them, the most likely explanation is going to be souvenir hunters. Sticky fingered street art spotters who think the art would be much better in their private collection rather than enjoyed by its intended public audience. It’s not all bad news with Jace’s faces, a wonderful story appeared on Jace’s Instagram last weekend about the fate of some small faces in Belfast, Northern Ireland… best told by Jace himself:

Part 1: "In December 2016 I discreetly installed one of my very first ever faces to this wonderful courtyard at Duke of York / Dark Horse Belfast - a creative and humorous space celebrating the people and culture of my city and country. Each year I returned to Cathedral Quarter more and more fantastic murals and installations (by artist @ciarangallagherart amongst others) would appear, and I too would leave another surprise gift in the form of a cheeky face. Some of the faces paid homage to the city, like my H&W giants: Samson & Goliath !"

Jace Belfast Part 1
Photo by Jace

"At the very beginning of this year (2020) I made a quick visit back to the courtyard before leaving Belfast, and it appeared to me that all of the faces that had been installed over the years had been removed 😦😞☹️ I felt a tinge of sadness (though this is the nature of urban art) because I love this specific place so much, and was about to leave the courtyard when at a final glance down towards the gates something awesome caught my eye..."

Jace Belfast Part 2
Photo by Jace

Part 2: "all those faces installed from 2016 and dotted about the place have been relocated and displayed collectively. Truly awesome! Seeing this just as I was about to leave Belfast I felt immensely proud and overwhelmingly happy, because I enjoy being in this place a lot. And so, of course I had to put one more new face to the bottom of the column..."

When it comes to his small faces, Jace doesn’t do half measures, all told we found 8 small faces from the most recent Jace Shoreditch adventure and for the record, here are the other six beauties.

Jace, Uberfubs, Dr Cream
Jace, Uberfubs, Dr Cream - Tiles and relief sculptures are in fashion

Theresa May by Jace, January 2020
Theresa May, January 2020

Jace, January 2020
Jace Face in London

Jace, January 2020
January 2020

Jace Purple Haze Jan 2020
Purple Daze

Jace, January 2020
January 2020

The Shoreditch Street Art Tours blog first wrote about Jace’s homage to Stik's couple in October 2017

Then small faces in great places were featured again in December 2017.

Let’s hope the Stik homage faces last even longer this time.

All photos Dave Stuart except Jace where credited.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Winter Lights 2020

Winter Lights

Canary Wharf, London

16th - 25th January 2020

Dark nights and biting cold make classic ingredients for some light art so off to Winter Lights at Canary Wharf, selfie heaven in the form of 26 sculptures.

Affinity, Amigo and Amigo & S1T2

Starting with our favourite, Constellation is part Dr Who theme tune vortex visual and part early 80s wire frame battlezone tank game. The white light projected into water vapour clouds is totally immersive, absorbing and nothing like as wet as it might sound.

Constellation, Studio Joanie Lemercier

Constellation, Studio Joanie Lemercier

Pre visit consultation of the website suggested Absorbed By Light had compelling crowd “interaction” photograph potential but the crowds clustered around the bench means sharp elbows and abandoning your British reserve is essential, time and rumbling stomachs decreed we wouldn’t throw ourselves into that scrum. In a desperate attempt to contrive a street art reference, this installation channeled two great pieces of art by Banksy, the Mobile Lovers in Bristol and the bench with seagulls at Dismaland.

Absorbed By Light
Absorbed By Light, Gali Mai Lucas

Banksy/Polly Morgan, Dismaland, 2015

Mobile Lovers, Banksy 2014. Photo shellshock

The Bra Tree fused the after effect of a Tom Jones gig in the park with a 1970s women's lib rally, it probably looks much the same in daylight, the illuminations operate from 4pm to 10pm, as at night. All the bras are believed to be part of the artist’s original installation, evidence suggesting otherwise gratefully received.   Perhaps a more imaginative name would have inspired some more enlightened thinking about this explosion in a lingerie department.

The Bra Tree
The Bra Tree

Everyone can take fabulous photos at Winter Lights, the Mountain of Light is particularly photogenic.

Mountain of Light
Mountain of Light, Angus Muir Design

Shish-Ka-Buoy looks like display of psychedelic sex toys and once that thought is planted in your mind you just can’t erase it.

Shish-Ka-Buoy, Angus Muir Design

Sasha Trees is one installation that involves quite a bit of a schlep from the main clusters and you’ve probably seen it already so even though it looks great, if time is tight this would be the one to drop.

Sasha Trees
Sasha Trees, Adam Decolight

Sky on Earth is a genius proof of the "there's a queue, better join it quick" herd instinct. The installation has subwoofer bass note throbs accompanying a bubble bath with intermittent light flickers, you can extract the impact, effect and visuals just as effectively from around the perimeter but everyone who didn't have kids under the age of 10 politely queued 10 minutes for the privilege of walking down the channel in the middle.

Sky On Earth
Sky On Earth, UAII Studio

Light festival veterans in London will find a number of the installations quite familiar. I can’t think how many light festivals the Light benches have appeared in and some such as Liquid Sound and Bit.Fall looked identical to last year. Some were just downright underwhelming such as Seeds Of Life located in a shopping mall.

Squiggle,  Angus Muir Design. So 2019.

Pools Of Light was also present last year and still looked like a 6th form disco light show fell into a ball pond. It is amusing to observe the resigned attempts of stewards to prevent people throwing the balls around in the face of what looked like a dozen American Football matches taking place on the same pitch.

Pools Of Light
Pools Of Light

It’s fun, it's photogenic, it runs for a week until next Saturday 25th January and the forecast for this week is fortuitously dry. Arriving at Canary Wharf tube station drops you right into the action so getting there isn’t too problematic, so perhaps well worth considering Winter Lights for a free thing to do in January.

Desire, UXU Studio

Light Mountain
Mountain of Light, Angus Muir Design

Lactolight by Lactolight

Aquatics, Philipp Artus

Ditto, Ithaca Studio

Time and Tide
Time and Tide, Paul and Pute

All photos Dave Stuart except Shellshock where noted

More information Winter Lights: Website