Thursday, 27 November 2014

Louis Masai ThisIsNow Mural Project

All Art: by Louis Masai
locations: Shoreditch, Camden, Brixton

All photographs: NoLionsInEngland

You wait all year for conscience driven awareness raising street art campaigns then two come along at once.  A couple of weeks ago, not long after Graffoto wrote about Dan Witz’s Empty The Cages project, Louis Masai was spied on the streets of Shoreditch at the early stage of a bit of creativity.   At that point the work in progress over the tattoo inspired strong colours of the underlying piece of art looked stunning itself.

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This Is Now - Louis Masai work in progress

A couple of guys watching and filming the action explained that Masai was engaged on a programme of painting murals in support of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and the charity Synchronicity Earth and his specific project went under the title #ThisIsNow.

A couple of days later on a trip to Camden Market for some wardrobe related items (wow that place has changed) another Masai creature, a yellow tailed scorpion was discovered.  This prompted a wider search and the discovery of quite a number of #ThisIsNow paintings in the Camden and Shoreditch areas.

Parakeets - cause of much tree focussed finger pointing in nearby Regents Park (true!)

The campaign’s purpose is to raise awareness of the dangers of extinction faced by a huge number of species on the IUCN Red List.

Masai is known as a painter with a deep concern for environmental issues whose gift for spraycan art has been applied to photorealistic animal portraits for years.  It isn’t quite true to imply in the opening sentence that we have not seen any issue based conscience driven art up until now, earlier this year Masai pursued a stunning campaign to highlight the dangers of the mass bee death taking place in the States (no bees =  no pollination = crop failure = mankind demise).   It helps of course that Masai is a skilled spraypaint flinger and the subjects have a certain animal kingdom cuteness.

Save The bees

There are several strands to the #ThisIsNow message.  “Did you think you wouldn’t miss them?  Well it’s too late now” suggests the Orange Spotted Emerald.

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Orange Spotted Emerald - gone

“OMG we got to do something fast” is the call to arms issued on behalf of the household sparrow.

"7/10 house sparrows have disappeared from London 1994 - 2001"

The message underpinning the invasive species paintings is perhaps a bit foggy, are we for or agin?    The term invasive species has pejorative notes; China, did we ask for your Mitten Crabs? No, we spend a lot of money re-tooling ships to stem the flow of invading maritime hitch hikers, yet in his own words Masai appears to appease.  For instance the yellow tailed scorpion “having little impact on the environment….hiding in walls …barely a sting” sound like perhaps they ought to be given a guarded welcome.  There is a suspicion that this might be one of those rare issues Farage already has an actual policy about.

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15,000 Yellow Tailed Scorpions already granted asylum

There are a grand total of ten of these great paintings to be found but South of The River is a bike ride too far for this report, so for the rest head down to Brixton.

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The American Bullfrog.  Fancy that being invasive.

Top Mouth Gudgeon - also an invader

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The Lynx, apparently an extinct native species in the UK (subsequent stickers added by artist unknown)

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages

Photos: NoLionsinEngland except where stated

There are few joys greater than the unexpected discovery of a stunning piece of street art. Finding something with beauty and meaning and which you were totally unaware of gives a buzz very little else can match. While cycling along my well worn route into Shoreditch recently something caught my eye on a no entry sign.

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages

I pulled over, I photographed it, I puzzled over it. My instant assessment was – it’s on a traffic sign; it’s well made; it’s perfectly placed; it must be something new by Clet Abraham. Something niggled though, the cluster of tight packed chickens didn't make me smile which is a Pavlovian response to any Clet Abraham traffic sign subversion. As I cycled up the hill within 2 minutes another new bit of street art caught my eye.

Dan Witz - Empty The cages

This one had clear provenance, something trapped behind a grating in a wall clawing to escape is classic Dan Witz from NY. As I photographed these incarcerated chickens a possible connection sprung to mind, were the chickens I had just seen at the bottom of the hill therefore also by Dan Witz? A moment on google when I got home revealed London was hosting a new Dan Witz campaign which had somehow completely escaped my attention.

Empty the cages website

The last time Dan Witz was actively creating street art in London was around the time of his "Prisoners 2012 – 13" show at Lazarides Gallery in January 2013, inserting a series of artworks into our urban environment to raise awareness of the mistreatment of prisoners, a project he worked on in cooperation with Amnesty International.

Dan Witz

Empty The Cages is a new PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals) campaign for which vegan Dan Witz aims to raise awareness of the cruelty inflicted on animals in the quest for more efficient and cheaper meat production to feed the worst parasite this planet has ever witnessed - mankind. Sculptural artworks of cows, pigs and chickens penned and caged have been placed around inner London, as well as the sign based image discovered at the top of the post.

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages

Testimony to my 110% concentration on avoiding death when I ride my bike, I found out that the road sign had been up for almost a month before I spotted it despite having passed within yards of it many times. There is a map on the Empty The Cages website indicating the approximate locations of Dan Witz’s campaign pieces and armed with the map I was able to track down quite a few..about half of them.

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages
This little pig went to market

Placement is everything with great street art and although the photographs from PETA have chosen not to highlight the placement, a couple of them were placed alongside street artefacts that resonated with the message.

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages
Danger Of Death

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages
Doors are alarmed

Several of the pieces are placed around and on Smithfield Market, formerly London's main meat market and therefore a building whose history lends resonance and direction to the Empty The Cages message.

Discovering the one below was particularly tricky but now it’s slightly embarrassing to be reminded on every ride into Shoreditch that 4 of them can actually be seen from the main road I cycle along.

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages

A number of the pieces would defy use of the map for their discovery, for example you could try finding the burined chicken foot in the flower beds around St Paul’s Cathedral but that’s a heck of a lot of soil and damp leaves you’ll be staring at. Some things though are meant to be just found rather than located with a map.  Imagine the impact, the shock at the moment of discovery by someone who chances upon the charnel remains by chance.

Changing your mind about dinner yet?

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages

Thursday, 16 October 2014

INSA - "The Cycle Of Futility"

All photos NoLionsInEngland except where stated

(Update: see new news on NO AD in footnote at bottom)

Street artist INSA has explored the far off boundaries of technology with his latest hi-tech work "The Cycle Of Futility" in Shoreditch.


With most street art basically what you see is what you get, the image is the message. INSA though works with the old animation idea of painted frames each one incorporating a small movement from the previous one which you subsequently view as a looping gif online.

He has now pushed the art a further step by exploiting Augmented Reality technology. You download the free App onto your iPhone, point the phone at the wall and the powers of augmented reality replace the static real-art on the walls with the whirling animated gif on your phone. Wow!

INSA Gif-iti Tumblr

The Cycle of Futility features the full rites of passage from life’s beginnings to skulls representing death, while the in-between bit is an unrelenting assault of authority - who'd be a street artist?  Perhaps we can take some pleasure from the fact that the police endlessly chase but never catch anything.

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Each painted mural was an important and equal step on the process of creating an animated piece of art, what remains on the wall may appear as a mural but actually the art piece is the App animation. The mural on the wall is no more than just the last frame of the animation, not that it is any less valid as a mural of course.

The technology isn’t new, adverts have utilised Augmented Reality for a while and Jordan Seilers advert busters have appeared in New York where Augmented Reality replaces the advert with a piece of art, thankfully RJ at Vandalog has that covered.

The earliest INSA piece we can recall was a comparatively small seemingly abstract patterned paste up spotted in 2006 though these two photos date from 2007 and 2008 respectively, curiously the tattered remnants of that 2008 can still be made out by Old St roundabout to this day.

London, 2007

London, 2008

We realised later that the abstract patterns were in fact women’s legs in stripy tights ending in a foot shod in very high heeled stilettos and these were complimented by abstract studies of female buttocks, combined in this 2008 repeating pattern.


We also caught up with the fact that INSA started out as a graffiti writer, a background we saw in some stunning bits glossy graffiti writing, this man LOVES bling.

London, 2009

INSA’s art shows have been epic magnificence. In 2012 he showed "Self Reflection Is Greater Than Self Projection", a superb immersive installation room inside the very building the Futility Cycle mural is painted on.


INSA Self Reflection

Before that, Insa was "Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places" (2009)


And this seen at a Brighton show is because we think it is important to appreciate the man's fashion aesthetic

INSA heels


From mid-October through the end of November, NO AD will display photographic works in conjunction with the renowned International Center of Photography. The first part of the ICP’s participation will be dedicated to Sebastião Salgado: Genesis, an exhibition on view through January 11, 2015, at the International Center of Photography, 1133 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY. NO AD will include 54 arresting images of fleeting cultures and environment, presented alongside a video of the artist’s thoughts on climate change.

As the first of many collaborations ahead, we want to thank ICP for its vision and support. We hope that NO AD will become an alternative exhibition space for New Yorkers, bringing them closer to the rich cultural content this city has to offer. We could not be happier that ICP has chosen to use this new format to reach out to new audiences in progressive ways.

NO AD x ICP (Oct. 15 – Nov. 31)


INSA free App viewer:

Graffoto Love:  Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places:

Graffoto Love: Self Reflection Is Greater Than Self Projection:

NY Subway Ad Busting "NO AD":  App

Ad busting

Friday, 3 October 2014

Art Is Trash returns to London

Art Is Trash is back in town and installed this most unlikely tearful tribute to Robbo on a wall tastefully utilised by Drax and Oker and Pure Evil (out of shot) as a Robbo tribute then distastefully partially painted over too soon by Endless.

Art is Trash...back in town

I doubt there is a more flamboyant performer in the world of street art than Art Is Trash.

Art is Trash...back in town

Art is Trash aka Arte es Basura in his native Spanish tongue was the most exciting and original talent to burst onto the Shoreditch stage in 2013. This super found object creation revisits one of Art Is Trash’s recurring themes, the artist vs the establishment. Look how the artist has the higher ground and a firing not arrows but roller brushes dripping colourful paint at the idiotic bumbling police. Note also the similarity in garb between the painted artist besting the authority figures and Art Is Trash’s chosen threads in the photo above, he puts himself right into the heart of his art.

Art is Trash...back in town

We raved about Art Is Trash when he was here in 2013, it is great to see him back in town and we look forward to an exciting and productive visit.

Art is Trash...back in town

all photos: NoLionsInEngland

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Adam Neate - Dimensionalism

5 Sep - 18 October

Elms Lester Paint Rooms
Flitcroft Street
Covent Garden
London WC2H 8DH

all photos: NoLionsInEngland

Sometimes Graffoto is blown away by an exhibition to which the street art epithet has only a distant relevance but it is still worth sharing the excitement. In the case of Adam Neate, the street art pedigree is undoubted, Adam was one of the pioneers of London’s street art culture but regrettably in 10 years of obsessing over street art we have never actually found a piece of street art by Adam Neate. And that includes lonely hours late into the night driving around North London on a wild goose chase when he deposited 1,000 screen printed portraits all over London in 2008.

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Exhibitions by Adam Neate at Elms Lester have always plotted and commemorated a timeline through his progress and development. We have seen the portraits, the introduction of movement, the playing with light, shadow, colour, the 3D “Dimensionalism”, the use of perspex. This show is no different as we now see Adam taking up the use of wood and a return to painting, playing with the texture of the paint itself.

Tilting shapes cut into sheets of wood provides Adam Neate with a new means to explore depth and relief in a single sheet. The tilts and steps between adjacent layers of wood provide depth and shadows in a lot of the art in this show. The effect is pulled off most spectacularly in “The Horse Race” with elements such as the reins in the rider’s hands actually are the cuts between adjacent panels of wood and the legs rising out of the plane of the image create their own shadow. Craftsmanship here has been raised to the level where, as we understand it, Neate can achieve these contrasts of depth using just one single cut piece of wood, nothing added, nothing taken away apart from a pile of sawdust. From a distance (and when viewed in an online picture) the image takes on the appearance of a flat painting, for full impact get close enough to smell the jockey sweat.

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The Horse Race

As well as manipulating the cut sheets of wood, Adam Neate has also experimented with groves incised into the wood. In The Concert Pianist the view is over the shoulder of the player, across the piano towards the auditorium. Humanity is created by grooves in the wood in the background and also the planks on the stage are grooves cut into a single piece. The theatre curtain hangs slightly proud of the scene while the piano is a masterpiece of wood shaping and painting, check out the painted reflection of the piano keys.

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The Concert Pianist

The most breathtaking piece in this series is “The Ship Of Fools”, three men in a tub assailed by a storm bail their boat. One suicidal mariner is penetrating holes into the side of the vessel to let the water out, there is some technical merit to this, it would reduce what salty sea dogs refer to as the “free surface effect”, true. A land lubber in the background vomits into a bucket while in the foreground someone frantically bails. Unconcerned by the elements and the looming tragedy a pair of seagulls circle overhead, these are cut shapes in the wood whose edges are painted white and as you move around the image, you see flashes of darkness and white just as you would glancing at real seagulls banking and swooping overhead. Cut wood surface rise and fall out of the plane of the painting while paint and lacquers play with the light and shadows. Through these details Neate weaves his magic.

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The Ship Of Fools

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The Ship Of Fools (detail)

Friends of this blog have raved about another image, the pretty big (we love this kind of special art language) “The Brothers”. Personally I found this image rather static and cartoonish, it seems to cry out for the missing dynamism of a serious sibling squabble, it lacks that trademark movement.

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The Brothers

12 years ago, Adam Neate was painting portraits on cardboard which he left in doorways across East London. It disappeared from the indoor art about 4 years ago but Neate has gone back to working with cardboard in a bright summery series of cardboard images inspired by the seaside. As well as following up with tilted constructed planes like in the wood pieces, Neate has pursued a distinctly cubist representation of figures and clothing. Contemporary narcissism is captured in the pre-occupation of the bathing beauties taking selfies on their phone, the image on the phone screen combining flesh and bikini tops.

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A trio of small red portraits routered in wood with their blurry, painted portrait edges hark back to Neate’s focus on representing movement.

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Red Portrait(s)

Over the years the rewards garnered by his talent have priced his gallery works well out of the reach of mere mortals but Adam is currently rectifying that with some very attractively (suicidally!) priced editioned dimensional pieces. All three, The Hug (sold out), The Cyclist and London Bridge are exhibited and in the case of the first two the originals are also on display. London Bridge captures a scene of grim business men commuting across London Bridge, their dark impressionist faces are in the classic Neate vein but the extraordinary element is the holographic ties they are wearing. Interestingly the gallery has two "London bridge" on display and the difference between the one displayed under natural daylight and the one under artificial gallery light (often referred to as “a light”) is quite dramatic.

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London Bridge

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The Cyclist (Originals)

Most art appears better in the flesh than in small images on a cell phone but in this case, only real life lets you differentiate between what is shadow and what is paint and to see how different points of view dramatically affect the perspective between the different layers. No amount of photography when reduced to blog friendly resolution can convey Adam Neate’s wide ranging exploration of the textures and finishes of paint that he has applied to the various surfaces. Until Graffoto’s web enabled holographic feel-o-vision gains wider use and some semblance of technological adequacy, you will for the time being have to get along and see for yourself.

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Thursday, 14 August 2014

ALO Hail To The loser

29 July - 18 August 2014

Saatchi Gallery
Kings Rd,
London, SW3 4RY

all photos: NoLionsInEngland

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There is a sort of generally accepted progression for ambitious street artists, something along the lines of work on the streets; participate in edgy totally non commercial and correspondingly un-profitable group show in a remote shared space; group show in a permanent gallery in time for the Christmas rush then solo show at a proper urban art gallery. ALO has gone from the streets via the mate’s pop up group shows straight to a solo show at fucking Saatchi gallery!  Fucking as in..” how did he do that? Fucking impressive!”.

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Hail To The loser

January 2011 we first photographed ALO in action on the streets of Shoreditch and were captivated by his ultra colourful naïve expressionist portraits. Initially he worked with paste ups and stickers then, gathering knowledge and confidence around London’s street art scene he progressed to painting directly onto walls.

"Oi!!!", Jan 2011

He rapidly acquired a passionate following among street art literate collectors, the desire increasing with each and every new street piece and in direct proportion to the difficulty in tracking him down (street art forums have been peppered with “I want to buy something from this guy but he’s not on the internet").

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Shoreditch, 2013

His art was gobbled up by connected insiders when it first became available “off the walls” at the Fun Factory pop up gallery in Summer 2013.  The clamour for his art has reached a volume entirely justified by the quality alone of his painting, regardless of any “urban” pedigree.

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Stylistically ALO has made no compromise when bringing his art off the street into the gallery, other than obviously he is working on canvas and found wood rather than the fixed surfaces of the street.  Hail To The Loser is a direct transportation to the gallery of his street work where he paints the sad, twisted and challenged members of the urban downtrodden.

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ALO world is our world, populated by the damaged, twisted and cracked unfortunates. Beggars and alcoholics abound, though the drug addicts that sometimes lurk in ALO’s street art seem to have checked in at rehab.  Cigarettes, alcohol, painkillers and guns are the props for life for ALO’s characters. His fragile female characters acquire a slender mascara eyed heroin chic while his gentlemen reflect hard lives in their cracked faces and bloodshot eyes.

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Blue Woman, Yellow Girl

With ALO’s work, the elephant in the room is the resemblance to some of the elements of the work of Jean Michel Basquiat.   ALO is greatly informed by German expressionism he tells us and he cites artists such as the drug dependant alcoholic Bavarian Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880 – 1938) whose work was denounced as “degenerate” by the Nazis in pre-war Germany and Jutland born Emil Nolde (1857 – 1956) whose art was also caught up in the “degenerate art” purge. ALO resists similarities between his work and the flat, colourful expressionist paintings of Basquiat but though they may be accidental,  I’m afraid I can’t tear myself away from the thought that there are parallels.

One element of ALO’s work which remain open to the individual’s interpretation are the machine gun scattering of dashes down the canvas, possibly this is falling rain, which would be the environmental conditioning most of his street characters would have to endure as a fact of life

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An element which we wouldn’t have seen before on the streets from ALO are the rough sculptures, the main one bringing his flat portraits off the wall into a boxy three dimensional reality, rendering them as multi faceted personalities.

Horn sculpture

This is all forms of life emerging from the cracks of the urban ghetto although these works are destined for a rather hipster ghetto where they should remind us that in life’s roulette, we are all ultimately losers.

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Portrait Of A Man

It is quite an achievment for an artist such as ALO to get a solo show at a prestigious "proper" art gallery like Saatchi, particularly when the blurb incorporates words like "self taught" and its unspoken cousin "Outsider", which usually have the establishment art snobs running a mile.  Sadly we are denied the one image the Saatchi Gallery is really crying out for, a girl with someone’s hand around her throat ;-)

For more images from the show, check here.

Hackney, 2012