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 na├»ve 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

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Robbo RIP

all photos: NoLionsInEngland

The graffiti community mourns the passing of a giant. Robbo, King Robbo to many, sustained serious injuries in an accident in 2011 and after being in a coma ever since passed away last week. RIP.

Robbo was a true legend of the London graffiti scene being one of the leaders of the generation that first adopted the New York style of graffiti in the early 80s. After a number of years retired from active painting Robbo returned to active duty in 2009 when Banksy went over a Robbo piece in Camden dating from 1985, thus triggering one of the most notable art feuds ever.

For family, crew mates and those who knew him this is a time of grief for Robbo; for the global fraternity of Team Robbo and the many who knew of this colossus of the graffiti scene, this is a time for paying respects. All around the World but particularly in London, graffiti writers have been painting tributes to Robbo, here are a few from various locations in London.

Robbo RIP

Robbo RIP
Oker, Drax

Who weeps when the King is Dead? The Queen of course

Robbo RIP
Pure Evil

Robbo RIP
Diet, Heat

Robbo RIP

Robbo RIP

Robbo RIP

Robbo RIP

Robbo RIP

Robbo RIP

Robbo RIP

Robbo RIP

Robbo RIP

Robbo RIP

More photos will be added to the Robbo Tribute photo set, check them out.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Meeting Of Styles UK 2014

all photos NoLionsInEngland except HowAboutNo where stated

Meeting Of Styles is an international celebration of the art of the spraycan, graffiti and music. Since 2002 Meeting Of Styles spraycan art jams have taken place in 16 countries. Last weekend it was the turn of Shoreditch to host the Meeting Of Styles UK 2014 event. Billed as featuring nearly 60 artists, though some on the list didn’t make it and some who painted weren’t on the pre event MOS list, our own entirely unofficial crude estimate is that about 350m of walls were decorated.

I will be amazed if Shoreditch sees another wall smashed in this style this year, right to left top: Gent48, Vibes RT, Odisy; bottom: Soker, Ders, Twesh riffing on a man vs beast theme

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We went to our first Meeting Of Styles event in 2008 when it was held on the roof and walls of what is now Village Underground on Holywell lane and Great Eastern St. That was back in the day when you never saw street art or graffiti being created live in the daytime so on that occasion it was incredibly exciting to mingle with artists and watch this incredible graffiti being created, all in the ambience of super cool party with great music and great drink.

Meeting Of Styles 2008
2008, End Of The Line offices, Village Underground

Meeting Of Styles 2008
2008, Village Underground

This weekend there were artists out in force everywhere you walked, all quite happy to chat and be photographed - on the whole. Mainly. Well, some perhaps, if you asked politely.



ID Crew were out represented by Stika, Tizer, Lovepusher and Wisher, joined by friends Aeon Fly and bridged over by the legend 3DOM from Bristol

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Stika, Tizer, Lovepusher, Wisher, 3Dom, Aeon

CHU wrestled with the most challenging multi-faceted surface of the weekend and created a greatest hits medley of his tongue in cheek work. This sparked controversy when a commercial spraypaint outfit painted over half of his work the day after, not good but in way, just an accelerated form of the normal life cycle of street art.


Alongside CHU, Inkfetish’s character cradles masterful bubblegum coloured 3D lettering.

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I was surprised to see the old Curtain Theatre mural painted over but it had accumulated a lot of un-authorised additional art over the years and End Of The Line brought their A game to the negotiation of spots and the results of Sepr, Dank and Inkie’s weekend are particularly impressive.


Sepr, Inkie

Die Dixons came from Germany, their cheeky use of a traffic cone was one of the more inventive approaches to overcoming the physical limits of a wall.

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Die Dixons

London based Norwegian Zina had to contend with a strong breeze blowing the spray across her wall to paint this martial arts inspired piece


This wall by Squirl, SPZero 76, Captain Kris and Si Mitchell of the Lost Souls crew is probably the strongest piece I have seen yet from this unit.

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Squirl, SPZero 76, Captain Kris and Si Mitchell, photo HowAboutNo

Elph and Hicks worked an underwater landscape in the company of Candi and AR. Getting to paint a wall at Meeting Of Styles on only your second time painting on the streets (AR) kind of waters down the idea that we are seeing the legends and the best of the best.



Meeting of Styles is the full package with art, food and a party groove. The Beatbox Collective teamed up with a friend to lay down aa awesome beatbox and sax combination on the Sunday evening to a totally chilled Pedley St wasteland crowd.

Beatbox Collective & cool sax playing friend

Approaches to painting ranged from block letter and wildstyle graffiti to abstract, cartoon to old masters, characters to animals, photorealistic to surreal. A bit of everything for everyone and undoubtedly a massive refresh of the Shoreditch landscape, surely the biggest MOS in the UK yet. More photos of the MOS walls HERE

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Sheffield Sex City

"cos the city's out to get me if I won't sleep with her this evening
Though her buildings are impressive and her cul-de-sacs amazing
She's had too many lovers and I know you're out there waiting”
- "Sheffield Sex City", Pulp

All photos: NoLionsInEngland

Sheffield, up North, 3 hours ish out of St Pancras, why I have not done this before? The buildings, the music, the artists – all legends. "Let’s all go to Aida’s show!" A trip to Sheffield just happened, at last.

Sheffield’s artistic delights included non permissioned art spread out on the streets, derelict buildings battered by art and graffiti and a whole host of permissioned murals.

Our first little wander is piloted with the aid of a map scraped off the net showing the locations of Phlegm paintings visible on the street though the route is propelled more by the desire to locate food. Phlegm on the side of The Riverside where a microbrewed pale ale at £2.95 is just too crazy to leave in the barrel but the early shift chef can keep his bleach tasting burgers.

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Phlegm Squid Chariot at The Riverside, overgrown!

Through the streets we wander finding Kid Acne, EMA,D7606, evidence of a visit by London style meister Petro and a number of artists new to us.

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Kid Acne, EMA,D7606, Eug & others unknown

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We spied quite a few stunning pieces of rooftop graf, my favourite being this Cres/Anubis couple.

Cres, Anubis

Proper artist Simon Kent is a sculptor whose "proper art" could be described as Easter Island influenced human figures but on the streets he puts up charcoal coloured portraits which sit in corners looking moody, dark and “sculptural”.

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Simon Kent

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Simon Kent, Kid Acne

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Simon Kent

A chance encounter with writer Aero at our first dead building carcass results in us assisting him to slide into said property, which may have been our tiny contribution to this little beauty ending up on a wall inside.

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Aero, Doze, Some

The next morning was spent in intensive care at TamperCoffee, Sellers Wheel wrapping myself around several cups of Earl Grey and an awesome Eggs Benedict following which we had a wonderful explore of a classic Sheffield Crack Den (me: “what’s the name of this place?”; trusty local friend and guide: “Crack Den”; “So if I post a letter to Crack Den, Sheffield it will arrive here?”; TLFAG: “Put Sheffield S1, should narrow it down”).

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Eugene, Volt

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Cres, Phlegm

Carefully and lightly navigating over glass, wood timbers, rubbish and needles, photographing as I went, I emerged into a rough courtyard space, photographed a load of graff ahead of and around me then 10 minutes later turned to go back through the shattered window I had climbed out of only to realise I had actually emerged right under a classic Phlegm piece familiar from many street art blogs and flickr accounts, I just didn’t know it was there, those special moments of discovery and revelation are spine tingling.

Phlegm in Sheffield

We wandered up a steep incline to an abandoned ski village – in Sheffield, who’d have thought? Found some small amounts of graffiti, stunning views and some plastic bin lids to slide down the relics of the old dry slope matting – “such fun”!


Casino et al

In a second building we found lots of dereliction, plenty of graff of varying quality and in amongst it all, some surprisingly beautiful art by incredible artists completely new to these eyes.

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Mila K

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Two lads putting the art and graff together to good effect are Xhastexo and Byne BS

Xhastexo, Byne
Xhastexo, Byne

Getting on to the more acceptable face of street art – if you are a Sheffield burgher – there was plenty of evidence that Sheffield has developed considerable formal pride in its home grown street art talent. Our visit was ostensibly to check out Aida’s first solo show at the Bradbury and Blanchard Gallery and a quick scan over the list of previous shows in that space indicates a deep reservoir of local street art talent have exhibited on their gallery walls. We found art spaces, exhibition halls and building site hoardings all giving permissioned space to graffiti and street art talent.

Kid Acne

We found earlier Phlegm pieces, early evolutionary forms of the spindly monochromatic Phlegm folk we now know well and love, as well as Phlegm fronting for a major Sheffield art gallery and of course, many more of those folorn Phlegm characters in their technology free heath robinson world

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I never knew this kind of crazy abstract camouflage was in EMA’s repertoire


Tell you another thing I never expected - a wall painted by Rolf Harris back in the day!

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Rolf Harris, Kid Acne (no connection)

Two Sheffield artists whose work I have vicariously admired from afar are Faunagraphic and Rocket01, I did find art by these folks though it was not really the kind of their art that I was looking for.  Sheffield, I have unfinished business!


Harry Brearley by Faunographic

Wandering the streets, deserted, finding little art gems, petite cadeaux from artists left on the walls, it feet like the kind of magical voyage of discovery we had in Shoreditch years ago before everyone became street art photographers (believe it or not, there was a time when I refused to put my photos on the net and HowAboutNo beat my fingers with a hammer to make me join Flickr).  My friends and I on these wanders owe thanks to Sheffield artist Jo Peel who showed us streets, pubs with lock-ins and buildings with lock-outs.  One thing that became apparent was exactly where Jo's art has its roots.

In a very short dash we really only scratched the surface, a trio of grimy derelict locations and a bit of a wander yet we saw so much. The great thing is there remains so much more to see, so that combined with the natural spot churn will definitely going to make further trips to Sheffield worthwhile.

It would be wrong of me not to acknowledge that there are some passionate and expert Sheffield street art and graffiti photographers and bloggers whose posts and pictures inspired me and whose dedication and passion I tip my hat to.   All errors of identity, location, style here are entirely mine.


Fiona Ferret Graffiti - The Writing On The Wall
Mila K
Bradbury and Blanchard 
Jo Peel
Sheffield Urban Art
Florence Blanchard
Kid Acne
Simon Kent