Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Subdude Show and Tell

Subdude Show
Monty's Bar, Brick Lane
September 19th - October 10th (extended)

In the politically fucked up dysfunctional times the UK finds itself in now, those days before the June 2016 Brexit Referendum seem like a period of almost benign stability. Well, apart from austerity, working family poverty, rising foodbank dependency, zero hours contracts, government collusion in corporate tax fraud, a refugee crisis and terminal environmental damage things may actually have been pretty kind of stable. Hell, even Trump hadn’t been elected. The Brexit referendum result shifted and shook everything, creating the landscape and motive for Subdude to let rip his street art on Shoreditch’s outdoor gallery.

We are sitting by the window at Monty’s Bar on Brick Lane, street characters are ranting outside; dibble pop in; we sip local craft beers and look back on how things got to this.

Subdude Solo Show
Subdude's Rogues' Gallery

Subdude’s street art started to appear in Autumn 2016, characterised by colourful A2 paste ups, political cynicism and social media jests.

The catalyst for this adventure curiously came from a street art workshop up in the West End, a programme to stimulate creation “experiential” art which Subdude joined having had his curiosity piqued by the street art he was seeing around his office close to Shoreditch. Subdude describes this defining moment.

“The leader sat us down in the morning and she showed us all the stuff and at lunchtime she said “okay, go do something “. I was going “I don’t have anything, I don’t have any supplies, what am I going to do?” I had said I was interested in text and this woman from New Zealand came up and she said “oh I am interested in words and I am interested in text too, let’s figure something out”. We went out and we just bought some chalk from the local Cornershop and we went to Russell Square, somewhere around there and we wrote in a big chalk circle on the ground “The World would be a better place if….” And we just dumped a bunch of the chalk there and we just backed away.”

So Subdude’s first street intervention came from a chance connection. Confidence grew, they did it again and they found they would get immediate reactions, some good, some not so good like the angry girl having a row on her phone scrawling “LOVE DOES NOT EXIST in huge capitals.

Subdude’s background is in journalism and assisted by a natural Irish gift of the gab the words certainly flow. Combining a fascination with world politics from an early age and a flair for succinct wordplay with the experience gained from the chalk circles experiments resulted in the step into street art as we know it.

Subdude Lost Drone
Subdude Lost Drone, April 2017

Subdude needed some imagery to go with his words, and in pursuit of simplicity came up with the character “Little Dude”.

Subdude Only Little People Pay Taxes
Little Dude v. Angry Boy by St8ment

“I came up with the Little Dude when I was depressed and down and I was thinking “what am I doing with my life and where is this going?” I had this little notebook and I think I drew this little figure 17 pages in a row and eventually the little dude emerged out of it. I showed it to one of my friends and he said “there is something wrong with you, you need to see somebody”.

Subdude Solo Show
Little Dude and Drone images feature in the Monty's Bar show

An early manifestation of Little Dude built upon the interactive experience of the chalk circles. We used to see these wooden panels appearing around Shoreditch pleading with passers by to take them on their adventures.

“People would take them off and they would take them on journeys and they would send me emails explaining the journey they took and there were so many great stories. I got at least a thousand photos on my computer just from that project.”

Graffoto has a few too:

Subdude Found art
September 2016 Found Art

Subdude v The Algorithm
Subdude v The Algorithm, September 2016

From there, the outright political paste ups emerged.

”My first political piece I think was Trump Tangerine Tyrant.  I was a nerdy kid when I was 13 or 14 I would watch the nightly news and follow what was going on from all over the world, so I have always been a bit of a political junkie.”

Subdude Tangerine Tyrant
Subdude Tangerine Tyrant, February 2017

"Only Little People Pay Taxes" was Subdude's amusing response to the remarkable situation where the Irish government resisted EU rulings requiring them to claim back EUR13Bn of taxes it had not levied on Apple while the "Little People", itself a reference to leprechauns, are routinely pursued and imprisoned for much much smaller tax misdeameanours.

Subdude Mistress May - Apple Taxes
Mistress May & Only Little People Pay Taxes, November 2016

Subdude’s work pulls no punches in its crunching political sentiments spun with a mocking humour. The individuals or groups targeted by Subdude’s political barbs have their own ardent supporters, on the streets his art provokes conspiracy theories and scrawled responses, online combatants go purple with rage and outright hostility. You may be surprised to recall that in May 2017, prior to the most poorly judged gamble in political history since June 2016, Theresa May v. Jeremy Corbyn was relevant

Subdude Mistress May & Puppy Jeremy
Subdude Mistress May Puppy Jeremy, May 2017

“There is always a fine balance between making a serious point and getting a bit of humour into it, but sometimes it is so depressing that there is no humour. I have been trying to do something on the guy in Syria but I can’t think of anything too humorous about him you know. Hence Syrial Killer”.

Subdude Solo Show
Syrial Killer

Subdude: Syrial Killer political discourse
Subdude and anonymous political commentator

“Doing the politics is tough too, even here (Monty’s Bar) I told the Italian barmen I did Mus-salvini and I was showing it to them and they were like “Great! Great! You’ve got it spot on but you’re criticising somebody else’s politics from the outside.”

If there is one thing that defines Monty’s charm it has to be its wonkytonk idiosyncracy and Subdude has worked with that beautifully, check out the lamp shade – flag décor game going on here.

Subdude Solo Show

“In terms of reaction, the Chinese ones I have been putting up recently, people have been ripping them off the wall which to me is kind of good as you are provoking a response, but you can’t be sure if it is someone pro or anti the political subject or someone just engaging in local street art wars. I don’t think you know but you get a feel in terms of where you place them.”

Subdude Augmented and torn
Subdude, 2019, later water droplet embellishment by My Dog Sighs

“I guess the biggest one was the Israel one, that is one that gets ripped down everywhere, obviously someone is pro-zionist and determined that that is not going to appear anywhere.”

“I was doing the Islamic State one, there was four to begin with and they all had CALIPHofHATE, there was one about "we're gonna party like it’s the 7th century”, “We hate cartoons”, “What if the virgins hate me as much as other women do?” and “fundamentalists get things fundamentally wrong”. I show them to my friend [London based street artist] Hello The Mushgroom especially if there is something around female art to see if people are going to get things the wrong way and I also I am very aware that we are in a big Muslim area and I am not going out of my way to offend the local population or whatever but at the same time I am not going to let that stop me. That’s why I designed the Israel one. I had the CALIPHofHATE ones on my computer for at least two or three months and I was thinking “Do I want to put these out or do I not want to put these out” so I designed the Israel one to get next to it and each time I put it up it was one here and one here right next to eachother so I am showing I am taking the piss out of both of them and I am not taking sides. I was really surprised that the Israel one was ripped off the wall every time but the CALIPH of HATE one got ripped a few times but got more support.”

Subdude new Aparteheid v. Caliph of Hate
Subdude New Apartheid v. Caliph of Hate

Subdude Caliph of Hate
Subdude Caliph of Hate

Subdude’s debut solo exhibition which has been critically well received by family and friends alike is based entirely on new images not seen on the streets, though some emerged blinking into the last of the Summer sun over the term of the show.

Greta Thunberg
“From The Mouths Of babes”; Greta Thunberg looking saintly in Subdude solo show

Having a scribble board in an art gallery for comments is nothing new, think of the old fashioned "Comments Book" or the comments slips that exhibitionists stick to the wall at exhibitions. Subdude goes one step further using the feedback to identify the most popular image which will go out next on the street and also to invite people to propose soundbites for him to use in future street art. This echoes the way political commentators use biros and sharpies to add their views to his art on the streets.

“Of all the things in this show that is the thing that got the best reaction. That is borrowing from my first [chalk circles] and second [traveling art] projects.

There were at least 3 suggestions on there that were better than anything I would have come up with. Also I love that succinct 3 word, 4 word, 5 word thing”

Subdude Solo Show
Solo Show Brexit Interactive Selection

True to his word, as this incoherent mess of a hugely delayed blog post finally plops out the Brexit with the most ticks has been sighted down Brick Lane

Subdude Brexit Withdrawal Method & Jacob Rees-Mogg Moggy The Fat Cat
Withdrawal Method, Brick Lane, Oct 2019

Subdude loves that idea of a dialogue through the art, about the art and indeed on the art.

“I had 70 Putin designs on my computer I put 3 of them out I think. It is one of those examples of where you hit your flow. I did 70 posters in 2 hours or something like that, cranking them out. Like the Brexit posters, I have done bits and pieces on Brexit but I feel I could have done loads loads more on that.”

Subdude - Vlad The Impaler
Pick Your Favourite Leather Chaps Wearing Impaler

“The social media one I did a lot of designs and they are all about different aspects of social media but they are not really nailing it on the head because it’s a very complex subject and its difficult to come up with a concept in 3 words and really nail it at the same time. So when you do that interactive thing hopefully my art makes people think and their responses make me think so it becomes a bit of an exchange.”

Subdude Solo Show
Scribbles on Subdude's Art - indoors as well as out!

Subdude has developed a reputation for his sharp and critical political wit so it was a bit of a swerve from his normal acerbic tone earlier this year when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arderne’s response to the Mosque killings in Christchurch lead to Subdude saying something positive about a political leader for the first time

“Everybody knows I am very cynical or sceptical, I hope sceptical and not too cynical. When I did the positive one it got a very good reaction, in the kind of times we are living in people like that. Jacinda was one of my favourite ones.”

Subdude Jacinda Ardern Real Leader
Jacinda Ardern Real Leader

Subdude has recently been creating outdoor collages of his street art on the street and some of the canvasses here reflect that new development.

Subdude street collage
Subdude street collage, July 2018 (also featuring a D7606/Silvio Allini collaboration)

Subdude Solo Show
Mashed up in the gallery

“If you look back at my stuff it is words words words, That whole collage I was trying to blank out the words, you’ll see very few words that you can actually read. That collage is about destroying the words.”

The collages imitate the layers, the tears and the dripping paint that a process of decay, deterioration and augmentation brings to the art on the street.

Subdude Solo Show

To wrap up on the alignment of Subdude's street art with the content of this first solo show, let's just look at a couple of "interactions" with Subdude's actual street art. Recently Subdude was asked to play cupid with a commissioned piece of street art in front of which Adam from Iowa proposed to Ian.

Subdude: commissioned proposal
Subdude: commissioned proposal

Adam proposes to Ian, commissioned backdrop by Subdude
Adam proposes to Ian, commissioned backdrop by Subdude (photo: Subdude)

The Psycho series took their fair share of scribbled feedback but the best interaction was thought up by this amusing and imaginative Italian.

Subdude Italian Psycho
N Korean Psycho, American Psycho and Italian

Finally, the “Why bother, what’s wrong with drawing apples on a plate?” question:

“This is where we get into the thin line between cynicism and scepticism, I don’t have any illusions about I am going to change the world but at a lower level if you make person think or make one person react you have made a tiny change. With my posters and art I’m not looking to make loads of money, I am just looking to pay my bills and pay my rent - I’m not looking to be the next Banksy. It’s not nice being a starving artist, it’s stressful.”

Subdude Solo Show
American Aristocrats; Bojo The Bozo - Subdude show

Subdude: Bojo The Clown
Bojo The Clown - street version with apposite caption by Benjamin Irritant

Subdude Solo Show
Zucking Interactive Street Art

Subdude Solo Show
Otto Crat

In a street art ecosystem where size matters, colour must dazzle for that insta social media hit, complexity is the skill signifier and international repping is everything, the small scale and the straightforward production of Subdude’s work and his dedication to constantly getting up has gone right out of fashion.

The Monty’s Bar show mapped (sorry - slow review) Subdude’s ascent from low-key modest beginnings and a steady growth resulting in an intense strong intelligent consistent and popular body of work. If he was a rock band, Subdude would be The Charlatans. What a dude!

Subdude Instagram

Monty's Bar Facebook

all photos: Dave Stuart except where noted

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Banksy - Monkeys In The House Of Commons

Banksy's most spectacular painting to date is on display at Sotheby's Bond St, London HQ and beautifully staged it is too.

Banksy Devolved Parliament (photo 2019)
Banksy Devolved Parliament (photo 2019)

Devolved Parliament is being auctioned this week when London opens its galleries, museums and park tents to its annual international art week. This painting first appeared in public in 2009 when with staggering panache and secrecy, traditionally two mutually exclusive traits, Banksy took over the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery for his largest show. The show was brilliant, a fanboy tribute/review appeared on the Graffoto blog here.

Banksy v Bristol Museum and art Gallery 2009
Banksy v Bristol Museum and art Gallery 2009

This painting was at that time called “Question Time” thought it is possible that we only know that now!  It was a nightmare to view and photograph with the horrible lighting and the crowds. Here is a really shit photo.

Banksy Question Time (photo 2009)
Banksy Question Time (photo 2009)

This time the lighting is awesome and the staging is superb with it set up to look like the House of Commons benches extend into the room, I am sure there will be lots of selfies coming out of that space this weekend.

Banksy Devolved Parliament (photo 2019)
Banksy Devolved Parliament (photo 2019) (yes, the semi transparency of the dude on the left IS spooky)

The painting is being hyped up to set a new Banksy record. The last time the Banksy auction hyperbole reached such feverish levels was exactly year ago in, guess where, Sothebys! It was that infamous Girl With Balloon/Love Is In The Bin shredding stunt. Remind yourself of that moment which made Banksy the best known living contemporary artist then/in history/today.

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This Banksy is identified in Sotheby’s catalogue quite categorically as the one that was exhibited in Bristol in 2009 but there have been a few subtle tweaks. The lights in the chamber have gone out, much like our hopes of a proper orderly outcome to the political farce currently playing out daily in this sceptic isle.

Banksy Devolved Parliament detail (photo 2019)
Banksy Devolved Parliament detail (photo 2019)

Also, in 2009 we had a Labour (sort of leftish) Government led by Tony Blair and in the 2009 “Question Time” on the then labour benches which are to the left as you look at those photos, there was a chimpanzee holding a tumescent banana which curved upwards. The catalogue notes that the present owner acquired this painting from the artist in 2011, by which time we had a coalition Conservative/Lib Dem (fairly “right” though nothing like as rightwing as now), Banksy had reworked that banana so that it droops, it curved downwards.

Banksy Question Time (photo 2009)
Banksy Question Time detail (photo 2009)

Banksy Devolved Parliament detail (photo 2019)
Banksy Devolved Parliament detail (photo 2019)

Just one more thing, the catalogue informs us that the painting comes “from an important private collection” – apart from what it says about Banksy’s direct sales client base, vague bollocks like that truly marks the art world clambering up its own self important fundament!

Girl With Balloon/Love Is In The Air review on Graffoto

Banksy v. Bristol Museum and Art gallery, 2009 on Graffoto

Banksy website

All photos: Dave Stuart

Friday, 20 September 2019

On My Travels - Padova and Venice

Padova in Italy, also known as Padua, has serious fresco spots. The boy Giotto nailed it about 800 years ago with his chapel at Scrovegeni. A fine example of permissioned wall painting, supported by a rich patron and assisted by a cast of forty other painters over a period of two years. Parallels with the support Lee B and Global Street Art provide to muralists in London are just inescapable.

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Giotto, Scrovegeni

Connectivity Mural, Shoreditch, managed by Global Street Art. More here

What is less obvious is that an ancient centre of learning like Padova supports a thriving culture of non permissioned street art. Certainly my wife hadn’t anticipated that when she picked Padova and Venice for a short break and I traveled with expectations close to zero and trending downwards. This post is about stuff you find by chance on your travels when you keep your eyes peeled.

Within minutes of dumping our bags in our charming Padova hotel, street art in dark corners started catching the eye and it became apparent that stencilism was the art technique of choice.

Artist unknown Love Across The University, Padova
Artist unknown Love Across The University, Padova

The stencil game in Padua is generally very old school, the kind that dominated the scene in London before the visits of the French stencilists in the mid 2000s. The reasons for this are not hard to fathom, lots of young students means rebellious, politically charged art aficionados with a burning desire to champion political causes and a willingness to take brazen risks. Lots of old buildings and historic walls with low numbers of permission walls or tolerated street art locations dictates that speed is of the essence. The solution just has to be stencils.

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Artist - unknown but prolific

These skulls were so 2005 and they were everywhere.

Artist unknown

I loved the mysterious fish bone skeletons which kept swimming into view. Some are stencilled, some sprayed freehand; some are lone predators, some hunt in shoals. Some are even reverse stencilled. No idea who the artist is but I salute the glorious madness of the concept.

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Artist unknown

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Artist unknown

Within Padova there was clear evidence that some artists were striving for a higher level of stencil accomplishment. Kenny Random (awesome moniker) has clear Banksy and Blek inspiration informing his art.

Kenny Random
Kenny Random

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All together…”You put your right foot in….” Kenny Random

Banksy isn’t the only stencil artist challenged by feet.

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Alessio B

We even passed stencil murals which were clearly permissioned, in October 2018 Ale Corredigo produced a stencil tribute to internationally famous Padova conductor Claudio Scimoni who passed away 6th September 2018.

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Ale Corredigo

Padova walls functioned as a literal community noticeboard with tons of political messages in spraypaint, paste up, marker pen and stencil format, here announcing that there would be a protest against racism on 12th October, though which October is not clear to the outsider.

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political agitator unknown

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political stencilist unknown

Padova was our restaurant and dormitory, touristing the living daylights out of Venice was our main intention and we travelled there by train. As Italian trains are infamous in the interrailing graff community as being among the easiest to hit it came as no surprise to find our carriage bore some stylish lettering. Slightly weird to find we traveled on the same train twice in 2 days!

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The buff is present but limit themselves to just sufficient to reveal carriage identification codes.

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And so to Venice where our expectations for illegal street art were even lower than in Padova.  One of the first specimens of street art we chanced upon was as stencil by Dolus, also seen in recent years in Shoreditch.

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Placement is paramount in street art, so when in Venice – use the canals! Two artists did this to great effect, this first example is artist unknown to me but awesome canal proximity for the swimmer.

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Artist unknown

Following obligatory Venice box ticking like more frescoes, rooftop views of canals, buying cheap beads on the Rialto and a pavement café lunch, my wife kindly agreed that we try to locate the one bit of art the stencil maestro Banksy dropped in Venice earlier this year, though we were pessimistic as I believed it had gone. The hunt required exploring some of the nicer quiet back streets of Venice, we were so impressed with the tranquility and absence of pressing crowds that we returned the next evening for dinner in an alleyway restaurant.  We weren't disappointed with either the meal or the Banksy.

Banksy Venice Migrant Child #ACAB
Banksy Venice Migrant Child, ACAB!

Banksy Refugee Child, Venice 2019

Banksy Refugee Child, Venice 2019
Banksy, Immigrant Child, Venice 2019

That was the other specimen of street art with inspired canal context.

Bronk, another artist who has also visited Shoreditch, placed a four eyed female possibly readying for a bit of illegal canal swimming among the gondolas. Just one small bit of sartorial guidance for tourists…. do you really need to be told that the gondolier look is kind of reserved for fit people with big poles at the back of a punt?

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Top marks for the ballsiest placement for the street art we saw in Venice goes to this stencil by ESPI, an artist about whom I can find out bugger all but this stencil was not far from St Marks and on the main waterfront drag.

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Just to be clear, this is not a guide to street art in either of these locations, it is not a comprehensive survey, it is merely a little bit of a reflection on the unexpected richness of the local scene as chanced upon during our brief visit. Padova had a street art festival at the beginning of the Summer and judging by the website it yielded a dozen or so very accomplished murals by mainly local artists but for us this was a visit in which street art came quite a way down the list of priorities. Go for the biennial, the food and the tourist experience but do also look out for lovely little street art easter eggs.

Alessio-B instagram

Kenny Random instagram

Scrovegni Chapel website

All photos: Dave Stuart