Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Jana & JS: Inner World


July 7th - 31st

StolenSpace Gallery
17 Osborn St, London E1 6TD

all photos: Dave Stuart aka NoLionsInEngland


For decades stencilism has had a defining role in many movements from the student politics of the 60s to anarchic punk in the 70s through to its big moment at the heart of the street art culture in the late 90s and 2000s. The latter was due in no small part to Banksy and in 2008 he himself played a big role in expanding the vision of the UK street art culture to a broader range of stencil artists when he staged Cans Festival in London, a stencil extravaganza which introduced many stencil artists pretty much unknown within these shores and in doing so paved the way for several years of solo shows by quite brilliant exponents of the form.

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Jana & JS, 2012


Out went flat single layer comic-political stencilism and in its place came more complex multi-coloured stencils with a much more obvious case for proclaiming itself as “Art”.

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Jana and JS have been working together as artists for about 10 years though it wasn’t until 2012 that they first put up stencil art in London.

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2012


Their self portraits laid bare poignant moments and the juxtaposition of figuration and architectural elements made each one a kind of essay in the relationship between the personal and the urban landscape.

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2013


In 2013 they put one curious pair of portraits in which the couple were distanced from eachother and whilst Jana gazed longingly at JS, JS had the worn patience of a man waiting outside the ladies’ changing room while his partner tried on yet another dress. What struck me (more than that flippant interpretation) was that they put this up on a wall which had been a stencil/tag hall of fame for years until the wall owners beat off artists by means of furious constant buffing, theirs being the first piece that remained on that surface for a reasonable length of time and indeed opened the door for Amanda Marie and subsequently all and sundry to restore that wall to the glorious, constantly changing street gallery we had loved many years before.

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Shoreditch, 2013


And so to 2016 and the aptly named “Inner World” solo show in the larger portion of Stolen Space’s two room gallery.

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Inner World


The stencil art is just beautiful. JS confided that the works in the show take much longer to make than street pieces because a lot more care goes into them than the stencils we see on the streets where “no one is going to have to look at them on their own wall for the next 10 years”.

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Clockwise from top: Reve, Lovers At The Train Station, Since You've Been Gone


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Waiting For You


Most of the art is intensely personal, Jana and JS use themselves as the models for most of their emotion laden imagery. The figures are wistful, languid and leisurely, the paintings are soft and beautiful acrylic and spray paint compositions.

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Bitter Thoughts


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Another Try


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The Beauty Of Being Here


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A Long Time


Most of the paintings are spraypaint and acrylic on canvas, some are on found materials; the ones which stand out though are those painted on assembled salvaged wood.

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I'll Be Around For A While


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Thinking About You And Me


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July 23


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Only You Can Know


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Unreal


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I Guess Its True


This post started with a minute morsel of stencilism history, it is pleasing to see that the gallery stage has not been swept entirely clear of stencils. Strong, powerful pure stencil solo shows have been relatively infrequent in recent years yet curiously two opened in London on the same night last week, Otto Schade being the other. Stencils are still used to great effect on the streets by artists such as Mobstr, Syd, Endless, Trust Icon and stencilists from abroad such as C215, Fra Quendo, Amanda Marie still come and decorate London walls (these are not exhaustive listings, there are thankfully many others). Jana and JS have done a great job of reminding us that stencils can still look as good in the gallery as they look great out on the streets.

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Time Stopped Moving


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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Invaders Don't Die

All photos: DaveStuart (NoLionsInEngland)


About 3 weeks ago in Kings Cross I thought I saw a ghost, my eyes seemed to be playing tricks. A old, long departed friend, a Union flag Space Invader which had disappeared a few years ago had magically reappeared.

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Rule Britney, sorry - Britannia


Subsequently I read a blog post by Art Of The State, great friend to this blog about the 12 new Space Invaders put up during the 18th invasion of London by Space Invader but this Union flag seemed to be counted outside the canon, the new dozen. I assumed it was a cheeky little bit of restoration as a side project on Invader’s most recent visit.

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A week later, whilst standing and admiring another long lasting Invader presence which I had the good fortune to catch as it touched down about 7 years ago, which event I remarked upon in a little bluster of words about how much I enjoyed the constantly changing gallery of street art in Shoreditch, I spotted something new. It was an Invader sticker and the caption around the edge was most intriguing, “Reactivation team UK” it said. This made immediate sense in the context of the Union flag re-materialising back on the walls of Kings Cross.


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Reactivation Team UK - #Protect Them


2009
2009


Based on my own admittedly unreliable memory this may well be the third Invader incarnation on that very spot.

Further discussion with AOTS revealed that Invader reported earlier last week that LDN_01 had reappeared at its original location. Annoyingly my photo of the original LDN_01 has hidden itself somewhere on my computer but here is confirmation that it has indeed made a re-appearance.

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So, Invader is reinstating older Invaders which have been zapped into oblivion by the ravages of time, authority, heavy handed property owners or plain old sticky fingered fans. Then last week I had the pleasure of a chance encounter of the first kind with Scraffer Arts who unsurprisingly is a passionate Space Invader geek. He told me that apart from the one I had seen on the Ladbroke Grove Bridge there were three others in the vicinity so, what could I do but extend my bike ride even further to investigate those restored Invaders. I didn’t see any of these Invaders in their original manifestation but they do look stunning in their re-born forms.

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LDN_27


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LDN_27


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LDN_28


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LDN_45


The concept of resurrected Invaders is not without its problematic aspects. We are generally agin the preservation of street art. Only Banksy street art that gets that treatment (ok, so there is a plexiglass covered C215 on Brick Lane) and indeed Banksy is an exceptional case where his art on the streets is close to taking on "national treasure" status. Some artists get a bit angsty when their art is damaged or painted over but frankly if you are sensitive about that, if you aren't prepared to let your art go, then the streets is not really the right gallery for you. This Space Invader action though is in a different category. Invader so often invades virgin territory and when you are genuinely first to annex a particular spot for a piece of street art, its yours and you should go back and reclaim it when your piece is gone. If you look at all the "restoration" projects mentioned in this blog, that "my wall" status does seem to apply.

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Which other Space Invaders would you like to see restored?  here's a few on my wish list:

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For George - with thanks!


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Brick Lane


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2006

Borrowing an iPhone with a freshly downloaded Flash Invader app, I was able to throw myself into the geeky joy of “flashing” street Invaders for the first time.

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Found Like A Boss!!!


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Nice Shot!

The UK isn't the only place benefiting from a Restoration Team, there is also one in France but keep those eyes peeled, who knows these may be part of an even larger invasion but we just don't know it yet.

UPDATE: Star Date 3 June 2016

Two weeks ago I wrote the above Graffoto Post about Space Invaders being “reactivated” in London, I included images of 3 old lost and lamented Invaders I said I would love to see ressurected. This morning, my wish was granted, the CCTV invader is back! I spoke to the man in the kiosk next to this Invader who said it wasn’t there last night and this morning it was there with some plain paper over it. Ironically, I flashed it with the Invader app and got no points, “no invaders around here” it said, so too early for the app to have been updated.

Space Invader

Thursday, 17 March 2016

No, I’m Banksy (The Bandwaggon Post)


Photos: Dave Stuart aka NoLionsInEngland (except where pretty obvious)

Yesterday morning I read a rather unexciting blog post by my friend RJ on Vandalog saying he doesn’t need or want to know who Banksy is, I’m with RJ on that one and its how most of us feel, its just a bit unexciting really. RJ was drawing attention to something I hadn’t read, a blog post last week by artist David Choe ridiculing an academic’s efforts to unmask the secretive political stencilist and group show organiser Banksy. I read Choe’s post, thought “Blimey, he’s suffered for his art”, agreed with his sentiments, thought nothing more.

Then in the evening, puzzled by the tag on a piece of street art I particularly like I was googling to see if I could find out who the artist was, in fact here it is, perhaps you can help decipher what the tag says:

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Unknown


The work resembles somewhat that of French street artist Jérôme Mesnager but I’m not convinced, no search revealed any indication of Mesnager visiting London recently. The work also reminds me strongly of a similar piece painted last year just yards from the same spot which bore the stencilled tag “JUST”.

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JUST


Dancing figures painted in negative space on the same wall, on the same street yards apart, one last year, one a few weeks ago, although the later piece is much rougher and has a freehand rather than stencilled tag, would you say the work looks to be by the same creative hand and mind?  I'm not convinced.

I’m a stickler for accurate attribution, so among many other relevant searches I googled “Street Artist Just”. The results included a link to an article published in the Smithsonian 3 days ago about BLU taking out all his own work in Bologna rather than have it sequestered and exhibited in a so called “Museum of Street Art”.

The first sentence of that article had a link intriguingly captioned “the scientific campaign to confirm the identity of Banksy”. That link brought up a news story from Queen Mary University of London about an academic paper correlating the occurrence of Banksy’s street art with addresses supposedly connected to a specific individual identified as Banksy in a 2008 Daily Mail article (Daily Mail -leading street art authority? Not really). Those 2008 claims were never verified.

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Banksy at Moorfield eye Hospital,; Banksy also believed to support Sightsavers; So Banksy is perhaps an optician?


So, then I did something I never ever usually waste time doing, I read a piece of academic research.

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Banksy: believed to have been in shops (this is speculation)


Backing up for a moment, the authors are using what they sinisterly call Geographic Profiling to analyse locations and then draw conclusions about …an epicentre. The list of citations in the research shows it is used for some pretty interesting stuff like mapping the spread of disease and therefore locating its source, pretty much a hi tech update on what John Snow did in the 1850s to finger a particular public water pump as the source of London’s Cholera epidemic, or modelling bumble bee foraging, who knew bumble bees foraged?


So, these “Evil scientists” as David Choe calls them got hold of a copy of Graffoto co-blogger and good friend Shellshock’s classic books Banksy Location and Tours Vols 1 and 2 and noted the locations of Banksy’s work which Shellshock had diligently documented, stuffed the coordinates into a computer, compared them to locations where the supposed alleged Bansky character is supposed to have lived and shagged and went “Ha – it could be that guy”.  It’s a bit like mapping incidents of football violence and plugging in Stamford bridge’s post code and voila, “football violence happens around football stadiums”.

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Banksy - Toxic Rat


The Evil Scientists then scooped national press attention and international blog posts because Banksy is media chocolate. The game for academics is quite simple, published research secures funding and tenured positions and you want to be published in the most prestigious publication you can and to be referenced as much as possible (fill ya boots Ms Hauge, citation below). I have no idea how esteemed the Journal Of Spatial Science is but I have little doubt that the work that went into this paper was pretty straight forward as the academics had the analytical tools already and the data conveniently to hand. The trickier bit is getting published, all that peer review and shit. So, if you find a journal that will publish it, then the Banksy tag will bring the world gawping, it’s a bit like academics prostituting themselves for “likes”.

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The Journal of Spatial Science (source: Taylor and Francis Online)


It seems to me that the “science” in this case is flawed, not the theory whatever that might be but the rejection of the possibility that the data that might point to alternative conclusions.

I am aware of many many artists who came from Bristol to London, who did street art and graffiti, and who have returned to Bristol.   Then there's the huge number of London artists who visit Bristol, the "reverse bumpkin" syndrome.   There are a load of talented Bristol/London based artists, potential candidates who the evil scientists have ignored as potential Banksys, they chose to investigate only the one who was named in the press years ago.

The supposition that there could only be one person common to all those relevant addresses they believe that Banksy candidate frequented requires us to ignore how street artists behave in modern urban society. Hell, don’t the authors know about transport…you don’t need to live at the “epicentre” to be the source, there are pretty sound reasons why a lot of Banksy’s work appeared in Shoreditch and around West London, that would be because its where all the other graffiti writers and taggers were doing their thang and they kind of hang out in the same places for the same reasons.  They live in the same locales.   There are patterns underpinning the ebbs and flows of a graffiti writer's or street artist's social and working life which would see them frequenting the same locations and it isn’t exactly a trip to outer Mongolia, yes we do have cars and bikes and mass transport systems in London and Bristol.

Banksy "Take This Society"
Shephards Bush Roundabout: accessible by only one known individual


As the authors by their own admission are “assessing the evidence supporting one prominent candidate”, it seems odd that the Bristol home address for that person is 8 times less significant (HS percentage 5.5% vs 40.1%) than the location of that person’s school according to the quantitative scores they tabulate. Do you really think that the known Bristol works highlighted in Shellshock’s books were mainly painted by Banksy on his way home from school? My guess, just a guess, is that the work of that era (as covered in Shellshock’s book) post dates Banksy’s school years.  I take the results of their work as heartening evidence that the 2008 speculation is even less likely to be correct than we might have feared.

In my day job as a street art tour guide, guests are often inclined to pin me against a wall and demand to know who Banksy is. My stock answer is we don’t know who “he” is, nothing has ever been confirmed, nor denied, just left in limbo as a guess with no credible corroboration from someone we would trust to know and anyway, I don’t want my belief in the myth shattered, his anonymity is as important to me as it is to him, I need him to be secret. Let me echo David Choe’s castigation of the academics: exercise restraint, don’t crush the fragile flowering of talent, you really don’t need to know who Banksy is in fact you are better off not knowing, exactly what David Choe says.

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Banksy: leave him alone

The author’s certainly got their moment in the sun, the story ran in many newspapers worldwide and even the BBC, though on the BBC the research was ridiculed by a boffin credited as running the only geographic profiling course outside the US.

Here’s a final thought, perhaps the academics could try putting other people’s post codes into the software and see who many more millions could be Banksy. In fact, I lived for a couple of years in Bristol in the early 1990s and I lived (still live) a mere bicycle ride away from all the East London and West London work in the 2000s, so there you have scientific proof that despite the absence of any sign of wit or creative talent, I am indeed Banksy.

Ebay Banksy Stencil
Becoming Banksy (scary thing: 4 watchers)

References:


Michelle V. Hauge, Mark D. Stevenson, D. Kim Rossmo & Steven C. Le
Comber (2016): Tagging Banksy: using geographic profiling to investigate a modern art
mystery, Journal of Spatial Science, DOI: 10.1080/14498596.2016.1138246

Link:




PS – if you know for sure what the tag in the photo says – drop a comment below