Friday, 16 September 2016

Stick 'em Up (Portland vs London)



London is constantly blessed, honoured and privileged to receive visits from street artists from foreign shores and our scene is enriched by their creative mischiefs. Since last weekend a group of artists mainly hailing from Portland, Oregon have been absolutely caning London’s walls. The artists now represented in strength in London are Arrex skulls, Voxx Romana, DRSC0, Pamgoode, Sike 1 and Tenet, all from Portland apart from Melbourne’s Tenet who hooked up with the Portland Group (for that is what I feel inclined to call them) here in London.

Arrex is a regular visitor to these shores and is a leading sticker artist using a skull motif as the basis for his colourful and surprisingly varied stickers. New cranial variations seen this time include a surreal 4 eyed skull and a very Sailor Jerry inspired sticker beautifully slapped onto a very relevant sign.

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Arrex Skulls


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Arrex Skulls


A new direction so far as Arrex’s wall decoration in London goes are paste ups, though the skull remains ever present.

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If Consumed - Plan Funeral, Arrex Skulls


Arrex has also put up a whole bunch of stencils, again we haven't seen this aspect of his practice in London in the past. Smaller stencils employ convention bridges in hanging details like the eyes, these give the skulls a robotic cyborg kind of appearance. Larger stencils though adopt the mesh mounting technique, perhaps that's an American thing.

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Arrex Skulls


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Arrex Skulls


Voxx Romana’s Einstein-in-a-helmet motif has regularly appeared on London’s streets, this time is no different, the cheeky little specimen below is a transparent sticker hiding it’s black image against a black pole, you’ve got to have your special street art night vision peepers fully operational to spot a self effacing sticker like this!

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Voxx Romana (note D7606 in the background - see "PDX v LDN" below)


Voxx Romana paste ups have appeared here in the past, one thing that must give Voxx Romana and Arrex Skulls a special tingle is finding that numerous specimens of art from their previous visits are still visible in certain select locations. This new example is stenciled onto an original map lobbed by Voxx's local library.

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Voxx Romana, 2016


Another little gem from the Voxx Romana treasure hunt is this curious two colour sticker on a transparent background. At first glance it looked like two single layer transparent stickers one over the other but on closer inspection it reveals itself as a two colour transparent sticker with an offset registration, ‘cos that s the kind of thought that pops into your head when you look at stickers, innit?

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Voxx Romana


DRSC0 has also gone down the sticker and paste up route. The first couple of DRSC0 paste ups sighted went up on Saturday evening (ok, some time between Saturday morning and Sunday morning) but suffered pretty swift scragging. Maybe the eyes offended a religious sensibility, certainly the quadruple eyes thing can be a bit disconcerting. By Sunday morning the damage to one of DRSC0’s paste ups had been partially made good with a little spray painted filling in.

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DRSC0


Street art soars when it has site specific relevance and DRCS0 has taken two flayed man stickers (ok, maybe I have spent too much time immersed in Game Of Thrones this year, quite possibly they are medical illustrations) and created this tiny but wonderful homage to Stik’s treasured Brick Lane couple.

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DRSC0 vs Stik


DRSC0 has also deployed stencils, like Arrex favouring the mesh mounting approach, visible if you look closely at this image of a sunrise over a mountain peak.

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DRSC0


Tenet, repping Melbourne, reinvents and rediscovers quotes from the ancient wise; pearls of wisdom and vintage photos of crusty warriors, philosophers and revolutionary anarchists who lived and learnt all that meaning-of-life-shit long ago and whose messages remain valid today.

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Tenet feat Atilla The Hun


The Russian philosopher and anarchist Mikhail Bakunin (rather than the later restatement attributed to Picasso) is the source for “The urge to destroy….”

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Tenet_OVB


Emma Goldman was also a noted early 20th Century anarchist once impressively dubbed “the most dangerous woman in America”; when street art prompts you to google online biographies and learn something – that’s mission accomplished.

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Tenet_OVB


Pamgood2, also from Portland, spies on us from the walls. Her photorealistic mono-eye and a sternly furrowed eyebrow are surrounded by lurid coloured splats. It’s like we are on the wrong side of a peephole in a spraycan test facility.

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Pamgood2


Another artist representing Portland is Sike1 who has put up stickers and some paste ups in Shoreditch, on the stickers the art was very gothic and gloomy looking, on the paste up it still looks gothic and gloomy though at the larger scale the curious goat skull/5 branch candelabra/hooded female figure in undies composition is easier to see, who knew Death’s handmaiden looked so attractive.

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Sike 1


While Arrex and Voxx Romana have both had significant representation on London streets in the past, on this occasion there is a further dimension to the Portland Group's visit, a very short group show at the ever interesting BMST Space in Dalston. Several of London’s (umm..a definition of London extended to embrace Brighton and Birmingham and other up North spots) street artists are exhibiting alongside 5 sons and daughters of Portland (note Mad1 from Portland also in the show, street art output not yet discovered by this scribbler). This is open for a limited 3 day period from Thursday 15th to Saturday 17th of September so don’t delay, hurry and get along to see how this curious geographic face off works indoors.

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Flyer from BSMT Space


What is evident in the work this group has put up in the space of a few short days is their energy and the evident enjoyment. Life has no greater thrill than the adjustment of the urban landscape in the company of like-minded friends and this brotherly – and sisterly – band have taken to our urban surfaces with glee. Participation in the Portland>London face off in the gallery may be their reason for coming over but in the battle on the streets, Portland has taken a sticky grip on our walls in the past few days.

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Jana & JS (Fr), Arrex Skulls, DRSC0 and friend of the Portland Group WRDSMTH (his recent visit)

The tardy protracted creation of this blog post (each day as I approached a conclusion, these blighters put up even more work that caught my eye) means that I have just returned from the show and that exuberant energy that has marked their cutting a swathe across London's walls transports itself into the gallery. The artists are to a soul personable and friendly creatures and I understand that they will all (the Portland Group faction at least) be present in the gallery on Friday evening (16th Sep) as well, for those of you reading this in time.

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PDX>LDN opening night

All photos: Dave Stuart (NoLionsInEngland)

LINKS:

Arrex Skulls: http://arrex.bigcartel.com/
Voxx Romana: http://www.voxxromana.com/
Tenet_OVB: https://www.instagram.com/p/BJWkB9LBMKb/
DRSC0: https://www.instagram.com/drsc0/
Pamgood2: http://www.pictaram.com/user/pamgood2/19397340


Tenet_OVB: https://www.instagram.com/p/BJWkB9LBMKb/

BSMT Space: http://www.bsmt.co.uk/home-1

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