Saturday, 14 May 2022

Daytripping – Cardiff Street Art and Graffiti

Any excuse to blow the London vapours from the lungs will do so my travels recently took me to Cardiff thanks to a cheap rail ticket promotion. Cardiff is the capital of Wales and, as a specimen of street art informs me, the 6th most “at risk” city in the world from rising water levels.

Cardiff At Risk - artist unknown Cardiff At Risk - artist unknown

I have previous with Cardiff, having been born there, schooled there and fled from there. It was a shithole until I left, now look at it! In the mid 00s when I joined Flickr with its global community of artists, writers and photographers I realised early on that Cardiff has some seriously good spraycan artists, so an art visit was well overdue. This is not a guide to Cardiff’s street art and graffiti scene, I am certain there is more and there are different artists and other locations; think of it as me sharing a snapshot of some of the stuff I happened to find and enjoy on one particular day.

My Dog Sighs & others My Dog Sighs & others

I headed into the area south of the train station, dark streets where we used to drink and play pool in the old Bristol Hotel, drawn in that direction not by an awareness of any art locations, just simple curiosity at a new exit from the train station which I don’t think existed when I was a kid. N3KOcardiff trans rights stickers Cardiff N3KOcardiff trans rights stickers

South of the station there was barely a single building I recognised but one thing they never change are the railway bridges so it was nice to find to rough and raw pieces on those familiar surfaces.

Past Jams Cardiff Past, Jams

Rmer1, as in “Armour”, stood out in my online remote appreciation of Cardiff’s street art scene, my 150% certainty was that if I did find any Rmer artwork it would be one of his photorealistic portrait pieces. I was dead pleased when one of the first tags I found was Rmer1.

Hoxe1 Rmer1 Cardiff Hoxe1 Rmer1

That tag was found on Womanby Street, a drag that screams “diehard 18 year old drinkers from the valleys” and most of the art seemed bar related. There was some good stuff and when you have talent like Dr Zadok combining with Karm and Rmer the result such as this portrait of 2015 Welsh Music Prize 2015 winner Gwenno Saunders is inevitably impressive.

Zadok Karm Rmer Cardiff Zadok, Karm, Rmer1

After a delicious humus and felafal sourdough in the indoor market a hired bike took me west the short distance to Sevenoaks Park in Grangetown where I found this enormous RIP tribute to deceased graffiti writer NERVE. The fragmented blockbuster letter outlines served as a frame within which writers paid their respects in a coordinated colour scheme.

Nerve RIP wall Grangetown Cardiff Nerve RIP wall

I couldn’t believe my luck in coming across this crisp, clean, colour coordinated graff seemingly painted quite recently given its pristine freshness. It was quite a surprise when a bit of research revealed it dates back to June 2021, there is absolutely zero chance, almost, of anything lasting that long unscathed up here in London.

Nerve RIP wall Grangetown Cardiff Nerve RIP wall

Nerve RIP wall Grangetown Cardiff Nerve RIP wall

One writer who's style caught my eye in that Nerve tribute and a couple of other spots was Elvs. ELVS Grangetown Cardiff ELVS

TIP: When exploring art in a new town, never take the same road twice. A different route back to the centre led to the chance find of a long extent of graffed up hoardings on the embankment of the River Taff leading to an entrance to the Rugby stadium. Rugby fans have to have something to piss against I suppose.

Millenium Stadium Taff Embankment  Cardiff Millenium Stadium Taff Embankment

Newer Cardiff Newer


Cesto Cardiff Cesto

Sepr Cardiff Sepr

Apart from strange spiky posts covered in furious tags, the pieces on the boards were virtually unblemished with little to no dogging or lining out. Close inspection of one piece did show evidence of some local beef, lining out had been repaired and the same taking out style deployed against the same writer was observed in several spots across the city.

A longer ride took me through Cardiff’s impressive civic centre towards the Roath area where spectacular murals and cobbled alleyway pieces can be found.

Lowther Keys Dan Green Cardiff Lowther Keys Dan Green

Helen Bur, Colour Doomed collab Cardiff 2014 Helen Bur, Colour Doomed collab

City Road ish, Cardiff City Road ish

Familiar artists abound though the art piece that excited me most was a My Dog Sighs painting in support of Ukraine in which the photorealistic eyeball reflection expresses the explosive horror or a Russian missile attack. My Dog Sigh’s painting went viral on social media in the early weeks of the current conflict.

My Dog Sighs Ukraine Cardiff My Dog Sighs support for Ukraine

My Dog Sighs Cardiff
My Dog Sighs

With spring light holding up well a random loop up the side of Roath Park then back west hemmed in by the Western Avenue revealed individual isolated art works are to be found by the vigilant eye.

Alex Pawson Alex Pawson

This mural by SPK dating from 2015, survives on a wall which has all the hallmarks of a building extension jerry built on top of an existing garden wall, Boris was a pariah among the righteous even before becoming PM (but you knew that).

SPK Anti fox hunt Boris Johnson SPK Anti fox hunt Boris Johnson

It’s the legs of the badger down the badger sett painted where once would have been a garden gate is a use of wall topography that amuses and impresses.

Boris Johnson fox hunt supporter - SPK Boris Johnson fox hunt supporter - SPK

They say one of the first signs of gentrification is street art moving in; I remember this cut-through to the train station opening some 35 or so years ago, seems Cardiff’s street art lags the gentrification :-))

Helen Bur / Wasp Elder Collab Helen Bur / Wasp Elder Collab

This trip to Cardiff was part art, part graffiti and part nostalgia. Despite no prior research into locations a random exploration of Cardiff yielded a satisfying quantity of art and for that randomness was actually all the more interesting. We shall return.

All photos: Dave Stuart

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Extraordinary Portrait Painter Dale Grimshaw’s Street Art


Double portrait, 2016
Double portrait, 2016

Street artist Dale Grimshaw featured in a brilliant BBC programme on TV last night so here is a little profile of Dale’s street art pedigree and a huge recommendation that you to catch up with Dale’s moment of TV glory.

free West Papua Dale Grimshaw 2019
Dale Grimshaw work in progress, 2019

In the early years, from about 2009 Dale Grimshaw put paste up street art featuring elaborate dynamic portraits. Motion was a key characteristic, bodies plummeted from the skies, subjects kicked out at us, heads twisted with dizzying speed.

The Fool, Dale Grimshaw, 2009
The Fool, Dale Grimshaw, 2009

Self portrait and raven, 2009
Self portrait and raven, 2009

"Falling Kicking" Dale Grimshaw, 2010
Falling Kicking; 2010

Dale’s involvement in the scene extended to running the Signal Gallery in Shoreditch with his partner. They staged exciting shows by street art luminaries such as Jef Aerosol and C215 and urban art stars including Matt Small and Jaybo, all of whom are predominantly portraiture specialists. Of course there were also several great Grimshaw shows.

C215 Shoeshiners exhibition, Signal gallery, 2009
C215 Shoeshiners exhibition, Signal gallery, 2009

Although Dale did paint murals on permission walls right from the off, his distinctive aboriginal portraits emerged in spraypainted mural form about 10 years ago.

Who's taking who for a ride, Dale Grimshaw, 2009
Who's taking who for a ride, 2009

2 Worlds, Dale Grimshaw, 2013
2 Worlds, 2013

Dale Grimshaw Man and Eagle, 2015
Man and Eagle, 2015

Dale Grimshaw, 2018
Hanbury St, 2017

Portrait paintings have been an indulgence for rulers, kings, religious icons and rich art patrons with the moolah necessary to immortalise their image through portrait commissions. Extraordinary Portraits, presented on the BBC by British rapper Tinie Tempah redresses the balance pairing unsung heroes with artists for a portrait sitting to honour real people and real lives. For this edition Tinie matches up Dale Grimshaw with Patrick Hutchinson who made the front pages world wide in 2020 for his selfless rescue of an isolated white BLM “counter protestor” under attack.

White man rescued by Partick Hutchinson at BLM protest, London, 2020
White man rescued by Partick Hutchinson, London, 2020

After Dale and Patrick’s initial meeting the programme pursues Dale’s commitment to reveal something deeper than the superficially obvious, they meet Patrick’s family, visit his place of work and then of course there is the grand reveal. Fascinating sequences unveil Dale’s photography session, his varied and very detailed painting process and his studio environment. It’s not just about Dale of course, Patrick is an equally heart-warming character and it is quickly apparent that his credentials as a role model for humanity and harmony go way deeper than that one photographed incident.

Dale Grimshaw instagram grab
Dale Grimshaw and Tinie Tempah, Extraordinary Portraits, 2022

What has Dale painted? Will the family like it? To find out track down Extraordinary Portraits Series 1 Episode 3 (link HERE), available on BBC iPlayer until April 2023.


Dale Grimshaw: instagram

Patrick Hutchinson: instagram

Photos: Dave Stuart except where noted 

Monday, 28 February 2022

Street Art Solidarity With Ukraine

Solidarity with Ukraine
Three days ago Russia invaded Ukraine.  Street artists in Shoreditch have united with the rest of the world in putting out street art with messages of solidarity with Ukraine and revulsion at war breaking out on the European continent.

This afternoon (Sunday 27th February, 2022) these pro Ukraine messages were seen in Shoreditch, shown dovetailed with photographs from protests outside Downing Street in Whitehall, London yesterday.

Peace and Love, our thoughts are with Ukraine
Peace and Love, our thoughts are with Ukraine

Shelter the sky over Ukraine/Block Putin war
Shelter the sky over Ukraine/Block Putin war

Putin Danger To Life, by Pegasus
Putin Danger To Life, by Pegasus

Ukrainian flag flying over Downing Street, London
Ukrainian flag flying over Downing Street, London

Solidarity with Ukraine and Putin poison warning
Solidarity with Ukraine and Putin poison warning

Solidarity with Ukraine in Whitehall
Solidarity with Ukraine in Whitehall

Street artists not known except Pegasus where stated

Street art photos by Dave Stuart

Whhitehall protest photos by anonymous contributor with thanks

Monday, 21 February 2022

Enigma In Shoreditch

Just suppose someone decided the missing ingredient in street art was monochromatic medieval woodcut images of public hangings or fantasy horror representations of bizarre sea creatures attacking intrepid seafarers venturing beyond the realm of worldly knowledge. Japanese street artist Enigma has stepped up to fix this obvious void in Shoreditch’s globally acclaimed street art scene.

Enigma Sea Serpent
Sea Serpent, 2021

Street art has developed to a level of variety and sophistication that it takes something quite special to stand out. As observed in our look back at Shoreditch street art 2021 favourites, the street art of this new (to us) artist Enigma was a highlight of a rather unusual year. It won’t escape your attention that the leviathan serpent traumatising that unstable looking ship above spells out ENGM, a contraction of Enigma’s moniker in a style barely removed from graffiti. The sea serpent was our first stop-you-in-your-tracks encounter with Enigma’s art last year.

Enigma Ready To Fly
Ready To Fly

A sepia appearance coupled with extensive use of cross hatching lends Enigma’s art an unfashionable antiquated appearance. Street art is awash with pretty but very average photorealistic portraiture, there is a huge gap for new artists prepared to buck the trend, to not follow fashion. Enigma's vision of Lucifer cast out of heaven, based on a detail of Cabanel’s Fallen Angel, has butterflies where others paint wavy locks of hair.

Enigma Fallen Angel
Fallen Angel, 2021

Elsewhere faces are sliced to reveal what a proper clockwork orange looks like.

Enigma The Clockwork Orange
The Clockwork Orange

Surrealism and distortions suggest an artist enjoying playful imagery and experimentation. How many eyes can you or indeed should you fit on a bowler hatted whale or on a chequered finish flag winged stag beetle?

Enigma Whale Watching
Whale Watching

Enigma Love Is A verb
Love Is A Verb

Fish currently feature frequently in Enigma’s compositions, though the circumstances are typically bizarre.

Enigma Santa
Santa, 2021

Enigma’s representations of body parts might resemble pages torn from vintage anatomical studies though a recent fish emerging from an ear could owe more to Hieronymus Bosch.

Enigma Pink Fish
Pink Fish

Another theme in Enigma’s recent art has been shadow hands creatures. Those “how to” guides to shadow puppetry never convince you that the contortion of the hands could cast the demonstrated shadow, Enigma teases you into the same shadow guessing game.

Enigma Shadow Puppet Series
Shadow Puppet Series

Enigma Shadow Puppets
Shadow Puppets

A conceptually paired couple of paintings play with the notion of a shadow rabbit created by hands then the actual creature casting a shadow of a hand.

Enigma Don't Follow The Black Rabbit
Don't Follow The Black Rabbit

Enigma Follow The Rabbit
Follow The Rabbit

Jeopardy crops up frequently in the paintings and this ship in its shattered bottle certainly faces stormy seas and rocky Shoreditch shores.

Enigma Bon Voyage
Bon Voyage, 2022

Enigma even infiltrates occultist references onto Brick Lane walls, the grinning jester in his harlequin clothing is based on the Hanged Man in the tarot card system and represents submissive states such as surrender or sacrifice.

Enigma Hanging Jester
Hanging Jester, 2022

Enigma garners respect and praise from fellow street artists and when you watch Enigma’s painting style close up you can see why. His can control would be admired by many graffiti writers, those fractured cross hatching strokes come from practice and skill not accident or chance.

2nd Century Greek bust with butterfly mind

tn__DSC2141 copy detail

Enigma has thus far had few gallery outings in London, what has been seen indicates his street art translates beautifully onto rough canvas, as spotted at the Secret Life Gallery in Shoreditch last year. Instinctively it feels like there is more and better non street art to come from Enigma.

ENigma Love Is A Verb Canvas
Love Is A Verb Canvas

ENigma Whake Watching Canvas
Whale Watching Canvas

Enigma Follow The Rabbit Canvas
Follow The Rabbit Canvas

There is a lot of fun to be had with a little light painting, a long exposure at night and Enigma’s high contrast imagery.

tn__DSC2346 copy cropped
Stag hands

Enigma Hanging Jester at night
Hanging Jester at night

Enigma has proved to be very engaging with the public.


Enigma Work In Progress
Work In Progress

We just don’t see enough thematic street art paintings, if you want an idea of the kind of level Enigma is operating at it Ed Hicks might be a suitable peer, a comparison that neither insults Ed nor flatters Enigma. The sources Enigma mines for his art, fractured ancient Greek busts, tarot cards, cast out demons and psychopathic Kubrick films do a bit more than merely hint at dark undercurrents within his art. There is an intellectual depth and creative variety to Enigma’s painting and in the high turnover here-today-forgotten-tomorrow world of street art it is testament to Enigma that his paintings are memorable. Let’s hope Shoreditch continues to play host to his street art for a long time to come.

Enigma Mackerel

All photos except gallery canvasses: Dave Stuart

Canvas art photos courtesy Enigma Photo captions mostly from Enigma’s Instagram