Thursday, 11 August 2022

Birmingham Street Art - Not Just Banksy

“It’s A Brum Ting” has been the signature of the past fortnight as Birmingham hosted the Commonwealth Games. So what is it about Birmingham, why is it so great? Armed with a cheap cheap day return rail ticket I set out several weeks back to discover what Goldie, Trevor Francis and Banksy (might have) appreciated about the UK’s “Second City” (tm).

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Justin Sola, Void One & Mose78


The art started right outside the train station, FokaWolf was well represented as was Brummy staple Tempo, of whom more later.

Foka Wolf
FokaWolf


Tempo  33
Tempo 33


Gent 48 is a giant of Birmingham’s street art scene so perhaps it was either fitting, or just inevitable, that the first mural spotted was by Gent48, painted in January this year when Birmingham was sorting out the torch relay for the opening of the Commonwealth Games. The mural features Haseebah Abdullah, England's first hijab-wearing boxing coach and Salma Bi, who founded the first all Asian women’s cricket team.

Gent48: Salmi Bi & Haseebah Abdullah
Gent 48 feat: Salmi Bi & Haseebah Abdullah


The one flag planted in my vague, unplanned plan was to locate Birmingham’s 2019 Banksy. Tick the box, complete the set. The route took me through a cluster of architecturally fascinating buildings. London by staid by comparison, so many planning luddites have ensured our post war rebuilding really lacks the surprise, flair and modernism a waddle around the centre of Birmingham will reveal. The interior of the Birmingham Library is so worth exploring for its design as well as its exhibition content.

Birmingham New Street Station Alejandro Zaera-Polo
Birmingham New Street Station, Alejandro Zaera-Polo


Birmingham Library Centernary Square
Birmingham Library Centernary Square


Birmingham Library Interior
Birmingham Library Interior


The route to the Banksy had already been mapped out by the Charm Bracelet trail by Mick Thacker and Mark Renn.

Birmingham Jewellery Quarter Charm Bracelet pavement plaque trail, Mick Thacker and Mark Renn
Birmingham Jewellery Quarter Charm Bracelet pavement plaque trail, Mick Thacker and Mark Renn


What’s to say about the Banksy on Vyse Street. Great placement, great use of the street furniture and a poignancy likely to rise as rampant inflation and fuel poverty drives up homelessness next winter. It is well preserved and thankfully no gallerist twat has laid his grubby “Preserving street art for private collectors” hands on it. So far. It’s a pig to photograph clearly and parts of its execution are a tad indifferent.

Banksy - "God Bless Birmingham"
Banksy "God Bless Birmingham"


Banksy - "God Bless Birmingham"
Banksy "God Bless Birmingham"


Banksy confirmed this stencil as genuine with a website message saying "God bless Birmingham. In the 20 minutes we filmed Ryan on this bench passers-by gave him a hot drink, two chocolate bars and a lighter - without him ever asking for anything." - Banksy

Banksy - "God Bless Birmingham"
Banksy "God Bless Birmingham"


Arriving in Birmingham I expected graffiti; thanks to an awareness of its recent history of street art festivals I expected murals; I wasn’t fully prepared for the brilliant explosion of sticker art. Every lamppost, traffic light, street sign and pole had been claimed by sticker art, one of my favourites being the huge variety of brace faces by Tempo who we used to see fairly frequently in London 10 or so years ago.

Tempo sticker montage
Tempo sticker montage


When Tempo was up in London our main delight was his large circular non permissioned paste-ups so finding a number of larger spraypainted murals was a pleasure.

Tempo 33
Tempo 33


Tempo 33
Tempo 33


Tempo
Tempo 33


Other sticker artists included Wreck1, Lisk Bot, Never A Servant, the legend Fokawolf and a very impressive scattering of the playful and rare (to me at least) street art of Pahnl.

Pahnl
Pahnl


Werck1, Lisk Bot
Werck1, Lisk Bot


NVRASIR
NVRASIR


Fokawolf & "Titty"
Fokawolf and Titty


Pahnl
Pahnl


Pahnl
Pahnl


Birmingham embraces adventurous and exciting architecture but the ancient brick and steam midlands’ post-industrial relics co-exist alongside the modern. Graff was popping up in some breathtaking spots and with more canals than Venice (Brummies say), canal-side vistas in particular are worth hunting out.

Birmingham & Fazeley Canal
Birmingham & Fazeley Canal


River Rea Birmingham
River Rea Birmingham


Farmers Bridge locks
Farmers Bridge locks


Digbeth River Rea
Digbeth River Rea


Smokers by canal
Smokers by canal


The urban huddle of car parks, streets and old factories in Digbeth just to the east of the city centre forms an amazing gallery. It is dominated by amazing murals, some appear to be permission murals liable to change, some look like relics of street art festivals with tags acknowledging “City of Colours” (2014 - 16) and “HighViz Festival” (2019-21) as well as our perpetual favourite – get up and get away with it.

Gent48, Ziner
Gent 48, Ziner


Goldenboy 924
Goldenboy 924


Liskbot
Lisk Bot


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Ziner (below) TBC above


Drop Burners Not Bombs Gent48 Ziner
Drop Burners Not Bombs Gent 48 Ziner


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Ziner


Ziner
Ziner


Broken Fingers
Broken Fingers


Cryola1
Cryola 1


Peaky Blinders _ Aske P16
Peaky Blinders, Aske P19


Philth
Philth


Inkie
Inkie


Cryola1
Cryola 1


Gent 48
Gent 48


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Philth, Never Ready


Paste-up action in the vicinity was fairly limited, the paste-up hall of fame hunt will have to wait till the next visit. Foka Wolf, Void One
Foka Wolf, Void One


Chance plays a key role in street art spotting in a city you haven’t explored before. There is the chance of what artists are “up” at that moment; your experience, your sample will possibly or probably be completely different to that of anyone else before or after. Also, what route do you take across the urban spider web of streets, alleys and paths? From A, B may be sought by going right then left; or you can turn left then go right, that’s two different street art galleries right there. While slaloming through the mainly industrial streets from Digbeth back to the train station, a glance over the shoulder into an open door revealed a delicious collection of political and tribute murals inside a fortuitously empty car park.

Void One memorial tribute mural to Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, Astro (UB40) and Captain Tom
Void One memorial tribute mural to Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, Astro (UB40) and Captain Tom


Gent48 Ziner The Brolly Works
Gent 48, Ziner The Brolly Works


The Brolly Works
Theresa May by Title


Two faced Jeremy Hunt is NHS Joker, Void One
Two faced Jeremy Hunt is NHS Joker, Void One


The Brolly Works
The Brolly Works


Malcolm X and Martin Luther King by Title
Malcolm X and Martin Luther King by Title


A good street art city should house a collection which is too vast for you to cover in your limited time, especially on a one day visit. It should also have change, renewal, vibrant health and life and Birmingham’s street art scene has both of these. It is hard to put it better than Birmingham’s own Prince Of Darkness when Black Sabbath reunited last Sunday (Paranoid starts 1 min exactly) for a spine tingling surprise set (BBC iPlayer, certain areas only, go to 2 hours exactly, next 3 months) at the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony.

“You are the best…..Birmingham for EVVVAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH”

Links:

Gent 48 instagram

Ziner instagram

Tempo 33 instagram

Banksy Website (please tell Banksy you found him through Graffoto.co.uk)

All photos: Dave Stuart

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Banksy Antonelli and Marziani Book Review

Banksy, the best known living artist, is an enigma with a perverse attitude to celebrity status and personal information. In an age where non-entities share every plate of food, change of eyeshadow and ill-advised swimwear hot, this is this is a major anomaly.

Banksy cover


Anonymity and secrecy fuels curiosity so there have been many books about Banksy, though none actually by him since “Wall and Piece” in 2005. The economically titled “Banksy”, Stefano Antonelli & Gianluca Marziani, Rizzoli International Publications, 2022, unauthorised, collects together a significant amount of material addressing Banksy the street artist, the art world darling, the enfant terrible and Banksy the “polite vandal”.

Banksy Antonelli Marziani p 16 17


Liberally illustrated with large photos, Banksy’s indoor gallery art and his outdoor street art get pretty much equal billing.

Having two authors lends two distinct dimensions to the book. A significant portion of the book is basically chronological, with photographs illustrating Banksy activity from very early freehand collaborations in Bristol right up to screengrabs of the two videos released by Banksy during lockdown.

Banksy Antonelli Marziani p 154 155


The years 2014 and 2016 are omitted so curiously no references to Banksy’s only known signed confession (Mobile Lovers) and his use of a QR code in 2016 to link the Gassed Cosette street image opposite London’s French Embassy to his underlying humanitarian political point.

The second and perhaps more interesting aspect is the philosophical, art history and political analysis which are covered with far superior writing quality. Perhaps I am too easily impressed when I have to google the words. The book makes a strong case for Banksy as a serious and art-world credible artist, something art critics are often inclined to deny.

Banksy Antonelli Marziani p28 29


The one thing no one wants revealed is thankfully not addressed in any great depth. The authors simply acknowledge the oft-repeated un-confirmed guess from the Telegraph years ago, seemingly on the basis that prior repetition by enough other people provides validation. The car park attendant in Weston Super Mare must be gutted.

Banksy Antonelli Marziani P189


Some cultural nuances are strangely overlooked such as in the dissection of the title of Banksy’s last book, there are cross references to Tolstoy’s “war and peace” and a tricky allusion to a wall as a source of social media output (me neither) but Banksy’s key joke that to a graffiti writer, a “piece” is a complex multi-colour graffito is not mentioned at all.

There is an excellent Banksy mind-map placing Banksy in context between street art and graffiti with a stream of influences and effects. Many similar graphics exist such as Cedar Lewisohn’s hand scribbled 2008 street art mind map, they are endlessly fascinating and never easy to agree 100% with, this is the first I have seen regarding Banksy and the authors have done a great job with it.

Banksy Antonelli Marziani p 14 15


The book would have benefited from more careful fact checking with errors in dates slipping through and even one artwork not by Banksy but is not attributed to anyone else either.

There is always room for another Banksy book in the market. The passage of time provides perspective on Banksy’s earlier career and as long as he remains active there is scope for updating on his latest twists and subversions of the act of creating and disseminating art. Its range of photographs earns it its position on the bookshelf of the Banksy curious and the in-depth analysis will provide food for thought for the die-hard fan base.

© Banksy, by Stefano Antonelli and Gianluca Marziani, Rizzoli Electa, 2022
Hardcover / 10.25” x 11.25” / 240 pages / 194 colour illustrations
£29.95 / ISBN: 978-0-8478-7276-3
Rizzoli Electa / Release date: June 2022