Thursday, 26 June 2008

Rule Of The Renegade

It’s a generally well known rule that graffiti taggers don’t go over eachother’s pieces unless the intent is a very public show of that charged notion of lack of Respect.

Frenchman C215 burst into the wider UK street-art consciousness with an array of sumptious portrait stencils in March this year and he was invited back by Banksy to be a major contributer to Cans Festival. His stencil art focusses on weather-beaten old men and women whose lined faces wear their experience of a life well lived, or young boys and girls from South American barrios he visits, or his daughter.




Along comes ACE with a selection of fairly mundane paste ups, bombing the same turf around Hoxton and Shoreditch. Ace’s quality is patchy, some stuff is eyecatching and great whilst merely adding a cartoon character’s head or eyes to a photocopied photograph reduces the bulk of it to pretty average.



No problems for a while, until Ace decides to go over the recent C215 stuff.

Ace - compare this with the first photo at the top

The placement is aggressive; no defence on the grounds of C215’s stuff aging or fading can be sustained, the pieces were still fresh and un-tagged over. The evident difficulty of ACE’s paste-up location spoke of very deliberate going over. The effort and skill required to paste-up behind those tight bars without the paper wrinkling or sticking in folds speaks of intense focus on the process.

Ace has some previous in this area, going over a rather tasty but un-identified painted wave in Blackaller Street (Kozyndan? Theirs used a rolling bunny motif in the wave crest), see also Copyright (above, third photo from top), another victim of Ace’s indiscriminate dogging.

Unknown - After Hokusai


A guy with a street artist’s sense of integrity and honour, with a 6 year stretch served and a burning self righteousness is obviously going to take offence. So C215 took advantage of a return visit to London this week to very very publicly reck revenge on a pile of ACE stuff, laying down the law and up-holding his honour in the process.

C215 (also pictured - Cauty)



This is what happens on the streets. This one may prove to yet have legs.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Cut Up Collective

I haven't seen too much stuff from the Cut Up Collective, until now...... And boy was it worth the wait!

There is word via their own site ( ) about a month long event in the area, so hopefully I will spot loads more before it ends as they are simply amazing. The collective members select both billboard and bus stop posters and cut them down(sometimes huge sheets at a time) then they remake an entirely new image from the cut up pieces. Surely this choice is not made randomly as a huge amount of effort must go in to reconstituting them.

CutUp will take over the Seventeen gallery on Kingsland Road, transforming it into Grand Hotel Abyss, a makeshift studio for a month. Every night during the month, advertising posters from the surrounding area will be cut down, removed and taken into Grand Hotel Abyss, CutUp's temporary home. Here they will be reordered and prepared for their placement back into the spaces they came from.

To hopefully be continued !

Friday, 13 June 2008

Thieves Ladder

Installation show by Armsrock, Chris Stain and Poncho,
Black Rat Press, Rivington Street, London
12th June

Thieves and ladders are two words many might associate with graffiti and street art. Put them together and show them to a multi-national trio of street artists and the meaning transforms to the collaboration of people lifting each other up from the bottom of the shaft of economic, political, intellectual or social dysfunctionality .

Armsrock comes from Denmark via Bremmen and is a small and wiry bundle of energy. Exactly the kind of guy you'd imagine shinning up a drain pipe with a paint roller and some Dulux hanging off his back.

His previous visits left London with some original paste ups on walls and doors.


Chris Stains is a Queens, NY legend and is making his first visit to London, probably Poncho is too but the gallery wallah’s Spanish was even worse than Poncho’s English.

Armsrock's signature contribution to the installation occupies two ends of one wall and the whole of the back wall. If you prefer your art installations instantly accessible rather than deep and conceptual, then Armsrock provides the element which defines the whole installation, the key to comprehension, an enormous red lifeboat transporting a cargo of refugees. All lifeboats present a dual nature, a dichotomy between hope and despair, between salvation and desperation, anyone embarking into a lifeboat is doing so under threat imminent death yet the lifeboat is the last throw of the dice, possibly leading to safety or to doom.


Within the lifeboat a flotilla’s worth of boat people sail towards the promised land, an urban society which at first superficial glance appears built of orderly, stately architecture but closer scrutiny of this man made utopia-apparent reveal areas of dirtier city ghettos harbouring squalor, deceit, dirt, and despair. This paint on layered cardboard cityscape is a new departure for Armsrock.



Shanty town constructions, reinforced by a pallet built shack in the centre of this room rather than art deco apartment blocks are the reality awaiting this county's tired and huddled masses.

Poncho/Chris Stain

Even the gallery toilet door is integrated into the piece, urgent requirements to spend a penny can be critically delayed seeking this door which is disguised in the layered paper city, a bit like a library door disguised as a bookcase in some kind of scruffy stately pile.

Bathroom access by Armsrock (its there –honest)

Key themes explored by all three artists are the invisible boundaries between hope and desperation in a de-facto apartheid riddled segregated urban system. The features of the refuges may be caricatures but there is no pandering to any racial stereotype which would suggest Africans setting out from Morocco to Spain or Albanians crossing the Adriatic. They are symbolic of a universe of marginalised and oppressed, human beings with feelings, history, emotion but no voice.


Stain and Armsrock have constructed a universal metaphor for flight, desperation, salvation, but at the same time, our voyeuristic view is from the perspective of a more cynical civilisation, we are aware that the dream these people have been fed is illusory, the nirvana the media has force-fed them is fake, not everyone has a full mod-con house, not every girl shakes her hair like she lives in a silvikrin hairspray ad, rare is the happy family with contented wage-earner, beaming home-keeper and clean healthy smiling children. Armsrock sees an invisible barrier preventing these aspirants, the economic and political refugees from attaining their illusory goal.

Armsrock (subsequently installed in window)

It may be reasonable to ponder similarities between Armsrock’s craft and the weatherworn, gnarled faces of Swoon’s native Americans or her subway riding metropolitans, also though perhaps more remotely there might be some similarities to Elbow-Toe’s life size anguished and distorted humanity but Armsrock firmly believes the comparison is not to be taken too far. No further than the figurative style employed from time to time by all three. The derricks or coal pit wheel houses sting atop the city heaven-hell do however appear to resonate with the barrios/ghetto visions blended into the fabric of the clothing in some of Swoon's work.

Quite specifically, Armsrock rejects repetition; no woodcuts or linos capable of producing multiple images, every single piece whether on the street or here in the gallery has been produced as an original.

Armsrock frequently works life-size, and the crafting of the figures is exactly the same here in the gallery as he uses on the streets, brushed acrylic on paper, though in the gallery it is Japanese rice paper whereas on the streets it is any kind of newsprint or rough paper. Every one an original.


The theme of escape, transport and relocation is continued by Chris Stain through an enormous train profile painted on cardboard on another wall. The US railroad system has a much broader symbolism for migration than British Rail could ever sustain. Beyond the obvious freight and commuting functionality, the US system has been imbued with the romance associated with the railroad pioneering into the mid-west, and the romance of a hobo sub-culture. Also, for the past 20 years or so an sub-culture of train painting has developed among graffiti artists which involves ornate old skool tagging with an adjacent graff character, and its not un-usual for artists thousands of miles apart to admire and be inspired by the train graff as it travels north-south and east-west throughout the network.

Chris Stain/Armsrock

Stain has used this form, although he not conventionally a train tagger, to doff his cap in the direction of fellow NY street art legend Swoon with some bubble writing and a blonde bouffant smurfette. Niiiice.

Chris Stain (this graff was scruffed to simulate a well travelled carriage)

The first and most basic instincts of mankind relate to eating, shelter and sleeping, and using a pair of life size unlit shanty shacks Poncho has re-created the basic kind of shelter many Mexicans are forced to endure as they lever themselves up societies lower strata. These shacks contain many small scale Stain originals on wood and steel and many slogans, anyone using Crass slogans (among others) cannot be accused of political apathy.

Chris Stain

Apart from the shacks, in contrast to the energetic and informal installation pieces of Stain and Armsrock, Poncho has gone for a more structured and conventional approach in producing a series of stencilled images on board. The detail and sharpness of of the stencils, the texture in the image and the emotion are top class, whilst thematically they are as one with the rest of the piece, they look a bit out of place among the chaos. Not to complain, some of the complex images such as the gun belt Madonna treading on societies un-fortunates are stunning. But big.



As an end thought, no prints and no canvasses puts the BRP crew out there on a limb, doing this more or less for love, likewise the artists. This was a brave move following the patchiness of the Ellis/Swoon Canilao Heap Show installation and for mind and eye satisfaction it has paid off.

More pictures are in the flickr link in the signature below, it must be said that the lighting tonight made some of the pieces difficult to photograph or even see properly, BRP is set up for the most stunning illumination of wall mounted canvasses and prints but the gloomy lighting, whilst in keeping with the show theme still could have been brighter

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Ozzie Update

Further happenings on the strange picture of "Ozzie" left in the streets of London. There was a code on the back which the finder was instructed to email to which then prompts you to send your postcard back to them, with a promise of being contacted very soon.

A week and a bit later, I received an old fashioned typewriter style letter saying nothing more than "please be patient", to which I thought "fair enough" ....Im a patient kinda guy. . . . .

Then turns out a jouro who posts on Flickr - Mark thompson - did some investigating work of his own and found out the following :

"So far I have worked out that the man in the photo is Robert Osband, he is a 58-year-old living in Titusville Florida.

He created the area code for the Kennedy Space Centre which is 321. An idea Jeb Bush called " A simple, bold idea to reccognize Florida's Space Industry with this Area Code".

The photo was taken in 1975 shortly after he returned from a spacesuit sale in Delaware.

Since then the website has been created, seemingly by Mr Osband. . . .who is unsure as to how or why his picture is being used?!

The plot thickens somewhat further by more of Marks investigations (or maybe just a strange coincidence)

"So latest thing, have found out the last known person I can find who lived at the premises which the letters are sent to... Peter Griffin! Love it!. He lived there in 2003 - no idea if he still does but thought it was pretty funny"

The user Ozzie on Flickr is eemingly now in the mix. . . but refers to himself in pictures in the third person perspective?!

Either it will become clearer in time. . . . .or like the best epsiodes of lost just keep us all guessing forever and ever (well, at least for the alloted 7 seasons we have signed up for)


If you take two weeks out to get all hot and bothered chasing Athens graffiti on the back of a Vespa and stop keeping an eye on them, people will get mischievous. Councils have seriously stepped up their buffing campaign and artists have suffered irresistible urges to spray, marker pen and wheatpaste on the walls. It’s like watching two dogs continuously returning to piss on the same tree stump.

strangely, the staff at Cargo who really ought to know better have got the whitewash urge too (painting out Nick Walker's Moona Lisa???? FFS).

So, while my gimlet eye was elsewhere, London had…..

A return visit from New York’s Momo.

A return visit from Australia’s ENESS

And of course, it would be cynical and churlish (and groundless too!) to suggest that perhaps some local dab hand with the wheatpaste brush had been sent those paste-ups through Fed Ex.

A complete twat, no - seriously - though perhaps I should capitalise the word, Twat has launched himself on the London stencil scene with some tasty work though some of his stuff was through unfortunate wall choice buffed within days.

Speaking of twats, some idiot pasted over just about the only remaining Faile stencil in this neck of the woods (not counting the "nothing lasts forever" ones). No need to capitalise the word that time.

As a prelude to the opening of the Camp Barbossa’s Burning Bridges show, Labrona is in town and has decorated a few walls in the company of a mate from Vancouver who Romanywg kindly tells me is Gaad.

Conor Harrington finished his Brick Lane piece. At least, I think he did.

SK? having a touch of the Judith Supines hits Curtain Street/King Johns Court.

Critical (tbc) pops up a stencilled blind-folded Mona image with “Stop using my image” across her eyes. The one on the Cargo front wall lasts less than 24 hours; the one on Blackaller Street sprayed a on board held up 6 Phillips screws to a wooden panel on was removed during its second night.

Doze Green left a few gems around the time of his Leonard St Gallery show.

Biom and Seno re-did their usual Anning Street spot though if I recall correctly they threw some paint over it just a few weeks ago. Perhaps they didn’t like it.

Anon pasted up a retro suit willing to work for cunts, fame and love and possibly even in that order. Anyone know who the artist is?

Nuff for now, all the above pics are a small selection from a set taken over three days or so wince getting back to the east end. It would be worth checking the NoLions flickr account for pics uploaded 12 June to see quite a bit more from the same artists and others.

Possible shows to visit tomorrow (Thieves Ladder feat Stain, Armsrock, Poncho at BRP; Burning Bridges, Signal Gallery).

Monday, 9 June 2008

Meeting of Styles '08

Why is it the best events are always the ones you don't know a thing about?!

The Meeting of Styles was going on as we took a random walk round the back of the "trains in the air" wall to see if there was any update to the progress of Fridays half painted out ATG effort. . . .

Safe to say that yes...lots of progress had been made :

Whilst I didn't hang around as long as I would have liked, a general feel good atmosphere, lots of weed - lots of very cheap beer and lots of very pissed and stoned graffers up at a great height doing what they do best........drinking beer and smoking weed :)

The painting was a tad impressive too, and it certainly did what it said on the tin, all good in my book.