Sunday, 12 December 2010

Hastings & St Leonards Moth Project

Eagle eyed residents of Hastings and St Leonards may have noticed the sudden crop of giant geometrically patterned moths appearing on walls around parts of both town centres recently.

Hastings & St Leonards Moth Project

The reverse graffiti being the work of a UK artist called Moose, one of the people to have pioneered the movement of "Clean Art" where stencils are placed and then a cleaning solution is applied to leave the fairly permanent, but still temporary form of art.

Hastings & St Leonards Moth Project

Moose a.k.a Paul Curtis, was one of the team of people behind the Leeds based Soundclash and he also promoted the Soundclash club nights at which Andy Weatherall was an early fixture and Tricky made a rare and reputedly dreadful early DJ appearance.

Moose says of his vision and how he began making clean art of his own "I just saw marks on the wall where the shoulders of unsteady drunks and the fingertips of curious children had exposed the shiny White tile" And with only a pair of socks as his tool, reverse graffiti was born.

Hastings & St Leonards Moth Project

Moose has been doing this for over ten years now and has worked on many commissions often highlighting various health and awareness campaigns and St Leonards certainly needs some help there! It's high quantity of dirty walls means it has the higher proportion of Moths over it's Hastings neighbour.

Hastings & St Leonards Moth Project

There are currently 7 locations where the moths are living, hopefully those numbers will increase over time and maybe even encourage more forms of art in unloved places. Each site has a different moth design unique in its complexity, all of the designs are also based on moths native specifically to the area.

Hastings & St Leonards Moth Project

The project has 100% backing from the council and more specifically councillor Peter Chowney (In charge of regeneration in the area) who has said "It's an exciting installation which has enhanced the Hastings landscape, it's also great fun to suddenly come upon one of these images walking around town"

More details about Moose can be found at

Monday, 6 December 2010

Banksy Locations (and a Tour) Vol II

All photos: Shellshock

Remember Banksy Locations and Tours, a pocket size book produced in 2006 which detailed locations of Banksy street artwork? That was structured around around 3 tour routes of Banksy’s wall art in London that a lucky few experienced free of charge at the time, though a bit like the Sex Pistols at Manchester Free Trade the number that claim to have been on those tours now exceeds the population of the UK.

That was the work of Graffoto contributer Shellshock and we are pleased to announce he has done it again with the release this week of Banksy Locations (and a Tour) Vol II.

The significant difference between Vol I and Vol II is that Vol II addresses all the other areas in the UK where Banksy has been active EXCEPT the locations covered by Vol I. So that’s all “new” stuff then.

Vol II is a fascinating insight into some of the older and more provincial Banksy street art which London-locked folk like the rest of Graffoto don’t get to see. Though one or two of the London Banksys included in Vol II were only a couple of hundred yards off the routes of the original tours, they didn’t make Vol I simply because they involved too much of a route deviation to actually be included in Shellshock’s tours.

Stylistically it sticks faithfully to the blueprint established by Vol I, which is to say there are photographs, with locations, notes on relevant history and an update on condition – if it has any! Regard it as a kind of I-Spy guide to Banksy’s public works and the ideal sister publication to Vol I.

Vol II is published in hardback, making it harder wearing for those walking/cycling/charabanc tours.

This looks like a nice little stocking filler for any enthusiast of Banksy and street art in general.

Quoting from Shellshock’s own writing to add further colour and details on how to obtain a copy:

It’s a whopping 380 pages of hardback book and includes his street work all the way up to this October. There was just so much more to write than Vol.1; there are more locations (over 135, of which almost half are still worth visiting), more news (especially on the more recent pieces), better photo ops, and a few flounces of creativity. There is obviously no hiding that it is very similar format to Vol.1, in that it is based on locations, my photos and info/history about the piece. BUT there is a little more leeway in Vol 2 because it is less tour based (the only tour is in Bristol, which is pretty good actually; a lot survives, including some very hidden gems), and although it rounds up a lot of locations in London that couldn’t be covered by Vol.1, a third of the locations actually come from Bristol, Brighton & the South Coast, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow, and the rural West Country.

• Over 135 detailed locations of Banksy’s street graffiti, past & present
• A full walking tour of his remaining work in Bristol
• Information, random facts & idle chit-chat on each location
• Over 220 colour photographs, on 380 pages
• Snippets of art/graffiti by Eine, Faile, Inkie, Kato, Mode 2, BA / DBZ, & Rowdy
• 12% of [the] sale price donated to charitable organisations (24% when sold directly by [Shellshock])
• ISBN = 978-0955471230 / R.R.P. = £12.50

If everything goes ok and this winter weather doesn’t wreck it, I should get it on 7th December. It will obviously take a short while to get into all the shops, so if you fancy it soon it might be best to get it via the ‘net.

It’s on Amazon here (where sample pages are also viewable for free).

If you prefer to buy direct, then I’ll be selling it through my eBay account once they arrive. I've been on eBay for over 7 years now and still have 100% positive feedback.

Any sales via myself will get a couple of postcard flyers thrown in for free.

Shellshock is usually very approachable, so as a very nice inexpensive gift you could visit his eBay listing and ask him for a signed copy of Vol 2 with a dedication, all dispatched in time for Christmas [insert your religion/non religion's alternative day here] if you order quickly enough.

Dale ‘vn’ Marshall’s Room 101 revisited

Putting the erm… into Vermin

All photos by shellshock

“Given the state of the planet, humans, or some humans, must now be categorized as vermin” (John Carey in ‘The Intellectuals and the Masses -Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia 1880-1939‘)

I’ll spare you the weak reasons for the complete tardiness of this ‘review’ of Dale's show this October in Bristol. Soz, but I’m here now, so let’s just get on with it ‘eh? And finally I get to use the word ‘tardy’ in a blog :-)

Vermin (aka Dale ‘vn’ Marshall) has long been one of my favourite writers/artists, primarily as one of the Souls On Fire (SOF) crew throughout the late 90's and most of the 2000's, so I was especially excited when I heard earlier this year that he was doing canvases of his own work, and was then preparing for what seemed to be a very tardy [got it in again :-)] first exhibition for someone in his late 30’s.

The reason for this late blooming was presumably, at least partly, because Dale has led a life and a half so far, and by his own admission not necessarily a life you’d wish for when a kid. Dale’s personal experiences and ongoing battle with his own mental health, including stays in a secure unit, is in equal parts amazing, shocking and totally understandable when you see his art (visit here for more info). I don’t know Dale but I feel some connection through his art, maybe aided by us being from the same city. My own minor battles cannot be compared to his, but I do get a strong personal feeling from all of this, and my heart skips a beat when I dip into his soul.

I get the impression that during these dark days and nights Dale probably forgot that he was an artist. He also probably forgot he was a writer. And whatever inane discussions exist in the world about what a ‘writer’ really is and who is and isn’t a ‘writer’, I’d merely suggest that Vermin was and has always been a writer, even if it might not be as obvious as when a young lad does ‘Trax’ (or whatever) in large, basic letters on a scabby wall. Dale has a totally different style to that, but his work still (quite literally) oozes his name.

So ‘Room 101, The Fine Art of Graffiti‘ showcased 101 oil paintings completed in 101 days this summer, as well as five additional show paintings and site-specific installations and wall daubings. However faint it may have seemed to the casual eye, I'd say that all 101 canvases had ‘vermin’ carved into them, like ‘Blackpool’ in a stick of rock, or to use a far darker analogy, like a self-harming teenager with a sharp knife and a bloodied and scared forearm.

Although Dale is now happily studying at the historic School of Art at Coventry University, and has a great support network around him, he‘s obviously not going to forget his past quite so fast. The Room 101 theme obviously drew parallels from George Orwell’s novel, 1984, and was most evident in the institutional paraphernalia that was scattered around the venue. ‘Dentist’ chair and prescription drug cocktails with flashing light, a recreation of his hospital bed, a freaky video, maggots in a bowl, etc. When some people walked into the venue they must have thought… erm… what the hell is this!

The canvases were amazing, and although there are tinges of melancholy, brooding and inactivity, they actually mainly radiate hope, colour, passion, energy and thoughtfulness. Just like Don McCullin hates being refered to solely as a 'war' photographer, I imagine Dale doesn't want to be just seen as doing those pretty dark abstract murals. It was a really strong body of work. I know a few professional artists and to do 101 canvases in 101 days (um... that's one a day I reckon..?) is quite a stretch, especially with a rigorous quality control as well (I think Dale had about 30 odd others that didn't make the cut).

So now I can come on to the two canvases I managed to buy amidst the slightly undignified bun fight that occurred on the opening night. A lot of people had obviously heard about the show and some even travelled some distance and waited for quite some time (and/or pushed into the queues) in order to be there first to get what they wanted. Call it madness, peer pressure or dedication, or a bit of all three. I was amazed that I still managed to get my first choice of the 90-odd canvases that hadn’t been pre-reserved or were not for sale. I really wanted at least one that had ‘writing’ in it; a sort of hybrid of ‘pure’ art and a tag. That for me was something to straddle the two worlds they represented.

When Dale later took the canvas down off the wall for me he mentioned that he learnt a lot [about oils] when he was doing this piece. That was quite sweet actually - talk about personal service! How many other places does the artist take your canvas down off the wall himself? I actually wondered if he might follow me home and want to take it back :-)

My second canvas was from the more meditative pieces on the opposite wall. Yet it still has that slight tinge of violence in it.

More power to your elbow Dale. Hope to see more from you soon. And if you do fancy a ‘time share’ visit to your canvases, pop round next time you’re visiting the Royal Arthur [this will be explained in a forthcoming blog…]

Friday, 26 November 2010

F*** the F***ing F***ers - FREE 10FOOT

photos: NoLionsInEngland except Joeppowhere noted

Standby for a bit of a rant at inappropriate sentencing.

Artist unknown - view LARGE

London tagger, bomber and graffiti artist 10FOOT has been sentenced to 26 months in prison for a long list of acts of graffiti, also known as crimes. On release, he has a weird 5 year ASBO stopping him carrying “unset paint, permanent marker pen, shoe dye, permanent ink, grinding stone, glass cutting equipment, glass etching solution or paste” or from entering train yards.

That sentence is crass beyond belief. As balance between punishing a specific individual and deterring the rest, there no doubt 10foot is suffering way beyond what would be reasonably due him. 26 months banged up is just irrational, disproportionate, unjustifiable and quite capable of having a life-destroying impact.

Do you believe society is capable of electing representatives to create laws that are then used fairly by the judiciary? You can't justify believing that when you look at the stupidity of punishments like this.

For bringing it to my attention, cap is doffed to Joeppo and the London Vandal. You can read the full list of 25 acts of “criminal damage” 10FOOT pleaded guilty to, from the BTP press release on London Vandal here.

Looking at the list, not one of the criminal acts involves rape, dangerous driving, assault, theft, fraud, public indecency, threatening behaviour or racism. They are merely making a mark on walls. So some of those marks are on trains and they are private property, that’s a crime and crimes get punished after a “guilty” verdict but there is no way our world is going to be a better place for having 10foot locked up for 26 months.

The vast majority of the acts relate to trackside shit. Now if there ever was a kind of property that the word “marginalised” was invented for, it is on the whole the kind of spots that 10foot has been bombing. The clean up costs cited in the press release have to be fabricated as there is no way that any sane individual would want to spend 31 grand (about 52,000 dollars) creating buff coloured rectangles where 10foot has done his artwork. Quite what goes into those cost estimates (railway overheads?) we’ll never know but you can employ a feck of a lot of painters for that amount.

Why are those costs so high? To make us gasp, to smear some kind of shock factor to wave over the excessive prison sentence handed down. The costs are quoted to the nearest 37p or 24p which is so ludicrous it must be just done for comic effect.

It seems pretty clear that BTP have gone after 10foot motivated by vengeance, by a vandal headhunters blood lust, they must have been burning with a crazed ambition to make a name for themselves (bloody hell, that’s close to graffiti) and to obtain a huge sentence guaranteed to make the press. You can just see them high fiving, funny handshaking and off out celebrating on hearing the sentence.

In the two photos accompanying this post you can see the name Saycell, it’s not difficult to find information on the internet regarding Colin Saysell of the British Transport Police and his obsession with making examples of some high profile graffiti artists. The Fuck the Fuckers piece also rants about “fuck jizz wally” (SIC), Jeremy "Jez" Walley is also BTP and it is he who gloats over the fate of 10FOOT in the press release:

"[the] vandalism was nothing more than wanton damage that costs thousands of pounds to clean up”

Well quite, “nothing more than”, so how does that suggest 26months is the appropriate punishment?

photo Joeppo, aka LDN GRAFFITI

It also seems way over the top to take this crime to Crown Court. This can only have been to add a veneer of apparent gravity to the offences and to give BTP the big stage for their performance.

Did the judge have discretion to impose a more appropriate, less damaging punishment? We don’t know the technical legal answer to that but surely some serious community service perhaps coupled with that ASBO would have been less harmful. That last word is key in our minds, harmful, this punishment is likely to cause great harm to 10foot yet he has not actually caused harm to any individual anywhere.

Do you think the experience of sending 10foot inside is possibly going to “improve” him? 10foot is personable, affable, articulate and socially is not particularly attention seeking. After 2 years inside he is likely to pick up a shit load of new skills and attitudes that may make him a completely different proposition.

Of course, if he signs up for all the basket weaving and art classes the irony is when he is released he won’t be able to buy art materials unless someone else carries it home for him.

We are alarmed to read in the press release that his girlfriend’s house was raided. In the BTP press release they say the raids yielded photos of him fraternising with other known graffiti “vandals”. Well bollocks, Graffoto can be seen fraternising most weeks with some well known graffiti vandals and we’re not aware that that was a crime.

Just going back to the 26 months inside, how can this possibly proportionate or appropriate when a very cursory search on the net yields sentences such as 12 months for multiple stabbing and 24 weeks SUSPENDED for careless driving in the hit and run killing of a cyclist. In the list of headboard notches displayed in BTP's list of press releases there is a case this month of a man sentenced to 1 year imprisonment for raping an 86 year old woman travelling alone in a train carriage. Compare the horror of that crime, the impact on the woman and her family, the heightened fear engendered in her friends and other elderly people and solitary travellers with the nature of 10foot’s campaign of quietly sneaking about and writing his name. There won't be a single individaul who said "my life is perceptibly worse after that piece of graffiti" yet 10Foot is doing twice as much as a rapist. This may be law but it is not justice.

BTP, The crown court, society at large, you should be ashamed of yourselves. FREE 10FOOT.

artist: Robbo; photo: Joeppo, aka LDN GRAFFITI

Selection of 10FOOT graffiti here and here.

After a recount, this is Graffoto’s 200th post and we are proud that it is about such an important and serious matter

Broken Windows Footnote:

As a curiousity, in doing a bit of googling for this post, we came across a statistical analysis in the US which proves there is very little link between incidents of graffiti and incidents of other forms of crime – despite what the authors of the web page say. You can see generally from the graph plots that things are pretty scattered and you’ll be greatly puzzled by the low R-squared coefficients which suggests the correlation between the two graphed parameters is tiny, you need a number close to 1 to indicate a close relationship between occurrence of graffiti and occurrence of other crimes and the values in the plots are no higher than 0.26. And that’s after they removed some data which would have made R squared even lower. Check it out here.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Mantis - Altered State

Lord Napier, Hackney Wick
18 - 20 Nov 2010

photos: NoLionsInEngland except Howaboutno where stated

We like our street artists a bit elusive and few come more enigmatic than Mantis. The mystery revolves around the un-signed socio-political work on the streets and the comparative scarcity of paintings and prints. Mantis is a regular street defacer, his repertoire including epic stencils, defaced road signs and his own installed road signs though he has been known to freehand paint some large figurative pieces by the side of canals.

"All Fall Down", photo HowAboutNo

Quite often attribution to Mantis is process involving “definitely Banksy” followed by “not sure” followed by “not on Bansky’s website” sheepishly concluded with “oh, its on Mantis’ website”. The script goes horribly wrong when pieces are initially attributed to Grafter followed by a consensus that in fact Eelus was the painter

Mantis, not Eelus, nor Grafter

You are here (no exit)

One of Hackney Wick’s particular landmarks is the derelict Lord Napier pub hard by the Hackney Wick overground station.


This has been derelict for years and Mantis has chosen its blackened interior to host his first ever solo show.

Painted wall background by Busk

In the first room, a granny’s living room, as comfortable as a slipper, complete with tweeting parrot simulates a world of contemporary modernity denied. A rocking chair provides a cosy perch next to a roaring fire – flames by Busk – in which Granny would sit and contemplate the sepia toned on the wall.

A couple of the finely drawn exercises have been seen out on the streets in stencil form, though it seems unlikely that they are stencils on this occasion.

Hopscotch (Hope Scotched)

The End Was Nigh

Glimpsed through the open door is the parallel exterior world of grim and congested urban landscapes and threatening spooky weirdness. Hanging on dirt streaked un-painted walls are a series of spraypaint and ink drawings on canvas and wood, celebrating a sort of retro modern architecture on one side and playing with life and death on the other.

The particular fish-eyed perspective of this ink drawing over aerosol spray on wood has the luminosity of Hopper’s Nighthawks combined with a bit of Rushka perspective.

Corner Shop

Mantis’ street work combines humour with social commentary and occasionally the humour surfaces in this show like this crushing of the Warholian legacy. A bin below this painting held a collection of empty Campbells soup tins, replica labels made by Mantis.


Several of the paintings explore the future architecture theme, on the end wall the whole planet is covered with skyscraper buildings which chimes with the dire predictions implicit in simple but effective street pieces by Mantis.

Stop Consuming

In one corner a slot machine plays games with our fate, the buttons teasingly invite us to play or not play, the spinning reels indicate life or death and the nudges don’t deliver on the promises the labels make

Grim Reaper optional

Mantis has coyly omitted any sign that the art might be for sale, no drawing labels, no price list, in fact no indication anywhere of even the artist’s name. Self effacement is taken to the limit here. This show is fascinating just for the fact that it is by Mantis and revelatory in the undoubted quality of the drawings. The show runs for just three days and at time of writing closes tomorrow with a party, though we understand the paintings may be removed before the fun begins since it is planned to be a bit of a bop.

Oh, Now I see

Mantis is the kind of artists that delights Graffoto so we are particularly pleased that his debut show should be the subject of Graffoto’s 200th post. Happy 200th something to us - yeeeeeeeeahhhhaaaawwww

More images on flickr here

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Swoon Scene in London

Photos: NoLionsInEngland (who is slightly peeved that blogger is trimming the right hand edges of landscape pics so that central elements shift to the right and important info is not visible. Click through landscape pics to see the original image)

Swoon was recently in London combining the installation of her part of the Small Acts of Resistance show at Black Rat Press with leaving a few pieces on the street.

A few years back, Swoon left some stunners on the streets of London.

Coronet St filigree

Girl From Ranoon

Both of those ran for a long long time and for me they never became invisible background, I never ever got bored of seeing them.

In those days the buff was a council employee and he told me one morning that he could see those Swoon pieces were things of beauty, though he had no idea they were “Swoon”, and he said he’d never buff those.

This photographed in late 07 but was definately there in 2006, the grain of the woode hoarding has cut into the paper and lent a gentle curving wash to the art.

This time round Swoon has put up 4 street paste ups, at least, that’s how many we have found. More knowledgable Swoon spotters have opined that these four new images haven’t been seen before which is cool for us locals.

This first one saw her returning to Blackall St, location of the Girl from Rangoon at the top. Blackall Street these days is a noisy battered alleyway with generally mediocre but occasionally adequate paste ups, Swoon’s piece is sort of jostling for elbow room in the crowd and that optical bedlam just doesn’t allow the piece to interact in any meaningful way with its environment, you probably need to know that the boy is gazing at some non-descript two storey offices opposite.

Swoon 2010, Boy from Haiti?

The last piece Graffoto found (well, HowAboutNo) sits in a very nice spot, I love the way the more delicate transluscent sort of paper Swoon has used here allows the colour of the two columns of London brick to seep through. Again he is scrutinising a fairly dull brick built office. Perhaps staring at places of work is the theme for this autumn's street collection.

Swoon 2010

Like the one above, this third one sits in a nice location and has awesome levels of detail within the art.

The final piece sits a little off the beaten track but not too far from Black Rat. The grainy detail pasted to the wall and even in the textures of the brick itself really captures a weathered and ancient face. When you look at the amount of detail in the close-up you can really appreciate the astonishing intricacy of the paper doily, not to mention how tricky it must be to paste that kind of work to the wall. The pipe at the bottom of the wall looks like it is meant to be a meaningful addition to the composition or at least provide some kind of context for the portrait but we just can’t figure out what.


A much more knowledgable Swoon spotter (sorry - can't remember who otherwise they would get a shout here) has said they believe the new images in London haven't been seen on the street before, which is cool for us.

The Black Rat Press group show is constructed around the theme of how substantial change can be created by individual un-sung and small scale acts of protest or activism. With each of the artists there really was a sense that the despair, isolation and suppressed individual was fully explored but little sense of what they could or would achieve through individual action, on the whole they look like they remain oppressed. Other than Peter Kennard whose wall looked like the kind of high altitude panorama shot we used to see on the news from a camera mounted in the nose of a ship-to-shore missile.

Swoon, Know Hope, Armsrock, Matt Small, Peter Kennard, Dotmaster

Swoon’s top-to-bottom whole wall piece starts promisingly enough on the left with a single child sitting on land with a blasted tree and wooden hut in the background, the scene pans across a set of steps, with a distant village in the background, is he being invited up the steps? The image just sort of petters out to the right into indecipherable contemporary box buildings, broken signage and pieces of pasted paper. It seems to speak of the plight of orphaned children following the earthquake in Haiti, it's not too clear.

Close up the layers of newsprint paper build up into the background and the image of the child is beautiful but the sense remains that we are not seeing Swoon at her gallery best.

Previous show outings in London include her favella contribution in BRP’s launch show Heaped in 2007 with David Ellis and Monica Canilao, followed later by a significant, beautiful and cleverly staged train carriage panorama at Leonard St’s Urban Sprawl show

Swoon, Urban Sprawl, 2007

Photographs of Swoon shows from New York and elsewhere show that Swoon can transform spaces and create stunning wonderlands of filigree and portraits. Her work in her London shows has tended to leave us feeling a little short changed, fingers crossed that sometime we get a fully fledged solo show fit to blow our socks off.

Show continues at BRP until 30 November 2010 - update errrr, the BRP artist bios at the show says 30th, a BRP emails says 26th. They ought to know or perhaps just like to keep you guessing