Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Warped and Pieced - Return to Huncoat (Part 1)

Back in July 2009 I wrote a piece about the graff co-existing with the rubble of the old Huncoat Power Station in Lancashire.

Join me for a couple of return visits and a visual ride into them thar hills….

All photos by shellshock

Quick Link to the July 2009 blog - if you are interested.....

The disused power station at Huncoat (between Accrington and Burnley) is easily the best hidden graff den I’ve ever been to. Rubble and shit are everywhere, right next to stunning pieces from the Trans Pennine Nomads (TPN) crew (and a few others). A visual overload; you don’t know where to look (actually I do know where to look….. look up for graffiti… and look down for that pit full of glass and old shoes that you are about to fall in you spanner….).

On bobbing up there for a return visit in November 2009 I was a bit gutted to see three of the best pieces from July had been partly gone over by, frankly, some really amateurish bits (I can’t call them pieces….). Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. I can’t complain. It’s graff. It’s not supposed to last for ever. There are no ’rules’…..

But surely, if you are gonna try in an abandoned power station, where there are walls a plenty, you better bring your end game if you are going to deliberately go over some of the best pieces in the North-West, and not bring the friggin toy zone set-up that you see in these photos….

Ok, rant over. I’ll get off the soap box now (although it’s actually quite handy to take photos from…)

Forgot to include this one when I did the last blog. I presume it’s by Ziel, who’s done quite a lot of stuff in nearby Rochdale.

As I take photos, who do I bump into? Only Mr Pryme himself, up here to take a few photos himself. And we yak for many hours. I think his footballing chances at Turf Moor might be behind him, but if there are two things that Pryme could represent England at, it’s, 1) writing, and 2) talking :-)

And usually it’s talking about ‘the Turf‘! We agree on most things, including the revelation (cough! hardly…) that neither of us gets Nick Walker….. (actually, I think you’ll find no-one in the game really likes it…)

Anyway, he shows me a quickie he did with a friend, Petra, upstairs.

I’d gone up to Huncoat partly coz I saw some internet photos of a side wall I hadn’t noticed before, so we wheeled round to see that. The surface wasn’t the greatest to work with but the low wall suits Pryme and Crie’s style well, with the first two pieces (1 each) cut in half by the top of the wall. I think it might be my Asperger’s gene, but I could lap this stuff up all day. I just find Crie’s fantastical meanderings mesmerising, and I don’t get bored of Pryme’s 3D pieces [technical drawing was my favourite subject at school, and I love his perspectives and those crisp angles and lines]

The longer and artier shots first…… (I like the tyre with intricate silver tags on it….)

Now the 4 pieces, one by one (Pryme, Crie, Pryme, Crie…)

Finally, a quick trip down to the other local spot, where there was one new piece since my last trip; a rampant little collab between Pryme and Era. Again, I could take this all day. Pryme’s angles, and Era’s swirling curves, look so damn sexy together, and the colours look great on the deep black behind.

And a photo of an old wall, coz I liked the comfy looking sofa that had been dumped in front of it. It should be turned around, so you can sit and have a cigar and a glass of Benedictine whilst marvelling at the massive TPN collab, in sci-fi style (Pryme / Era / Sune / Crie). Mmmmm, what a life that would be!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Buff - RIP Graffiti and Street Art in Shoreditch

all photos Nolionsinengland except where stated

Shoreditch is a colourful, artistic furiously beating heart within the borough of Hackney. Among many forms of creative and cultural excellence, street art within Shoreditch is significant on the global scale if not even world leading. Visitors come from far and wide specifically to see the street art and graffiti, indeed the Graffoto inbox is often filled with emails from overseas visitors looking for advice and information prior to their visit. The actions of the local council, Hackney are exposing the ridiculously confused and inconsistent practise over the control of graffiti and the development of the area.

Blatantly Criminal

Returning to the streets after a few days outside London this week, probably the most notable new piece of street art was this painting by Neonita on the side of The Foundry, a legendary decade old arts and social space on Old Street.


This piece is more notable for the politics of its existence than its artistic accomplishment. This spot spent a long time hidden behind builder’s scaffolding, though that itself provided a suitable canvas for various quasi political artistic statements.


After removal of the scaffolding a series of beautiful pieces were executed at the invitation and permission of the owners of the Foundry Bar.

The Krah/FORS (2008)

Inkfetish (2008)

Then to everyone’s horror, about three days after another masterpiece was created the council’s contractors came along and without so much as a “may we” obliterated the art using a semi glossy black tar.

mmmmm - Thats better (Dec 2008)

The council’s view seems to be that this commissioned public art is graffiti and therefore vandalism and must be cleaned up. Hackney Council’s stance on graffiti is summarised on their website, regarding private buildings which means almost any wall not owned by the council, this is what their policy says:

“The Council has no authority to immediately remove graffiti from buildings that it does not own or manage.
When graffiti is reported on one of these buildings, we will notify the owner/occupier and can undertake works by default if they fail to act.”

From conversations with the staff at the Foundry, no notice to remove "graffiti" was served on them and there is no record of anyone ever making any kind of complaint. The managers at the Foundry even protested that the work had their permission and was neither racist nor offensive but to no avail. The council and their hired chimps have a penchant for taking matters into their own hands and ignoring their own required process.

Council contractors vs 10FOOT (10FOOT won, container relocated with 10Foot intact)

Frankly the council are making themselves look ridiculous with their feverish efforts to purge the un-licensed creativity from the area. There is a derelict un-occupied eyesore in a prominent position on Great Eastern St, located just a short distance from the Foundry. It looks like a burned out bombsite, the smashed windows let the pigeons in, interior walls and ceilings have collapsed, the outsides are grubby and decrepit from years of neglect.

61 Great Eastern St

The Council do nothing that has any effect on the state of this building but the moment a bit of street art appears, their buffing chimps attack. Before Christmas, after creating a gorgeous substantial art piece 50 yards away (with permission), Israeli artist Know Hope created a small marker pen piece only for it to be promptly buffed by Graffiti Solutions.

Know Hope - photo Slaminksy

The shittiest un-safest building in Shoreditch vs the most beautiful and lowest impact art from an internationally recognised street artist – which aspect would you tackle first?

Back to The Foundry, those who have been there will know of the Foundry as a centre for creativity, outsider art shows and refreshment with like minded souls, it is a notable social lightening-rod for artistic minded creatives as well as a meeting place for cyclists. This is due to go very soon though as last week Hackney Council giving planning approval for the demolition of the building The Foundry shares and its replacement by an art hotel. In a move totally inconsistent with its zero tolerance of graffiti, the Council has ordered the preservation of a very large Banksy on the outside wall to the rear of the building.

Banksy - Eat The Rich

Weird the Council should choose to have this Banksy preserved, as it is crap. Predominantly a roller job, it is very poorly executed and its meaning is a tad obscure to the average passerby. Relocation somewhere else within Hackney would sacrifice any slight shred of meaning or context. Incorporation within the fabric of a hotel whose design is driven by a signature art theme would be bizarre, there's a huge disconnect between a piece of street art and hotel art.

The Council's behavior in sanctifying this banksy piece is totally inconsistent with its actions on the street. Any fresh and vital art, which includes the Sclater St graff, is purged immediately yet they keep this piece of shit?

Also, there have been many far superior Banksy’s within a hundred yards of this piece, from the Happy Chopper across the road above the chippie to the Pulp Fiction and Ozone pieces at the roundabout to the various happy copper pieces across the Old Street railway bridge. It makes no sense to slap a preservation order on The Foundry Banksy.

Happy Chopper - photo Shellshock

Further senseless irony lies in the protective hoarding that has been placed over the Banksy rat, presumably by the building owners who Graffoto believes to be the property developers. This Banksy hasn’t been visible to the public for a couple of years. When Burning Candy did one of their signature illegal skull/teef jobs on the wooden hoarding protecting the graffiti - it got buffed. Twisted.

Rat trap; Burning Candy

The underlying motivation of the council is not improving the living quality of the Shoreditch media-arts-cool village for its “stakeholders”, it’s a cultural cleansing of the most vibrant contemporary art movement in the World today in preparation for the Olympics. OK, so not everyone appreciates graffiti but there are enough residents, workers and visitors in this area that do (check the requests for shutter jobs and wall paintings) so it's about time the mish mash of elected and un-elected busybodies in the council gave some thought to a balanced policy reflecting the balanced and varied views rather than the current "scorched wall" approach.

Graffoto bumped into a number of hard working car mechanics today who were intrigued by us taking this photo of a new CEPT on the side of their garage.

CEPT - Love Will Tear US Apart

They told us that the Council had ordered them to remove the previous Cept at this location as it was offensive and there had been complaints, or they would face £5,000 removal costs if it wasn't. The guys asked them what was offensive and to show them the complaints - no reply! See, even rude mechanicals get it. The threat issued to them of a £5000 cost of removal? That is taking the piss.

Offensive Superhero!

An innate part of the colour and character of Shoreditch that ensures the whole flourishes is being mindlessly strangled. Bring back the graffiti and bring back the soul to Shoreditch.

This post has been prepared without the cooperation or even awareness of anyone mentioned like the council, The Foundry, the developers and the buff monkeys. Banksy contributed sod all as well.

Grafflondon on the strangulation of even legal graffiti spots here
Save The Foundry here

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

OSCH - London Street Art

all photos: NoLionsInEngland

Over the past year or so occasional street art pieces have appeared in London tagged with a stylised OSCH. Although not a common sight, a piece by OSCH has become notable for the quality of the work and curiosity as to who OSCH is. With the appearance of a new piece on Cargo’s outside wall it is time to introduce Otto Schade, a young Chilean artist currently to be found living and working in London (it says on his website!).

“Hunted” below appeared last Summer on the iconic Banksy location on Old Street (Ozone/Pulp Fiction). The spot isn’t difficult to reach but anyone getting up there stands accused of riding on Banksy’s coattails even though the last Banksy there was buffed early last year.

"The Hunted", Old Street, London

The maddening thing about this piece was the stencil was obviously well cut and the spraying is but being this far off the pavement and hogging such a large wall facing direction the traffic is going makes it hard to see and also completely the wrong scale for the location. Graffoto wonders if Schade just got a kick out of the “mission”. Otto Schade’s website describes this piece as a credit crunch allegory with the capitalist system, represented by the tiger, mauling “us” which generously suggests that none of us are capitalists and that corporations are self-conceiving and perpetuated by robots.

The next time OSCH was spotted on the streets was painted over an INSA piece on Redchurch St. There is a repetition of The Hunted alongside a large seated featureless figure with stretched limbs and torso. This rendition of The Hunted looked much more sensibly positioned given the size of the work.

In December last year a beautiful OSCH stencil appeared in the Old Truman Brewery. The intricate and very precise painting is a wonderfully surreal couple unravelling as they kiss, Schade’s composition suggests the meeting of minds and the physical lust are both the same thing.

The Kiss, Old Truman Brewery, London

Last week Schade did a new piece on the outside wall at cargo. The fragmented lattice style is there again in the angel/butterfly girl’s wings and the colour scheme the gorgeous contrast effect seen previously on the Old Street and Truman Brewery pieces. The seated figure symbol is there again but there is no obvious link between it and the angel/butterfly girl but obviously being a bit surreal you can’t dismiss the possibility there is some symbolic resonance.

One of the most striking aspects of Osch's street art is the complexity and sharpness of the stencilling.

Browsing Otto Schade’s website reveals a fascinating painting style and the street work certainly goes some way to capturing his key motifs. The Truman Brewery and Cargo pieces almost certainly were done with permission and it seems equally certain that the Redchurch St and Old Street pieces were illegal. There is no sign yet that Otto Schade is lurking within the gallery system in London but he has (inevitably!) produced an editioned print of The Kiss, street art and its commercial objectives were ever thus. Keep an eye out for his work though, both on the streets and on canvas Schade has got something beautiful going.

Otto Schade website

Monday, 1 February 2010

Crunchy: The Ronzo Credit Crunch Monster

subtitle -"Hurrah, its not about Banksy or Robbo"

photos: NoLionsInEngland and Howaboutno except where stated

Pinpointing the beginning of the credit crunch depends for most of us on personal factors such whether you read your paper from the back to the front or the moment of hard impact such as loss of the McJob. Ronzo reacted to the credit crunch in about March last year with a massive economy devouring sculpture at the edge of the City.

Ronzo Credit Crunch monster, 2009

He now responds to the announcement last week that the recession is officially over by launching a small army of Crunchy, his Credit Crunch monsters around the ancient portals to the City of London.

Crunchy by Ronzo, Feb 2010

People not familiar with London may need to know that the City of London is a comparatively small square mile of suited financial chicanery at the centre of the metropolis of London and indeed, the whole developed World. The City of London is actually the original area where London was founded and before Styrofoam coffee cups and Flaming Lambourgini’s were discovered, the City of London was a walled city with 7 gated access points, commemorated still by areas bearing their names such as Aldegate, Ludgate, Moorgate and so on. The main roads into the City at those points are now protected by a fenn of dragon statues (not Griffins, Graffoto regrets to inform those who cherish that myth).

City of London Dragon, photo by xynt4x

Graffoto located a few of the Ronzo credit crunch monster sentinels this afternoon. Apart from one example that we know of, Crunchy sits on a 3 foot high pedestal bearing close resemblance to the permanent Corporation of London dragons installed mainly in the 1960s. The “Pity Of London” slogan is a mocking mash-up of the “City Of London” wording of the conventional dragon plinths.

Crunchy by Ronzo, Feb 2010

Ronzo fixes his sculptures in place by drilling into the pavement and installing masonry bolts, a technique he has used successfully in the past. Anyone wandering around Shoreditch staring at their feet and let’s face it, the place isn’t lacking for emos, may have chanced upon small cement frogs drilled into the pavement. For sure at least two of these three inch high petrified amphibians survive to this day though they bear deep scars as evidence of determined but doomed efforts to remove them.

Ronzo Frog – photo HowAbouto

Sadly, in the case of the credit crunch monster at Bishopsgate these precautions weren’t enough to prevent either the purloining or buffing, who knows which.

Crunchy is a slavering ganged saber-toothed derivative of a beast which has featured in a number of Ronzo works over the years.

Cans II - Photo HowAboutNo

Credit Crunch Monster Attacks

One fascinating relic displayed at a stolen Space drawing show in late 2008 was a scruffy piece of A4 which contained details of Ronzo’s planning for locations and drilling requirements for the plague of frogs in 2007. Graffoto also found aconcrete playstation casting on the floor in Commercial Street but has never established whether it was Ronzo or a copiest.

Although Ronzo’s website says this installation of Credit Crunch monsters is in celebration of the end of the recession, we like to think that unlike the dragon his tongue is firmly in his cheek. Surely Crunchy looks like he is still on the rampage, devouring coins and economies. Although the plinth mounted Crunchy further up this writing is clearly showing his arse to the gateway dragon, the Crunchy on Bishopsgate was directly facing the dragon on the other side of the road and we prefer to see him as a threat, Crunchy saying that he hasn’t finished his meal of half-baked economy, he shall return.

ps – a “Fenn” of dragons is the correct term according to Little Miss NoLions and she should bloody know.