Thursday, 11 December 2014

London Street Art Highlights 2014

Photos: NoLionsInEngland

Undoubted star of the London street art scene this year was Spanish artist Borondo. Among a series of great pieces the stand out has to be the upside down canalside face in Hackney Wick, a gem of site specific dynamic art. With just the right wind, a gentle slop of the water surface results in a face whose lips mouth words silently and eyes that wink at you, pure genius.


Working with a bunch of wooden planks found among the fly tipped materials lying in a car park, XO from Amsterdam produced a striking collage of wood grain and plank colours, topped with geometric string art.  With a high novelty value quotient this was one of my favourite pieces this year.


Italian visitor Luis Gomez painted at least three great murals in Shoreditch this year though the real stand out was his Narcissus, many folk missed his deft use of the different surface of the base of the “flower bed” to create the reflection of this vain creature.

"Narcissus" - Luis Gomez
Luis Gomez

Sell Out kept up a solid output of butterflies and sculptures throughout the year, with many visitors taking home a souvenir of Shoreditch’s street art courtesy of Sell Out’s blu-tacked butterflies. Some do find the way he imposes his art onto other people’s work rude or disrespectful but we have no problem with it, street art is ripe for modification and interaction the moment the artist leaves the wall (but not before!).

Sell Out
Sell Out

As always lot of great stickers have appeared throughout Shoreditch, we loved this burst of fiendish colour brought to lampposts by Steek and Arrex.

Arrex (RX)

Street artist and gallerist Pure Evil embarked on a mission to create a piece of street art on the streets whereever he happened to be every day for 365 days. A number of his pieces were commemorative including tributes to Kieth Haring, JFK and Robbo and the work became highly personal and poignant with the sad loss of his father to cancer during the year.

Pure Evil
Pure Evil

Another artist from abroad who stayed to make a big contribution was Furia ACK from Portugal. His first chalk and charcoal portraits were the very definition of ephemeral as rain eroded and softened the chalk highlights. He then specialised in people’s heroes usually connected to a defining moment of historical change where oppressed people asserted a wish to be free from despotic tyranny. More recently he has moved on to icons of female power.

Furia ACK
Furia ACK (also feat. WRDSMTH)

Another artist on a political bent was HKG, addressing social politics, geo politics and environmental politics, it all boils down to them and us, and greed.


We saw a number of conscience driven activist art campaigns during the year. Masai’s endangered species slant on environmentalism crystalised in two campaigns, the first raising awareness of the consequences of bee wipeout and the second in conjunction with the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Animals) and Synchronicity Earth highlighted the perils of endangered species in the UK.


Sadly no year is complete without its fallen soldiers and this year saw the London graffiti and street art community mourn two significant losses. Robbo WRH WD PFB succumbed after a 3 years in a coma to injuries sustained in an accident. Palpable grief was expressed not just throughout the London graff brotherhood but worldwide with many writers paying tribute on walls dedicated to King Robbo.

Robbo RIP by DASr
Robbo tribute by DASR

Street artist BEN NAZ fought a hugely courageous battle against cancer, appearing at his solo show just weeks prior to his death when it was already known that the battle had been lost. He created a considerable amount of stencilled imagery in the past year or so before his sad departure.

Ben Naz RIP
Ben Naz RIP

The roaming spraycan art festival Meeting Of Styles returned to Shoreditch this year and produced some stunning permissioned murals, all technically exceptional and stunning to look at, probably defined by this signature wall on Network Rail property.

Gent 48, Vibes, Odisy, Soker, Ders, Twesh
Gent48, Vibes RT, Odisy; bottom: Soker, Ders, Twesh

ALO continued his steady ascent in the art world with a solo show at the Saatchi Gallery but still found time to travel internationally and to add some beautiful portraits to Shoreditch surfaces.


One of the more controversial episodes this year involved a small number of youths paint bombing a portrait collaboration by Edwin and Josh. The youths contended that the face portrait, painted as a highly stylised pair of eyes and a nose across three shutters signified a one-eyed devil. Of course, nothing could really have been further from the truth of the artists' or the shutter owner’s intentions. Community censorship appeared to strike Saki and Bitches mildy eroticised geisha girls, and an image of a seating nude female by Benjamin Murphy had only the tape parts which defined the lady’s feminine charms buffed. Shoreditch has a significant Muslim population.

Edwin (not the defaced piece)

Saki and Bitches
Saki and Bitches

Augmented reality technology came to the streets of Shoreditch for the first time courtesy of INSA's Cycle of Futility, INSA's Gif-iti Viewer, an iPhone app, replaces the static mural with the animated version of the artwork when viewed through the phone on the street. You can get a weak proxy to the experience by downloading the app and pointing it at the static photo in this blog post. Amaze your friends!


A curious population of sweet little bug eyed creatures exploded all over Shoreditch this year courtesy of Noriaki and boy do we love them. No corner is too dark or dank or remote for these unobtrusive people, they remind me of the way Monsieur Andre's character populated Paris or even Banksy's rats in the middle of the last decade.


Because the night ...belongs to artists, night time photography has produced a number of fun and pleasing photographs which are included here just because we can

Mr Cenz
Mr Cenz

Code, Graffiti Life
Code FC, Graffiti Life behind

Nemo, Rask
Nemo, Rask

For a slightly quirkier look at some of the great art created on Shoreditch streets in 2014, there is a slideshow of the finished versions of some of the street art the Shoreditch Street Art Tour came across during their creation, click here.

We’d love to include a shed load more highlights but the quantity of art and the number artists seen on the walls of Shoreditch this year was extraordinary. Going to finish with a slide show of just a few of the many many pieces that really impressed us this year.  Let’s just say that all their efforts have been seen and appreciated and we wish all artists a fantastic and productive 2015. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Louis Masai ThisIsNow Mural Project

All Art: by Louis Masai
locations: Shoreditch, Camden, Brixton

All photographs: NoLionsInEngland

You wait all year for conscience driven awareness raising street art campaigns then two come along at once.  A couple of weeks ago, not long after Graffoto wrote about Dan Witz’s Empty The Cages project, Louis Masai was spied on the streets of Shoreditch at the early stage of a bit of creativity.   At that point the work in progress over the tattoo inspired strong colours of the underlying piece of art looked stunning itself.

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This Is Now - Louis Masai work in progress

A couple of guys watching and filming the action explained that Masai was engaged on a programme of painting murals in support of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and the charity Synchronicity Earth and his specific project went under the title #ThisIsNow.

A couple of days later on a trip to Camden Market for some wardrobe related items (wow that place has changed) another Masai creature, a yellow tailed scorpion was discovered.  This prompted a wider search and the discovery of quite a number of #ThisIsNow paintings in the Camden and Shoreditch areas.

Parakeets - cause of much tree focussed finger pointing in nearby Regents Park (true!)

The campaign’s purpose is to raise awareness of the dangers of extinction faced by a huge number of species on the IUCN Red List.

Masai is known as a painter with a deep concern for environmental issues whose gift for spraycan art has been applied to photorealistic animal portraits for years.  It isn’t quite true to imply in the opening sentence that we have not seen any issue based conscience driven art up until now, earlier this year Masai pursued a stunning campaign to highlight the dangers of the mass bee death taking place in the States (no bees =  no pollination = crop failure = mankind demise).   It helps of course that Masai is a skilled spraypaint flinger and the subjects have a certain animal kingdom cuteness.

Save The bees

There are several strands to the #ThisIsNow message.  “Did you think you wouldn’t miss them?  Well it’s too late now” suggests the Orange Spotted Emerald.

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Orange Spotted Emerald - gone

“OMG we got to do something fast” is the call to arms issued on behalf of the household sparrow.

"7/10 house sparrows have disappeared from London 1994 - 2001"

The message underpinning the invasive species paintings is perhaps a bit foggy, are we for or agin?    The term invasive species has pejorative notes; China, did we ask for your Mitten Crabs? No, we spend a lot of money re-tooling ships to stem the flow of invading maritime hitch hikers, yet in his own words Masai appears to appease.  For instance the yellow tailed scorpion “having little impact on the environment….hiding in walls …barely a sting” sound like perhaps they ought to be given a guarded welcome.  There is a suspicion that this might be one of those rare issues Farage already has an actual policy about.

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15,000 Yellow Tailed Scorpions already granted asylum

There are a grand total of ten of these great paintings to be found but South of The River is a bike ride too far for this report, so for the rest head down to Brixton.

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The American Bullfrog.  Fancy that being invasive.

Top Mouth Gudgeon - also an invader

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The Lynx, apparently an extinct native species in the UK (subsequent stickers added by artist unknown)

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages

Photos: NoLionsinEngland except where stated

There are few joys greater than the unexpected discovery of a stunning piece of street art. Finding something with beauty and meaning and which you were totally unaware of gives a buzz very little else can match. While cycling along my well worn route into Shoreditch recently something caught my eye on a no entry sign.

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages

I pulled over, I photographed it, I puzzled over it. My instant assessment was – it’s on a traffic sign; it’s well made; it’s perfectly placed; it must be something new by Clet Abraham. Something niggled though, the cluster of tight packed chickens didn't make me smile which is a Pavlovian response to any Clet Abraham traffic sign subversion. As I cycled up the hill within 2 minutes another new bit of street art caught my eye.

Dan Witz - Empty The cages

This one had clear provenance, something trapped behind a grating in a wall clawing to escape is classic Dan Witz from NY. As I photographed these incarcerated chickens a possible connection sprung to mind, were the chickens I had just seen at the bottom of the hill therefore also by Dan Witz? A moment on google when I got home revealed London was hosting a new Dan Witz campaign which had somehow completely escaped my attention.

Empty the cages website

The last time Dan Witz was actively creating street art in London was around the time of his "Prisoners 2012 – 13" show at Lazarides Gallery in January 2013, inserting a series of artworks into our urban environment to raise awareness of the mistreatment of prisoners, a project he worked on in cooperation with Amnesty International.

Dan Witz

Empty The Cages is a new PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals) campaign for which vegan Dan Witz aims to raise awareness of the cruelty inflicted on animals in the quest for more efficient and cheaper meat production to feed the worst parasite this planet has ever witnessed - mankind. Sculptural artworks of cows, pigs and chickens penned and caged have been placed around inner London, as well as the sign based image discovered at the top of the post.

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages

Testimony to my 110% concentration on avoiding death when I ride my bike, I found out that the road sign had been up for almost a month before I spotted it despite having passed within yards of it many times. There is a map on the Empty The Cages website indicating the approximate locations of Dan Witz’s campaign pieces and armed with the map I was able to track down quite a few..about half of them.

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages
This little pig went to market

Placement is everything with great street art and although the photographs from PETA have chosen not to highlight the placement, a couple of them were placed alongside street artefacts that resonated with the message.

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages
Danger Of Death

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages
Doors are alarmed

Several of the pieces are placed around and on Smithfield Market, formerly London's main meat market and therefore a building whose history lends resonance and direction to the Empty The Cages message.

Discovering the one below was particularly tricky but now it’s slightly embarrassing to be reminded on every ride into Shoreditch that 4 of them can actually be seen from the main road I cycle along.

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages

A number of the pieces would defy use of the map for their discovery, for example you could try finding the burined chicken foot in the flower beds around St Paul’s Cathedral but that’s a heck of a lot of soil and damp leaves you’ll be staring at. Some things though are meant to be just found rather than located with a map.  Imagine the impact, the shock at the moment of discovery by someone who chances upon the charnel remains by chance.

Changing your mind about dinner yet?

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages

Dan Witz - Empty The Cages

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

INSA - "The Cycle Of Futility"

All photos NoLionsInEngland except where stated

(Update: see new news on NO AD in footnote at bottom)

Street artist INSA has explored the far off boundaries of technology with his latest hi-tech work "The Cycle Of Futility" in Shoreditch.


With most street art basically what you see is what you get, the image is the message. INSA though works with the old animation idea of painted frames each one incorporating a small movement from the previous one which you subsequently view as a looping gif online.

He has now pushed the art a further step by exploiting Augmented Reality technology. You download the free App onto your iPhone, point the phone at the wall and the powers of augmented reality replace the static real-art on the walls with the whirling animated gif on your phone. Wow!

INSA Gif-iti Tumblr

The Cycle of Futility features the full rites of passage from life’s beginnings to skulls representing death, while the in-between bit is an unrelenting assault of authority - who'd be a street artist?  Perhaps we can take some pleasure from the fact that the police endlessly chase but never catch anything.

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Each painted mural was an important and equal step on the process of creating an animated piece of art, what remains on the wall may appear as a mural but actually the art piece is the App animation. The mural on the wall is no more than just the last frame of the animation, not that it is any less valid as a mural of course.

The technology isn’t new, adverts have utilised Augmented Reality for a while and Jordan Seilers advert busters have appeared in New York where Augmented Reality replaces the advert with a piece of art, thankfully RJ at Vandalog has that covered.

The earliest INSA piece we can recall was a comparatively small seemingly abstract patterned paste up spotted in 2006 though these two photos date from 2007 and 2008 respectively, curiously the tattered remnants of that 2008 can still be made out by Old St roundabout to this day.

London, 2007

London, 2008

We realised later that the abstract patterns were in fact women’s legs in stripy tights ending in a foot shod in very high heeled stilettos and these were complimented by abstract studies of female buttocks, combined in this 2008 repeating pattern.


We also caught up with the fact that INSA started out as a graffiti writer, a background we saw in some stunning bits glossy graffiti writing, this man LOVES bling.

London, 2009

INSA’s art shows have been epic magnificence. In 2012 he showed "Self Reflection Is Greater Than Self Projection", a superb immersive installation room inside the very building the Futility Cycle mural is painted on.


INSA Self Reflection

Before that, Insa was "Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places" (2009)


And this seen at a Brighton show is because we think it is important to appreciate the man's fashion aesthetic

INSA heels


From mid-October through the end of November, NO AD will display photographic works in conjunction with the renowned International Center of Photography. The first part of the ICP’s participation will be dedicated to SebastiĆ£o Salgado: Genesis, an exhibition on view through January 11, 2015, at the International Center of Photography, 1133 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY. NO AD will include 54 arresting images of fleeting cultures and environment, presented alongside a video of the artist’s thoughts on climate change.

As the first of many collaborations ahead, we want to thank ICP for its vision and support. We hope that NO AD will become an alternative exhibition space for New Yorkers, bringing them closer to the rich cultural content this city has to offer. We could not be happier that ICP has chosen to use this new format to reach out to new audiences in progressive ways.

NO AD x ICP (Oct. 15 – Nov. 31)


INSA free App viewer:

Graffoto Love:  Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places:

Graffoto Love: Self Reflection Is Greater Than Self Projection:

NY Subway Ad Busting "NO AD":  App

Ad busting