Thursday, 20 August 2020

disCONNECT: 1 house 10 artists



South London

24 July - 24 August 2020


Crunching up the gravel drive to a flight of steps leading to a house in a posh terrace set back from leafy Clapham Common, we peered through white double doors in an anonymous raised ground floor entrance.  As a setting for a cutting edge urban art show it seemed quite unlikely, we turned on our heels lest they set the hounds on us.  A door creaked open and a voice called “Looking for the art?”

The premise behind "disCONNECT" is that someone with money has bought a seriously expensive house and prior to doing an iceberg basement redevelopment job has invited 10 artists in to make-over the premises.   Viruses escaping from labs threw a spanner in the works though, so several of the artists incorporate a sense of the pandemic in their pieces and 6 of the artists being based overseas had to make and install their work using Skype, like scientists cautiously tweaking the location of the reactor rods by remote cctv.

Herakut, Germany


The Art world is not providing too much in the way of real life excitement these days and while one should never confuse the art world with the real world, or indeed the world of street art, it was a pleasure to experience disCONNECT for real just before it closes this week.

If I had been asked 2 weeks ago to guess which artists would feature on my uploads more than once in the next month, it would have been a hell of a rollcall before the name Alex Fakso came up.  This legendary trainyard graff snapper specialises in candid portraiture; his  2012 “Santa in Camo” show in Kensal Rise indicated a quite idiosyncratic approach to subject as did his 2017 Moniker contribution.   In this installation crowds in the photos rush towards the viewer in a way that feels horrifyingly alien in these public-gathering avoiding socially distanced coronavirus times.

Alex Fakso

Seeing Zoerism’s geometric and intricate graffiti on the streets is a rare pleasure and his anamorphic experience echoed that hugely detailed style.  Anamorphic images are designed to be viewed from one spot and look a bit skew-whiff from any other, this image was installed flat on the floor and up against the wall creating this impressive 3D “trick of the eye”.




Herakut’s fusion of photorealism and spindly elfin characters in Davy Crockett hats shouldn’t work but looks awesome.  You are invited to sit for a selfie with the monkey in the nursery -  if your chess game is up to scratch.  The kids in the playroom have painted child-like drawings on the nursery walls, they are credited to a 7 year old Ryker but is there a hint of an insider joke there?  



A double set of doors and a single door were shipped to Portugal for Vhils to work his magic, a refreshing reminder of his talent for “discovered texture” portraiture.   His mining into layers of adverts to reveal portraits works superbly where it belongs, out on the streets but it’s a bit of a puzzle why having an implausibly deep block of compressed billboard adverts would work indoors.



The dark entrance lobby was made over by a collection of Mr Cenz’ cosmic ladies, UV light brought sharpness to the highlights that define the outline of the faces, an effect we love to play with when photographing his portraits out on the streets.  Unfortunately we omitted to get any photos in the lobby though the effect can be vaguely appreciated in this mercifully brief video snippet.


feat: Isaac Cordal, Mr Cenz, Aida Wild, Zoerism


In lockdown Aida Wilde railed against the reckless anti social behaviour of people ignoring the social distancing, lockdown "stay-the-fuck-away" instructions.  Her “Granny alley” installation in the most challenging room in the house distills a lot of that passion and anger into blocks of text and her emoji infused pseudo-flock wallpaper.


Aida Wilde



Aida Wilde


After years of vicariously enjoying Icy and Sot’s art finally we saw a piece in real life.   The dining table apparently was found in the kitchen, in which case it must have been a relic from the downstairs kitchen many years ago.  The beautifully conceived and executed articulated plates and cutlery apparently represent capitalism with the extension leaves up and a full plate on the table.  With the extension down symbolised socialism, in which case this neither-up-nor-down configuration pretty much sums up post-Corbyn Labour.

Icy and Sot


Issac Cordal’s morose concrete figures endured this Summer’s monsoon in the garden and just about maintained their social distance in a gloomy basement.

 Isaac Cordal


Flock was clearly in vogue when the house was last given a decor update as the pattern recurs in several of the installations.  Adam Neate bid for the window blinds and the colour and texture makes a great skin motif in his ghostly portraiture


Adam Neate


This show exceeded expectations, though that says more about our expectations than the artists involved. The unbalanced capitalisation of the show title exhorts to us to somehow re-connect in these desperate times where isolation is salvation and this show is worth connecting with.  Time is running out though and indeed thanks to covid restrictions tickets are very limited.

All photos: Dave Stuart

Monday, 17 August 2020

Street Art For Strange Times

You didn’t think a killer virus was going to stop street artists did you? Shoreditch witnessed an outpouring of street art addressing the Covid 19 pandemic from a number of angles. It’s amazing what a street artist could achieve with that one hour outdoor exercise license non-shielding people had during lockdown!
Thank You NHS, Artist Not Known Thank You NHS, Artist Not Known

One of the most prolific artists was Nathan Bowen whose suitably masked characters appeared all over from West to East
Nathen Bowen "Stay Positive/The NHS Warrior" - Nathan Bowen

Nathan Bowen, Harry Blackmore "Thanks NHS" - Nathan Bowen, Harry Blackmore; Oxford St

Nathan Bowen, Harry Blackmore, Ernest Obi Nathan Bowen, Harry Blackmore, Ernest Obi - Shaftesbury Avenue

Almost as active as Nathan were Deanio X and Seen K26, often in the company of Tasnim Mahdy Deanio X, Seen K26, Tasnim Mahdy "Stay Strong" - Deanio X, Seen K26, Tasnim Mahdy; Old Blue Last, Shoreditch

Deanio X, Seen K26, Tasnim Mahdy "Stay Strong" - Deanio X, Seen K26, Tasnim Mahdy; Picadilly Circus

Deanio X Deanio X, Soho

Our weekly clap for carers, which was a beautiful collective thank you, has stopped but it is clear that many street artists remain grateful on our behalf to the NHS, to the carers and other key workers.
Robert Montgomery
“A quiet prayer holds over London…” We Love Our NHS – Robert Montgomery

Jimmy C
Thank You NHS – Jimmy C

Is it just me sees concentric stained glass hearts in shades of NHS blue in this homage by DRT?
DRT DRT (with Nathan Bowen & Co. in background)

Graffiti Life
Graffiti Life

On the flipside from the love for the NHS comes blame flinging and conspiracy theory. The UK’s elected political masters and their un-elected advisers repeatedly preached one thing but practised another to the point that anyone else would have felt embarrassed by. Street artists can be quite merciless when political hypocrisy becomes apparent and they proved yet again how swiftly street art can respond to current affairs.

In some countries the political response was based on denial or even deceit, Subdude latches on to those moments quite brilliantly.
Corona Credit Score = 0, Subdude

On the revelation that the NHS workers Boris thanked for his care in St Thomas' Hospital were immigrants who now under the conservative government's mooted minimum wage threshold would not qualify to come and lend their skills to the UK's underfunded understaffed health service:
So How DO You Like Us Now Boris, Subdude

If you need to know what "Dominic Does Durham" is pastiching, ask your Dad:
Dominic Does Durham. Subdude

The early days of the UK response to the Covid crisis were characterised by simple clear messages and this apparent clarity was reflected in the referencing of the messages in the art. K-Guy found the graphic design and linguistic shorthand of those official three stanza instructions we saw on the podiums at the daily Coronavirus press conference in England lent itself to highlighting political neglect as an amplifier of the spread and impact of the disease through hospitals and care homes.
K-Guy "It's A Testing Time", K-Guy

K-Guy "Infected frontline policies", K-Guy


"Infected frontline policies", K-Guy

The surprising move to abandon testing and tracing and the awful situation regarding inadequate PPE provision featured in several pieces. Frankie Riot references the famous press conference where World Health Organisation head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus offered the simple “Test, test, test” which many developed countries decided to ignore with pretty devastating consequences.
Frank Riot
"Protect NHS Workers" - Frank Riot

China again:
Eau de Virus, 'Orrible

Safe, Artist NK Stay Safe, Remain Free - Artist Not Known

As Shoreditch Street Art Tours has emerged from lockdown doing very small private street art tours for the same price as the public tours, just so you know, the single piece of pandemic art everyone appears to be aware of is, not surprisingly, Banksy's nurse superhero painting on canvas “Game Changer”, donated to Southampton General Hospital.
Game Changer - Banksy "Game Changer" - Banksy, Photo: Banksy website

Banksy has done three pandemic related artworks: the aforementioned “Game Changer”; his earlier skit on the idea of the elusive rat stencilist working from home and most recently his brilliant makeover of a London tube with rascal rats parachuting with PPE face masks, rats tagging with sanitiser gel and rats sneezing all over the carriage in a lurid echo of the animation played frequently on the UK TV of the dispersal of vapourised snot from a sneeze in a train carriage.
Banksy You dont mask you dont get 1 copy Banksy, You dont mask you dont get"; photo source: 

Banksy You dont mask you dont get 2 Banksy, You dont mask you dont get"; photo source:

Banksy You dont mask you dont get 2
Banksy, You dont mask you dont get"; photo source:

Among all the inspired pandemic related art and the positivity towards those who placed themselves in way of potential harm for our care, one artist was creating pro NHS art years before it became fashionable. Ben Wakeling recovered from his own mental health issues to channel his efforts into art as a therapy for people with mental health issues and his therapeutic work and his Outsider Gallery have proved so effective that his art therapy can now be prescribed by GPs.
NHS Mental Health - Ben Wakeling, London 2019
NHS Mental Health - Ben Wakeling, London 2019

To end this lockdown lookback on a positive note, could any message be more appropriate than Mark Titchner’s “Please believe these days will pass” plea.
Mark Titchner "Please believe these days will pass"; Mark Titchner

All photos: Dave Stuart except courtesy Banksy where noted