Sunday, 15 August 2021

Banksy Street Art Staycation In East Anglia

East Anglia has in the past week or so became home to a spectacular trove of street art that finally this afternoon was verified as genuine Banksy. Banksy has verified a grand total of 10 new pieces of street art and to put this in context, there were only 5 outdoor Banksy artworks at his own Dismaland group show in 2015!

Banksy Chip Snatching Seagull
Banksy Chip Snatching Seagull


With my son for company as navigator (who needs sat nav when you have a boy armed with a smartphone and supersized data allowance) I headed off last Tuesday 10th August to explore the Fens and surrounds, hunting down the biggest collection of Banksy seen since New York, October 2013.

Banksy We're All In This Together
Banksy We're All In The Same Boat


The Norfolk Broads is an idyllic network of creeks and lakes which on the day we visited was looking stunning with boats gently sailing here, there and everywhere in glorious sunshine and perfect breezes. Nicholas Everitt Park sits at the inlet to Oulton Broad, a classic British daytrip destination full of playgrounds, bowling, tennis and ice cream vendors. It does its best to turn away from the sour, grubby creek that runs down its spine but Banksy hasn’t. “We’re all in the same boat” has three children in a distressed Swallows and Amazons tableau, a skipper and second in command upfront scan the horizon while, at the back a third child bails their leaking tub. The two children upfront have paper admiral’s hats suiting their privilege, the child dealing with the emergency in the bilges wears a worker’s beaney. Originally there was a decaying boat hull but that corrugated sheet of iron was hauled away as it was constricting the water course.

Banksy We're All In This Together
Banksy We're All In The Same Boat


“We’re all in it together” our leaders promised, that was until Boris decided to throw out all the pandemic restrictions and impose on us a doctrine of “personal responsibility” despite a 3rd wave delta variant surge. Banksy’s smartly dressed captain navigates blind to signs of imminent disaster while someone else, representing the NHS perhaps, heroically struggles to stop the ship sinking. Coming the week after Boris decided that he didn't have to isolate despite an office staffer who flew on a plane with him testing positive, Banksy mocks our political leaders’ inclination to shamelessly pick and choose which of the rules they can ignore.

Banksy We're All In This Together
Banksy We're All In The Same Boat


In one of Lowestoft’s shopping drags, one of those that can’t decide if it is pedestrianised or not, a chubby child in a sunhat plays in the sand with a crowbar rather than a spade, the beach is the sand under paving slabs which the scowling but resourceful child has prized up. The scene embodies the famous slogan from the French student riots of ’68 “Sous les paves, la plage!”, “Under the paving stones, the beach!”

Banksy sandcastle Lowestoft 2021
Child delighted to find Banksy girl playing in sand


This piece places the council in a quandary we will watch with amusement… Banksy is a great tourist draw for an economy “building back” but holes in pavements are a nailed on dead cert public liability nightmare! In appearance though not meaning, this piece recalls Banksy’s 2010 Tesco sandcastle at British seaside town Hastings.

Banksy Tesco Sandcastles, Hastings 2010
Banksy Tesco Sandcastles, Hastings 2010


Lowestoft has more, the largest of the bunch brilliantly reproduces that seaside promenade classic – the chip stealing seagull. This is the best realised of the current collection. The simulation of a bag of chips using cut up loft insulation and a rusty skip placed in situ without permission is next level, a real classic Banksy.

Banksy Chip Snatching Seagull
Banksy Chip Snatching Seagull


We had the pleasure of chatting with a local who saw the work in progress. He recalls shrouded scaffolding, a van and a bored looking young man keeping watch. With nearly 2 decades experience of looking bored around street art, my boy could empathise with Banksy’s lookout. Our local observer explained the building was owned by an absent owner in London who let it to council-guaranteed temporary residents and that it had been subject of complaints in the past few years about the accumulation of crap in the front hard-standing. So locals were not in the least bit surprised at what looked like contractors carrying out maintenance though they were puzzled that the work required insulation.

Banksy Chip Snatching Seagull
Banksy Chip Snatching Seagull


The size of the painting and the installation of the rusty skip give this enterprise a degree of planning that few apart from Banksy have the skill to pull off without permission. It will be interesting to see what happens to that skip when the chips have been stolen, as they inevitably will be.

Outside Lowestoft we found a chilled rat reclining on a beach chair, sheltered under a parasol while enjoying a cocktail whose mix includes the drip from an adjacent outfall pipe. The rat is staring directly at the pipe in anticipation of the next top up.

Banksy Cocktail Rat Lowestoft 2021
Banksy Cocktail Rat Lowestoft 2021


It’s nice to see a Banksy rat again, in this case the black colour is predominantly freehand painted over a stencilled white layer which is unusual but Banksy has used the technique in the past, despite what a particular high profile Banksy street art acquirer/remover said. See for example the Basquiat tribute piece at the Barbican centre in 2017, though that is one that the art chiseller failed to acquire.

Banksy Cocktail Rat Lowestoft 2021
Banksy Cocktail Rat Lowestoft 2021


“Au revoir Lowestoft, it was lovely visiting you” and “Hello” to Gorleston Beach with its newly decorated beach shelter now sporting an arcade grab machine claw. By the time of our visit, this piece had been opportunistically added to by local artist Raphiel Astoria, who signs their art Emo. Among the additions are a number of stencilled bears, a statement proclaiming this to be a collaboration between Banksy and Emo and most provocatively, a stencilled Banksy tag.

Banksy
Banksy arcade machine claw. Teddy bears and text added by local artist


The photo released on Banksy’s website shows the arcade claw before any additional artwork so the suggestion of collaborative intent on Banksy’s part can be dismissed. Robbo and Danny Minnick have made far superior interactions with Banksy street art in the past.

The additional bears look like the kind of bait prizes that never drop into the hopper of the arcade game. According to local news sources, experts apparently think the enhancements mean the Banksy piece “Makes more sense now”. What Emo has done dramatically changes our point of view, our relationship with the artwork. Stencilling the bears on the wall means we are now looking from the outside at a selection of prizes, which of course includes any poseur sitting on the bench, inside an arcade game. What Banksy painted actually gamified the whole world. We were all, the whole world, inside the game and the claw was selecting “winners”, the allegorical touch was a nod to life as a game that confers privilege on a select few while the rest of us flounder unwanted. From that perspective this was until the additions probably the most conceptually accomplished Banksy of the whole East Anglia collection. It still makes a great Instagram photo opportunity though.

Dave in front of Banksy
Dave in front of Banksy


Merrivale Model Village is a self-effacing Great Yarmouth beach front gem completely drowned out by the garish competition. Even the slush puppy concession outside is a bigger eye magnet. Inside is a different story - it’s big, it’s delightful and it’s brilliantly British in a classic wholesome way.

Merrivale Model Village
Merrivale Model Village


A clandestine Banksy addition to the model collection is a defaced stable in classic gingerbread vernacular style placed in a quaint village in front of a medieval castle. The vandalism inflicted on this fairytale scene is a Banksy fire extinguisher tag and a Banksy rat who has written “Go big or go home”, a very witty slogan to put up on the side of a miniature house. The rat defacing the property has been caught literally red-handed, like the “If Graffiti changed anything” rat in London in 2011.

Banksy graffiti house Merrivale Model Village
Banksy Graffiti house Merrivale Model Village


Banksy Graffiti house Merrivale Model Village
Banksy graffiti stable Merrivale Model Village


The Banksy tag is a model scale version of the fire extinguisher tagging hugely approved of by hard-core graffiti writers, reproducing the fire extinguisher effect at model scale is very impressive. Banksy has previous with fire extinguisher graffiti have sprayed the word “BORING” on the side of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Southbank in 2004. For purists concerned that Banksy doesn’t sign his street art these days, the Banksy tag here is not an artist signing their artwork, the tag IS the art which is a completely different thing.

Banksy Graffiti house Merrivale Model Village
Banksy graffiti stable Merrivale Model Village


Things get a bit complex at this point, the model is only on display between 1pm and 3pm. We had a lovely conversation with the son of the owner who told us that since word got out people were stepping onto the model village to get close up photos, so for the time the Banksy model could only be displayed for limited supervised hours. On Tuesday we did not know that! However the owner kindly showed us behind the scenes and let us view the stable close up, so what you see here is the empty space where Banksy left the model and a close up of the model photographed in another location.

Merrivale Model Village Banksy location
Merrivale Model Village Banksy location


UPDATE – it appears that the owners under advice have actually completely withdrawn the model from display.

UPDATE 2 – it seems that they may now display the model under perspex (plexiglass). Perhaps it is best to contact them before travelling!

Frank Newsome (Jr), son of the owner, told us was that it took them several days to spot the intrusion, an alert guest asked them if the Banksy defaced model was genuine and it took them a while to figure out what the guest meant. Their minds went back to an incident a few days earlier where a female guest had been particularly fascinated in the model making process and ended up backstage on a personal tour while simultaneously a drone intruded into the airspace surrounding the model village so they scrambled their air defences and knocked the drone out of the sky with a net. Management believes these activities were a deliberate distraction for the staff to facilitate the surreptitious placement of the new construction. Banksy’s Instagram account includes drone footage of the model village installation so the story truly deserves to become part of the Banksy legend and the model village folklore.

Banksy’s additions are an amusing comment on the ubiquitous intrusion of the modern form of graffiti into this idyllic setting, nowhere is safe. This is a companion to the Banksy humour seen in modified oil paintings such as “Tox Cottage”.

Banksy Tox Cottage
"Tox cottage", Banksy - photo banksy.co.uk


Close by the model village a stencilled dancing duo on top of a bus shelter trip the light fantastic accompanied by an accordion player. All the characters look like familiar Banksy cast but the most impressive aspect of this somewhat routine Banksy is its placement, it is a clever interaction with the street furniture and you have to admire Banksy for executing this on top of a council bus stop without being caught.

Banksy Bust Stop Dancers Great Yarmouth
Banksy Bus Stop Dancers Great Yarmouth


Two aspects of the Banksy artwork that has appeared in Cromer that might deter those of a less completist nature are that it is a bugger to find and the schlepp from the others to this one piece is an hour through the flattest English landscape imaginable. Don’t be put off though as this is certainly the most detailed and colourful of the set. A hermit crab with three empty shells is refusing access to three naked and needy hermit crabs, a social commentary piece touching on privilege, property ladder manipulation and social exclusion.

Banksy Luxury Rentals Only Cromer 2021
Banksy Luxury Rentals Only, Cromer 2021


Banksy Luxury Rentals Only Cromer 2021
Banksy Luxury Rentals Only, Cromer 2021


The arrangement and the placard device contain stylistic similarities with the 2014 “Migrants Not Welcome” piece in Clacton-on-Sea in Essex.

Banksy Migrants Not wewlcome
Banksy "Migrants Not Welcome" - photo www.Banksy.co.uk


So all told this is a very impressive and above all enjoyable collection of street art. The blending of political cynicism with humour is pure Banksy and above all, the execution bears Banksy hallmarks particularly the use of the scaffolding reported for the chip snatching seagull. The distraction strategy reported for the Merrivale Model Village installation may be new but it feels consistent with the degree of planning that characterises Banksy’s illegal street art.

Banksy Seagull Attacks Mini Cooper
Seagull attacks badly parked Mini Cooper


Interestingly two of the pieces in particular involved vandalism and dumping on public land, each of which could result in council jobsworths waving invoices for repairs to the pavement and removal of an abandoned skip in Lowestoft.

Banksy’s big reveal on instagram included two pieces which no one knew existed, they had not been spotted. The first one is a small one colour stencil image of kids by a paddling pool in peril from an inflatable dinghy. 03-spraycation-dinghy-closeup Banksy Spraycation Dinghy close up - photo Banksy.co.uk


By chance I happened to photograph the pool where that stencil was placed right next to the bench with the seated couple at the edge of the paddling pool. It had already been buffed by my visit on Tuesday and it seems probable it had gone the weekend before.

Great Yarmouth Paddling Pool - Banksy buffed
Great Yarmouth Paddling Pool - Banksy buffed


The council has stated that its contractors removed that one quickly because of an unfortunate resonance with the tragic death nearby of a young child a few years ago, they stated they thought that the stencil may have been an unfortunate coincidence rather than tastelessly intentional.
The other undiscovered new Banksy was in Kings Lynn.

Statue in Kings Lynn - Photo Banksy.co.uk
Statue with ice cream cone and tongue in Kings Lynn - Photo Banksy.co.uk


At time of writing there were 8 remaining and it is possible to fit in all 8  East Anglia Banksys in a day, it’s exhausting but hugely enjoyable. It was a real pleasure that the pieces were not totally mobbed by crowds as is always the case for a new Banksy in London and also, other than the unfortunate augmentation of the arcade grab piece and the loss of the boat hull on another it was great to find them in pristine condition.

Links: Banksy instagram "The Great Bristish Spraycation"

Banksy Website

Merrivale Model Village Website

All photos: Dave Stuart except where stated

UPDATE: Check my comprehensive location guide for the new East Anglia Banksy street art: https://bit.ly/3AHLvXk

Monday, 2 August 2021

JR: Chronicles at Saatchi Gallery

 

JR: Chronicles
Saatchi Gallery 4 June - 3 October 2021
Duke of York's HQ, King's Road, London, SW3 4RY
Booking essential: tickets


One question I always flounder with is “Who do you think the up and coming future stars in street art are?”, like I have any idea about art picking! The easier question is “Who has emerged?” and if there is one person who can’t be left out of that answer it is French artist JR. JR: Chronicles at the Saatchi Gallery is a comprehensive examination of JR’s very impressive back catalogue of art on the streets. Through a succession of rooms a large number of JR’s street projects are reprised, dissected and explained, the best part of a couple of hours is recommended.

Portrait Of A Generation inside demolished building
Portrait Of A Generation inside demolished building


JR’s artistic origins were as a not terribly stylish tagger in Paris who chances on a camera, takes some pretty cracking photos in fairly lairy sink estates dotted around Paris, print them out super cheap and pastes them up on the streets. Among the images is one of a young video maker surrounded by local “yoots”, that cameraman is now better known as the award winning director Ladj Ly and just to digress for a moment, watch Ladj Ly’s 2019 “Les Miserables”, it makes a superb companion to this exhibition as a semi fictional and unaffectionate look back to the environment that shaped JR’s early adult life.

JR: Ladj Ly at Les Bosquets
JR: Ladj Ly at Les Bosquets


If you haven’t spotted the jarring “trick of the eye” in the Les Bosquets photo, if you find it inexcusably intimidating well you’re not alone, JR tells us that when that photo was pasted on the side of the Tate Modern in 2008, the Director initially refused the image as he thought it was a gun as well. That was the point, JR was challenging your inclination to jump to racist conclusions.

JR: Tate Modern, 2008
JR: Tate Modern, 2008


Banksy’s first London exhibition was an un-authorised street take-over in 2001, JR adopted the same tactic in the same year. His “Expo 2 Rue”, translated as “Sidewalk Gallery”, involved guerrilla pasting his photos on building site hoardings and to add emphasis to his paste ups he sprayed picture frames around the paste ups linked together by straight lines. JR: Chronicles has a little humorous play with the form of JR’s Expo 2 Rue concept, a blown up photo of an Expo 2 Rue installation incorporates a video screen framed where the paste up was. “Tres droll” he probably wouldn’t say.

JR - Expo 2 Rue
JR - Expo 2 Rue


The scale of JR’s achievements transcend the boundary between street art and fine art, appealing as readily to art world snobs as to people who would never normally contemplate attending an art exhibition. This can perhaps be appreciated by splitting his endeavours into three parts, vaguely and inadequately summarised (my inadequacy, not the exhibition’s) as Idea, Execution and Documentation.

JR au Louvre et le Secret de la Grande Pyramid
JR au Louvre et le Secret de la Grande Pyramid


The ideas and concepts are the things that earn JR a place among the giants of contemporary art in the “proper” art world, and galleries like Saatchi. JR has completed a very impressive number of major projects in what is still a comparatively young career. The hallmark of them all is quality and originality, from his Expo 2 Rue at age 17 to Women Are Heroes and Gun Chronicles by way of Wrinkles Of the City, Portrait of A Generation and more, a mere 7 huge rooms at Saatchi’s Kings Road art palace is barely sufficient.

JR: Projects
JR: Projects


If JR has a secret cellar to which failures are condemned, surely there must be some, it is well hidden. The execution of them is undoubtedly thoroughly thought through, one of his charming trademarks is corralling local volunteer’s enthusiastic assistance in putting up his large paste up projects. For those who may have no idea how printed street art can be created on such magnificent scale various display cases, models and prop do great job of lifting the veil on those production secrets.

JR Work In Progress, Tate Modern 2008
JR Work In Progress, Tate Modern 2008


How do you print out the images? They are all made from continuous sheets of paper 36inches wide and in one of the films you see an architect’s printer spewing paper like a long string of spaghetti; how many sheets? In one of the vitrines are JR’s working images with the construction lines drawn by hand which divides the image into the stripes for printing and ultimately for putting the strips in the right order, a laden trolley laden demonstrates how many rolls of paper go into one of those epic paste ups.

JR: work in progress
JR: work in progress


There’s nothing quite so unpredictable as the public which coupled with JR’s “suck it and see” approach to putting up installations in locations where authorities are hostile (Israel, USA border) has given him a wealth of anecdotes which are well with tuning into, you can access that element online away from the gallery, treat it like a podcast. You might not find the “process” insights interesting, poor you, but scrutiny of those aspects can reveal secrets hidden in plain sight. The image of a tea party JR arranged to take place through the USA Mexico border fence is well known, JR explains in one of the videos that on the Mexican side they sit at a table; on the USA side the party was “guerrilla style” as the artist was denied permission so the party on the American side takes place not on a table but a printed canvas unfurled and passed through from the Mexican side. My chin dropped.

JR: Migrants, Mayra, Picnic across the Border, Quadrichromie, Tecate, Mexico - USA, 2017
JR: Migrants, Mayra, Picnic across the Border, Quadrichromie, Tecate, Mexico - USA, 2017


JR’s contact sheets from earlier analogue photography projects are displayed in several vitrines in various rooms. In the contact sheet of the images of Ladj Ly holding his camera like a gun the famous image is the very first one on the sheet, it captures the ominous energy of the kids surrounding Ladj, in the other photos the kids were basically posturing and with the absence of spontaneity the menace becomes cartoonised.

JR: Portrait Of A Generation Contact Sheet

JR: Portrait Of A Generation Contact Sheet


The third pillar of JR’s enterprise is the element that allows JR to produce stunning books and exhibitions. It’s the documentation, JR takes brilliant photographs of JR’s photography projects!

JR: Portrait Of A Generation
JR: Portrait Of A Generation


JR attributes his trademark hat and glasses to the early need to avoid being identified by a local mayor who wanted to sue him. He does however explain his art to camera in a comprehensive and articulate way but always in hat and glasses. For someone so preoccupied with anonymity shyness is not an issue!

JR and Inside Out photo booth at Somerset House, 2013
JR and Inside Out photo booth at Somerset House, 2013


JR does not sign his paste ups though sometimes the artist is unavoidably present at a microscopic scale, check the reflection in the subject’s eyes in, for example, the Nairobi train!

JR: Women Are Heroes, Kibera, Kenya JR: Women Are Heroes, Kibera, Kenya


JR’s projects are concerned with humanity, often illustrating the unnecessary impact that boundaries, borders and schisms in society have on humanity, or should that be the impact the unnecessary borders have? In essence he probes and highlights people’s impact on people.

JR: GIANTS, Kikito and the Border Patrol, Tecate, Mexico - USA 2017
JR: GIANTS, Kikito and the Border Patrol, Tecate, Mexico - USA 2017


The humanity becomes a teeming multitude in the Chronicles project, JR photographs up to a 1,000 people in basically the way they would like to be photographed then collages the individuals into a huge mural. There is a tendency for the impact to resemble a hyper realistic nightmare or disaster movie. Jr toys with your own interpretations of the evidence of your own eyes, is what you see really a violent disorder, or is it actually a community out playing and dancing?

JR: Chronicles de Clichy-Montfermeil (detail)
JR: Chronicles de Clichy-Montfermeil (detail)


Another thing that the show achieves which you can’t really replicate on a book or in a tiny screen is to impress with the scale and the level of detail in the augmented reality Chronicles. Download the JR – net app then point your phone at the relevant Chronicles mural causes a pointer to skip from person to person in the mural and through the magic of multi media you can hear that persons’ story as recorded by JR. Gun Chronicles occupies the whole of a large wall and incorporates 245 different viewpoints on the gun issue. JR avoids casting judgement, pro and anti Right To Carry folk are included and your reaction to the arguments tells you all you need to know about yourself rather than the issue. Good luck on completing the dive into the stories of all 1,128 citizens in The Chronicles Of New York City!

JR: Chronicles Of New York
JR: Chronicles Of New York


The opening of JR: Chronicles in June was accompanied by another iteration in several London locations of JR’s Inside Out project. This manifests as a travelling photo booth in a van modified to look like a polaroid camera where, after a long queue, your photo is taken and printed out on a large sheet and pasted on the ground like a massive outdoor version of a school yearbook if you went to that kind of school, not me!

JR Inside Out Project, Somerset House 2013
JR Inside Out Project, Somerset House 2013


The same van stars in JR’s film “Faces Places” made with the acclaimed French director the acclaimed late Agnes Varda (Click HERE for trailer)

The Inside Out photo booth at Somerset House, 2013
The Inside Out photo booth at Somerset House, 2013


That segues us nicely into an appreciation of how JR’s story is really like a street art fairytale. The promise of street art is that anyone can present their art to a public audience, you don’t need an art degree, critical approval or gallery acceptance, you create your own art world by placing your art on the streets. Direct from you the artist to the consumer, no middleman necessary. JR has basically parlayed this circumventing the art system system from untutored photography to hijacking wall space and from there to projects in Israel and Palestine meeting with military disapproval, to exhibitions in posh London galleries and films with the luminati of the film world. No formal art education or art world blessing required. Know someone else who did that?

JR: Face To Face Contact Sheet
JR: Face To Face Contact Sheet


JR: Face To Face, Separation Wall JR: Face To Face, Separation Wall


One more thing in a show where so much effort has gone into making the artist look effortlessly cool, the QR codes are functioning pieces of art. No doubt if I ask a young person I will find yet again I am ages...months behind the times.

QR Code Art (go on, test it)
QR Code Art (go on, test it)


The show dissects it’s subject into 7 themed zones, in each an idea and to a greater or lesser extent the process is revealed. The whole show is the manifestation of the third dimension of JR’s activity, the documentation, it really earns that title “Chronicles”.


Links:

JR’s Website

Photos of JR’s photos of JR’s Photos by Dave Stuart

Sunday, 1 August 2021

EINE Scary Monsters

It’s back! Eine’s SCARY on Rivington Street, familiar to many many Shoreditch Street Art tour guests as the penultimate piece of art on the tour has been restored to its original colour scheme.

EINE SCARY 2021 Repaint
EINE SCARY 2021 Repaint


Painted in 2007, back in the days when if a street artist wanted a wall they had to damn well sort it out themselves, SCARY is London’s oldest street art mural (terms and conditions apply).

EINE SCARY Nights 2012
EINE SCARY Nights 2012


This SCARY was a partner to the VANDALISM mural on the corresponding wall on the next street, making the ironic statement “SCARY VANDALISM” in the year when EINE really came of age as a sought after street artist with his first solo show. Notice in 2007, no Citizen M, no elevated East London Line and no boutique next door to Village Underground!

EINE VANDALISM 2007
EINE VANDALISM 2007


In 2019, Eine updated the mural as a charity art piece dedicated to Movember to raise funds in support of men’s mental health. The background was painted yellow and 60 stylised handlebar moustaches were added. 60 because the message on the wall was “Globally, 60 men die by suicide every hour” and moustaches because men raise sponsorship money for Movember by stopping shaving throughout November. Eine back up the awareness raising by releasing 100 copies of a signed limited edition screenprint sold for £100 each, proceeds going to Movember.

EINE SCARY 2019 Movember colour scheme
EINE SCARY 2019 Movember colour scheme


The plan always was that it would eventually be returned to the original background and this week, Eine finally got around to restoring SCARY’s classic screaming redness.

All photos Dave Stuart