Friday, 5 March 2021

Banksy's Wilde Time in Reading Prison

A street art stencil has appeared on the wall of the former Reading nick and after making us wait a little while, Banksy has just this afternoon confirmed it as his, the tease. Banksy, Reading Prison  

 As usual the confirmation comes simultaneously via his website and his Instagram and for the second time in less than a year it is in the form of a video showing in gripping detail an unidentified person spraying a stencil. A well sorted stencilling strategy is so important to a successful outcome and the video contains many fascinating details about the order of operations for this particular artwork.

  tn_Banksy video screen capture 
screengrab from "The Joy Of Painting With Bob Ross...and Banksy", Copyright Banksy 

The artwork depicts old fashioned “over the wall” flit by a prisoner and the presence of the typewriter suggests the escapee is a writer. All the coverage has inferred the art is related to Oscar Wilde’s incarceration in Reading and that seems reasonable. Lots of references to Oscar Wilde’s last published work “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” abound though many contend that the piece was written while Wilde was in Reading while literary historians say it was written post release.Banksy Reading Prison Escape 

Plenty of local coverage draws attention to a campaign to turn the now closed prison into an arts centre so there could be a political aspect with Banksy possibly offering support, though this would be the exact opposite of his intervention in 2010 which condemned the use of his street art as the centrepiece of a new “art-hotel”. 

Three elements really raise this seemingly modest artwork quite high in the Banksy cannon. Its placement is stunning, it is by the give way lines at a major roundabout in inner Reading so the chances of the artist being spotted were very high and indeed there are reports and photographs of work in progress last Sunday.

  tn_Reading Prison getreading news banksy-reading-prison-gaol-scaffold-19949321 Anonymous photographer, Reading and Berkshire News 

Secondly, it has context. There is the physical context which is why you need to see the prison in the backdrop, not for nothing does Banksy’s video includes a rising birdseye view over the wall. If you don’t see the prison buildings well, it’s just a high wall isn’t it. The historical context too is important, this being where Oscar Wilde did time and so the prisoner has the old school (non graff) writer’s tools of the trade, the typewriter. The weirdly downward pointing CCTV almost directly over the spot supplements the giggles nicely. 

Most importantly, while politically it is relatively mute although some are contorting themselves to see it as Banksy support for a Reading art centre, it is a brilliant cartoon. It ranks alongside the Simple Intelligence Test In Dumb Animals cartoon from Banksy’s 2001 book “Banging Your Head Against A Brick Wall"

Banksy Cartoon

Banksy Cartoon

Banksy Cartoon
"Simple Intelligence Test In Dumb Animals", reproduced from Banging Your Head Against A Brick Wall, copyright Banksy 2001 

There is a key aspect which the media hive seems to have collectively missed. The prisoner has been almost universally described as escaping from the prison using knotted blankets, even this afternoon in its umpteenth repost on the piece the BBC is STILL adhering to the idea they are bedsheets yet that is clearly not the case (Juxtapoz weirdly sees the typewriter as attached to the prisoner's leg).

Banksy Reading Prison Escape

Someone has given the wily prisoner a typewriter and under the guise of a major lengthy literary masterpiece, the prisoner has surreptitiously typed an escape rope on continuous paper.  This is about outsmarting your captors, just like the monkey in the intelligence test. Or, as Banksy himself put it in his punchline to that cartoon “A lot of people never use their initiative, because no-one told them to”.

  Banksy Reading Prison Escape 

 Photos: Dave Stuart except where stated otherwise

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

London Walls ICA Exhibition 10 Years Ago

London Walls photo collection


10 years ago the Institute Of Contemporary Arts was besieged by connoisseurs of graffiti photography when a small group of dedicated amateur graffiti photographers (there was no other type) curated by Delete and comprising himself, Buddz, Lee 102, Howaboutno, Joeppo and myself (under the pseudonym Nolionsinengland) created an exhibition of graffiti photography.  It wasn’t really credible to review the exhibition at the time but 10 years on, possibly less encumbered by modesty, it is nice to look back on fond memories and to reminisce with the London Walls photo gang.


London Walls Flyer, 2011

“Credibility thieves, vicarious thrill seekers, they [6 photographers] follow the graffiti into grime darkened urban corners and locations of un-certain legality; aged limbs but ready cameras scratch deep below the surface of a culture created by a disparate community of egotistical but talented dare-devils, London’s graffiti writers.” (London Walls Zine, 2011)

The first photo cull session was held in the Masque on Old Street, each of us had turned up incredible photos of graffiti by TYPE (Rest In Paint) and after a shitload of horsetrading, the trio that made the cut are fitting reminders of TYPE’s powerful lettering. 

“London walls was an amazing opportunity to exhibit some work, and put faces to many names” – Lee 102


London Walls photo collection

Exhibitions of graff photography just about never happened so the opening night was rammed, the queue went down the Mall around the block, thanks perhaps to the uncompromising venue security for whom this lairy crowd wasn’t the usual ICA opening night set.  At one point Robbo yelled through the door “FAAACKIN sort it out Dave”, I pointed out to him that my wife was in the queue a way behind him and I couldn’t get her in either, “You’re in the shit mate” he astutely observed.

“The security wouldn't let #TeamRobbo in as it was a full-house at the
ICA, I had to go around asking a few people to leave politely... Haha,
not sure that type of exhibition has been bettered since.” – Joeppo

London Walls photo collection

With the space heaving, a wonderful mingling of cultures took place.  Graff writers from all over town and from all crews mingled, bragged and applauded eachother. Robbo met Stik and this seemingly unlikely of pairings hit it off immensely. 

“It felt like everyone in the London graff scene was there. A real pleasure to chat with Fenza and Shye, two of my favourite London writers. And Robbo, of course! – Delete, 2021

London Walls photo collection

The positive reception show received from the graff community came as a surprise.  Graffiti writers take wonderful photographs which are now widely seen thanks to Instagram but in those days it was more limited to an audience of fans on Flickr or the few websites such as Hurt You Bad that followed the scene.  Their photos tend to convey the mastery of the can and the energy of the moment whereas the collection in this show took a broader, artier and more contextual view of the culture.

“This was the first graffiti related “thing” to happen at the ICA, which is an amazing location.    It felt like actually being an artist for the night.” – HowAboutNo

When you combine a large graff audience with free beer tagging of surfaces is inevitable, management were loudly un-impressed with the post party state of the premises. 

London Walls Zine, 2011

The opening of the show was accompanied by the launch of a zine “London Walls”, a compendium of more of the group’s photography which for those who were there is now probably the only tangible relic of that event.

 the ICA said it was the busiest opening night that anyone could ever remember, after about 8pm they had to do a one-in-one-out and the queue stretched right up The Mall.” - Delete


London Walls photo collection London Walls photo collection

You probably thought quite a while back "It would be much more interesting to see the photographs than read this babble". Unfortunately there is no facility for showing slideshows on this blog without developing Russian hacker proficiency in html coding. For a full slide show pop over HERE to what is basically the same blog post but with a slideshow

 “All the writers were chuffed about it and thanked us for doing it, which was a relief because there was a bit of a worry that they would think we were using their work for our own glorification” – Delete

Links: Delete Flickr Joeppo LDNGraffiti Lee 102 Instagram HowAboutNo instagram Buddz instagram Dave Stuart instagram

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Banksy v Robbo - New Details Emerge


One of the biggest feuds in art-world history, street artist Banksy v graffiti writer Robbo rumbled on much longer than fans and art historians previously thought. 

In December 2009 street artist Banksy created 4 illegal pieces of stencil art on the sides of a canal in Camden, London. One of the pieces, the Banksy Wallpaperer revived an ancient feud between the street artist Banksy and the then retired but still famous London graffiti writer known as Robbo. By re-imagining a very old relic of Robbo graffiti dating from 1985 into a stencilled worker applying that graffiti as wallpaper, Banksy appeared to be suggesting that graffiti piece was perhaps just forgettable mass produced background rubbish.

  Banksy wallpaper graffiti 
Banksy v Robbo, Camden, Dec 2009 

Robbo and Banksy then engaged in a 12 months tit-for-tat exchange of insults by re-working those four art pieces in Camden, starting with Robbo turning the wallpaper into “King Robbo” on Christmas Day 2010, as first reported here on Graffoto.

  Robbo WD, WRH vs Banksy
Banksy v Robbo, 25th December 2009, photo Dave Stuart

Many articles record that Banksy insulted Robbo at a party in the late 90s, Robbo assaulted Banksy and Banksy had nurtured the grudge ever since until his attack on the Robbo relic at the turn of the decade. In a virtual presentation last week on Banksy’s London street art I played a re-discovered and never before reported snippet of an exclusive interview I made with Robbo in 2010 in which he says that Banksy had been attacking his graffiti years before the Camden 2009 takeover. 

In the interview, asked if he had been attacking Banksy art before 2009 Robbo laughingly replies

“………. before the King Robbo? No, he’s dogged me before that has happened, I can show you a picture, it’s in one of his books.“

  Banksy (not so)  Smiley Copper 
Banksy Smiley Copper amended, photo Dave Stuart 

The picture Robbo refers to is the Smiley Copper in Wall and Piece. Robbo then confirms that the feud started in the Dragon Bar in Shoreditch in the 90s before going on to say 

 “And after that happened, there was a full name throw-up of mine, “Robbo” and he decided to put the grim reaper or the smiley face over the top of it and at the time, I thought if that’s the best he can do ... “

Examination of the Smiley Copper indeed shows the capital R of a piece of graffiti Robbo says was his has been squarely hit by the Smiley Copper which unusually has a huge Banksy tag across the centre of the artwork, leaving the intended recipient of the message in now doubt as to who has gone over him. In the world of graffiti if you intend to insult someone there is no point in making a timid little mark over someone else's graff, you go big and bold.

  Banksy Smiley Copper (amended) Banksy Smiley Copper amended, photo Dave Stuart 

The Smiley Copper is believe to date from 2003 which indicates Banksy was picking the scab on that wound long before 2009 as previously thought. 

Sadly Robbo had a terrible accident in 2011 which left him in a coma until his passing in 2014, rest in peace King Robbo

"Robbo",by Banksy Robbo tribute/vigil piece by Banksy, 2011 

The virtual online presentation “Banksy – The London Chronicle” is to be repeated this coming weekend at times that will hopefully be more convenient for Banksy fans in Latin America and North America and those in Asia, the Far East and Australia. 

Book HERE for 10pm GMT on Saturday 9th January 2021

Book HERE for 12 noon GMT on Sunday 10th January 2021, 

For up to date information on the Banksy virtual tour, see HERE

All photos: Dave Stuart 

Dave Stuart will appear as an Expert Judge on TV art show Next Big Thing coming on London Live in the Spring, details to follow.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Ezra St Paste Up Frenzy

Shoreditch is full of little corners where street art survives and accumulates in layers, like a busy kitchen pinboard.  Last week one such canvas near Columbia road was transformed by, in no particular order, Donk, Skeleton Cardboard, Rider and Tommy Fiendish into this beautiful paste up collage. 

Donk, Rider, Tommy Fiendish, Skeleton Cardboard 

Donk, Rider, Tommy Fiendish, Skeleton Cardboard 


Skeleton Cardboard 2020 

Skeleton Cardboard 2020 


Rider, Donk L-R Rider, Donk Skeleton Cardboard 


L-R Rider, Tommy Fiendish, Skeleton Cardboard L-R Rider, Tommy Fiendish, Skeleton Cardboard 


Whether neglect or tolerance is the reason why the property owner has allowed street art to accumulate, mutate and flourish on this canvas is a matter for another day but it is interesting to look at just a few examples of how the patina of this door’s surface has evolved down the years.

A year ago in November 2019 the door looked like this: 

Ezra St 2019: Feat Anne-laure Maison, Donk, Arrex Skulls, Subdude, Fosh, Citty Kitty, Shuby, Noriaki, Silvio Alino, D7606 Feat Anne-laure Maison, Donk, Arrex Skulls, Subdude, Fosh, Citty Kitty, Shuby, Noriaki, Silvio Alino, D7606 


Just a week ago a fair portion of the art present in 2019 was showing a steely determination to cling on in spite of tempest and subsequent creatives. 

Ezra St Nov 2020 Nov 2020: Feat DaddyStreetFox vs Anne-laure Maison, Donk, Subdude, Fosh, Citty Kitty, Shuby, Noriaki, Silvio Alino, Bento Ghoul, Voxx Romana, Pyramid Oracle, D7606 

Nov 2020: Feat DaddyStreetFox vs Anne-laure Maison, Donk, Subdude, Fosh, Citty Kitty, Shuby, Noriaki, Silvio Alino, Bento Ghoul, Voxx Romana, Pyramid Oracle, D7606. 


The Pyramid Oracle paste up still visible in parts in 2019 and 2020 has already lasted since 2015, thanks mainly to its height.

 Ezra St 2015 2015: Pyramid Oracle, also feat Sweet Toof, Donk, Voxx Romana, Noriaki, Anna Laurini, Ema, D7606 

2015: Pyramid Oracle, also feat Sweet Toof, Donk, Voxx Romana, Noriaki, Anna Laurini, Ema, D7606 


HIN was busy around Shoreditch 2012 - 2014 and if you looked at the bottom of the door in 2013 you would see a HIN character with an Aida face created from her infamous "East End Still Sucks" response to the Hackney Olympics.  That originally started out as a "go vegan" collaboration as shown in the following shot and the HIN body was still visible last week! 

Ezra St 2013: Sweet Toof, Aida, Kid Acne, Ema, Donk, Angry Face, HIN 

2013: Sweet Toof, Aida, Kid Acne, Ema, Donk, Angry Face, HIN 


 tn_DSC_7365 copy 2012: HIN, Aida collab 


Finally, back in 2012  this canvas was one of many to host the Sweet Toof/Paul Insect street group show.  This photo also features a framed print by New York street artist Gaia in a walk on part!  

Ezra St 2012 2012: Sweet Toof, Paul Insect, Aida, Hin & Aida collab, Kid Acne, Ema; print by Gaia 2012: Sweet Toof, Paul Insect, Aida, Hin & Aida collab, Kid Acne, Ema; print by Gaia 


As always the beauty of the art process here is the absence of the selective and restrictive eye of a curator, an organiser.

A few years ago a permissioned wall on Hanbury Street triggered a similar “longitudinal” review of the changes time wrought on that particular canvas, click here

Finally, if you have enjoyed this look back through a street art time machine why not put an end to that lockdown stir crazy feeling by joining the author on a tour of Shoreditch’s street art, click here 

All photos: Dave Stuart

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

ALO Show - Grace



BSMT Space, Dalston

15 October - 1 November 2020

ALO: Grace at BSMT

In an urban landscape where portrait street painters are overwhelmingly drawn to either the technical proficiency of photorealism or its diametric opposite cartoonery, ALO’s expressionist fisogs stand out!

ALO: Dalston 

Dalston 2020 


His street art career started with small paste ups in 2011 and bar a brief flirtation with Paris ALO has lived in London and consistently decorated our streets ever since. 

ALOShoreditch, 2013

ALO paints on the streets in acrylics and markers rather than spraypaint, making his approach rather different to most street artists.  Of necessity he has to make repeated returns to a spot to apply successive different coloured layers which when a street artist is painting without permission, most of the time for ALO, requires nerves of steel and a detached immersion in the act.   

ALO: Dalston

ALO: Untitled, permission piece, Dalston 2020


ALO: Untitled

ALO: "Untitled"

In his latest solo show characters are dressed in patchwork garments with way more colour than previous exhibitions.    Paintings influenced by African and Moroccan women stand out.   Also, Klimt has clearly been a significant influence on the latest work. 

ALO: Brick Lane 

ALO: Brick Lane 2020


 ALO: Marrakech 

ALO: Marrakech


 ALO: Profile Of An African Woman In Paris 

ALO: Profile Of An African Woman In Paris


ALO: Sinti Helene Triptych ALO: Sinti Helene Triptych (detail)


ALO’s characters don’t all engage us with a stare, but they say the eyes are the window into the soul and the direct stares of many of the faces are a thing of beauty.


A night time city landscape is the first completely non-figurative piece I recall seeing from ALO.   In the lower half of the painting London glitters with lit windows in buildings recalling the colour quilting of his African ladies in the lower half of the painting, overhead a starry night sky sprinkles headache inducing noisy starlight on the city.

ALO: East End 

ALO: East End


An ALO character conveys all you need to know through the accessories and the detail.  A hair band, a hat, the drip of a tear or more directly, a descriptive word block provide clues as to a subject’s style, location or state of mind.   There is less embedded text in the paintings in this exhibition but the characters are no less evocative.   

 ALO: Tip Oil Suonatore Jones

ALO: Tip Oil Suonatore Jones 


ALO: Blanche  

ALO: Blanche


Delving into an ALO painting to ferret out what is happening is fun.   With bombs dropping from the sky and  the title “Drone”, one painting had me momentarily thinking the character was using some kind of hand controller to deal death remotely; stepping back for further contemplation it became apparent that the character was a mother cradling her baby.

ALO: Drone 

ALO: Drone


Unfortunately this gallery visit was delayed until just a couple of days before the show closed but hopefully  you get a sense here of the awesome ALO show the champions of the urban art world BSMT Gallery have staged. 

ALO: Grace at BSMT 

Grace - show book, foreground 

 ALO: Lunia 

ALO: Lunia


 ALO: The Piper 

ALO: The Piper 



ALO website

BSMT Space website

ALO 2015 Show Hail To The Loser


All photos: Dave Stuart

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Street Art on Redchurch Street


Redchurch Street in Shoreditch has changed dramatically over the years yet despite gentrification it still houses some seriously good street art. 

As part of the Shoreditch Design Triangle, itself a subset of the London Design Festival, I was asked to assess the impact of Redchurch St and the history of its street art.   The novel twist was that OnRedchurch who got in touch set up a Cabinet of Curiosities in window fronts on Redchurch St where QR codes linked to online features.   Here is a reproduction of my survey of Redchurch street art produced for the Shoreditch Design 2020 Triangle Cabinet of Curiosities.

Malarky, Ronzo, 2011

Redchurch Street with its swish boutiques, street fashion, food and coffee was until barely a decade ago a cut-through lined by roofless derelict properties and empty wasteland plots.  As street art found its home in Shoreditch, Redchurch Street’s rough surfaces, dark corners and curious small spaces came to host a huge amount of street art and to play a role in developing the careers of many significant street artists.  

Redchuch St 2008 feat ATS, Peripheral Media Projects, Toasters, Jak-D and Faile

Derelict properties led to squat galleries and exterior canvasses for street artists.  The former Section Six Gallery, now the apartment block next door to Labour and Wait, sported a kaleidoscope of stencils and paste-ups and eventually was transformed with a mural by street artist and fashion designer INSA.  

Sickboy 2008

INSA 2009

After dereliction, the next phase in an area's development sees properties made secure and ahead of redevelopment, street art becomes tolerated and occasionally explicitly consented.  Many Redchurch Street facades witnessed early street art pieces from artists such as Roa, Otto Schade and Jimmy C and others who have since gone onto international success.

Otto Schade, 2010


Mobstr, 2011

Redchurch Street still had proper corner shops until a few years ago, shutters provided prime real estate for a rolling exhibition of graffiti luminaries such as Cept and Discreet, Aset (RIP) from the ATG crew and Vibes representing the RT crew.  A significant factor was the presence of specialist spraypaint store Chrome and Black which had an entrance next door to Richmix on Redchurch St.

Cept, Dscreet, 2009

Mean, Aset (RIP) 2014

Redchurch St was a linear building site for a large part of the late noughties, extensive building site hoardings hosted furiously changing art stencils, paste-up, tags and murals by artists from the UK and abroad.  There is little doubt that street art was co-opted as a tool in the “gentrification” phase.

Dr Zadok, Meeting Of Styles 2014
Jim Vision, a spraypaint artist and key figure at the more permissioned end of the street art spectrum resided for many years on Redchurch Street.  In his role as organiser of the Meeting Of Styles graffiti festival Jim Vision arranged impressive murals on Redchurch Street as well as painting massive spectaculars himself.  He also curated a number of pop up graffiti writers and street artist group shows in several Redchurch St locations.  

Probs 2009

Jim Vision 2014

The cottage at the junction with Club Row hosted some stunning murals by Roa, James Bullough and Jim Vision as well as a long running relief sculpture by artist Cityzen Kane installed with permission as a poignant tribute to his deceased son.  

Roa 2009


Cityzen Kane, James Bullough, 2015

As is often the case galleries sprung up In advance of the arrival of boutiques. The event space at the junction of Ebor St, in its guise as the London and Newcastle Gallery was the venue for pop up exhibitions by street artists such as Borondo, Insa and Shoreditch’s own Pure Evil as well as graffiti writer group shows.  Its outside wall was the location of a piece of INSA’s pioneering “Giffiti”, an augmented reality mural which with a smartphone app would reveal a squad of policemen chasing eachother in  “The Cycle Of Futility”.

INSA 2014

Urban Angel at the junction of Redchurch St and Chance St had very distinctive shutters declaring themselves as ART, as indeed they were having been painted by EINE in 2008.   Doomed by the coincidence of its opening and the financial crash of 2008, its brief existence saw it host shows by Remi Rough, Hush, Copyright and Best Ever.   

EINE, 2008

It is hard to believe that 11 years have passed since Graffiti legend and renown musician Goldie had a two floor solo show with live painting demonstration at the Maverick Showrooms.

Goldie, "The Kids Are All Riot", 2009

At the time of going to press the London Mural Festival is in full swing and London Design Festival favourite Camille Walala has provided a huge makeover to the rear of Rich Mix at the eastern end of Redchurch St.

Camille Walala, London Mural Festival 2020

The logical trajectory of combining property development, street art and expensive shopping reaches its unavoidable conclusion with spraypainted adverts appearing where once there was street art, though having spent years honing their spraypainting skills in the riskiest circumstances, who would begrudge artists a living?

Among the niche fashion houses, beauty treatments and designer furnishing accessories Redchurch Street has not lost its edgy cool, a stroll will still yield brilliant stickers on lampposts, freehand non- permissioned portraits, art paste ups and for the especially observant, illegal bronze castings by street artist Jonesy. 

Zomby, Type, 2011
Stormie Mills, 2009
Duk, 2010  
Jimmy C, Alo, Cartrain, T.wat, Cityzen Kane 2013

Pure Evil, 2012
C215, 2013
NEOH, 2012
Unify 2014

Jonesy, 2018


Cabinet Of Curiosities, Shoreditch Design Triangle 2020 (same facade as Pure Evil above)