Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Extraordinary Portrait Painter Dale Grimshaw’s Street Art


Double portrait, 2016
Double portrait, 2016

Street artist Dale Grimshaw featured in a brilliant BBC programme on TV last night so here is a little profile of Dale’s street art pedigree and a huge recommendation that you to catch up with Dale’s moment of TV glory.

free West Papua Dale Grimshaw 2019
Dale Grimshaw work in progress, 2019

In the early years, from about 2009 Dale Grimshaw put paste up street art featuring elaborate dynamic portraits. Motion was a key characteristic, bodies plummeted from the skies, subjects kicked out at us, heads twisted with dizzying speed.

The Fool, Dale Grimshaw, 2009
The Fool, Dale Grimshaw, 2009

Self portrait and raven, 2009
Self portrait and raven, 2009

"Falling Kicking" Dale Grimshaw, 2010
Falling Kicking; 2010

Dale’s involvement in the scene extended to running the Signal Gallery in Shoreditch with his partner. They staged exciting shows by street art luminaries such as Jef Aerosol and C215 and urban art stars including Matt Small and Jaybo, all of whom are predominantly portraiture specialists. Of course there were also several great Grimshaw shows.

C215 Shoeshiners exhibition, Signal gallery, 2009
C215 Shoeshiners exhibition, Signal gallery, 2009

Although Dale did paint murals on permission walls right from the off, his distinctive aboriginal portraits emerged in spraypainted mural form about 10 years ago.

Who's taking who for a ride, Dale Grimshaw, 2009
Who's taking who for a ride, 2009

2 Worlds, Dale Grimshaw, 2013
2 Worlds, 2013

Dale Grimshaw Man and Eagle, 2015
Man and Eagle, 2015

Dale Grimshaw, 2018
Hanbury St, 2017

Portrait paintings have been an indulgence for rulers, kings, religious icons and rich art patrons with the moolah necessary to immortalise their image through portrait commissions. Extraordinary Portraits, presented on the BBC by British rapper Tinie Tempah redresses the balance pairing unsung heroes with artists for a portrait sitting to honour real people and real lives. For this edition Tinie matches up Dale Grimshaw with Patrick Hutchinson who made the front pages world wide in 2020 for his selfless rescue of an isolated white BLM “counter protestor” under attack.

White man rescued by Partick Hutchinson at BLM protest, London, 2020
White man rescued by Partick Hutchinson, London, 2020

After Dale and Patrick’s initial meeting the programme pursues Dale’s commitment to reveal something deeper than the superficially obvious, they meet Patrick’s family, visit his place of work and then of course there is the grand reveal. Fascinating sequences unveil Dale’s photography session, his varied and very detailed painting process and his studio environment. It’s not just about Dale of course, Patrick is an equally heart-warming character and it is quickly apparent that his credentials as a role model for humanity and harmony go way deeper than that one photographed incident.

Dale Grimshaw instagram grab
Dale Grimshaw and Tinie Tempah, Extraordinary Portraits, 2022

What has Dale painted? Will the family like it? To find out track down Extraordinary Portraits Series 1 Episode 3 (link HERE), available on BBC iPlayer until April 2023.


Dale Grimshaw: instagram

Patrick Hutchinson: instagram

Photos: Dave Stuart except where noted 

Monday, 28 February 2022

Street Art Solidarity With Ukraine

Solidarity with Ukraine
Three days ago Russia invaded Ukraine.  Street artists in Shoreditch have united with the rest of the world in putting out street art with messages of solidarity with Ukraine and revulsion at war breaking out on the European continent.

This afternoon (Sunday 27th February, 2022) these pro Ukraine messages were seen in Shoreditch, shown dovetailed with photographs from protests outside Downing Street in Whitehall, London yesterday.

Peace and Love, our thoughts are with Ukraine
Peace and Love, our thoughts are with Ukraine

Shelter the sky over Ukraine/Block Putin war
Shelter the sky over Ukraine/Block Putin war

Putin Danger To Life, by Pegasus
Putin Danger To Life, by Pegasus

Ukrainian flag flying over Downing Street, London
Ukrainian flag flying over Downing Street, London

Solidarity with Ukraine and Putin poison warning
Solidarity with Ukraine and Putin poison warning

Solidarity with Ukraine in Whitehall
Solidarity with Ukraine in Whitehall

Street artists not known except Pegasus where stated

Street art photos by Dave Stuart

Whhitehall protest photos by anonymous contributor with thanks

Monday, 21 February 2022

Enigma In Shoreditch

Just suppose someone decided the missing ingredient in street art was monochromatic medieval woodcut images of public hangings or fantasy horror representations of bizarre sea creatures attacking intrepid seafarers venturing beyond the realm of worldly knowledge. Japanese street artist Enigma has stepped up to fix this obvious void in Shoreditch’s globally acclaimed street art scene.

Enigma Sea Serpent
Sea Serpent, 2021

Street art has developed to a level of variety and sophistication that it takes something quite special to stand out. As observed in our look back at Shoreditch street art 2021 favourites, the street art of this new (to us) artist Enigma was a highlight of a rather unusual year. It won’t escape your attention that the leviathan serpent traumatising that unstable looking ship above spells out ENGM, a contraction of Enigma’s moniker in a style barely removed from graffiti. The sea serpent was our first stop-you-in-your-tracks encounter with Enigma’s art last year.

Enigma Ready To Fly
Ready To Fly

A sepia appearance coupled with extensive use of cross hatching lends Enigma’s art an unfashionable antiquated appearance. Street art is awash with pretty but very average photorealistic portraiture, there is a huge gap for new artists prepared to buck the trend, to not follow fashion. Enigma's vision of Lucifer cast out of heaven, based on a detail of Cabanel’s Fallen Angel, has butterflies where others paint wavy locks of hair.

Enigma Fallen Angel
Fallen Angel, 2021

Elsewhere faces are sliced to reveal what a proper clockwork orange looks like.

Enigma The Clockwork Orange
The Clockwork Orange

Surrealism and distortions suggest an artist enjoying playful imagery and experimentation. How many eyes can you or indeed should you fit on a bowler hatted whale or on a chequered finish flag winged stag beetle?

Enigma Whale Watching
Whale Watching

Enigma Love Is A verb
Love Is A Verb

Fish currently feature frequently in Enigma’s compositions, though the circumstances are typically bizarre.

Enigma Santa
Santa, 2021

Enigma’s representations of body parts might resemble pages torn from vintage anatomical studies though a recent fish emerging from an ear could owe more to Hieronymus Bosch.

Enigma Pink Fish
Pink Fish

Another theme in Enigma’s recent art has been shadow hands creatures. Those “how to” guides to shadow puppetry never convince you that the contortion of the hands could cast the demonstrated shadow, Enigma teases you into the same shadow guessing game.

Enigma Shadow Puppet Series
Shadow Puppet Series

Enigma Shadow Puppets
Shadow Puppets

A conceptually paired couple of paintings play with the notion of a shadow rabbit created by hands then the actual creature casting a shadow of a hand.

Enigma Don't Follow The Black Rabbit
Don't Follow The Black Rabbit

Enigma Follow The Rabbit
Follow The Rabbit

Jeopardy crops up frequently in the paintings and this ship in its shattered bottle certainly faces stormy seas and rocky Shoreditch shores.

Enigma Bon Voyage
Bon Voyage, 2022

Enigma even infiltrates occultist references onto Brick Lane walls, the grinning jester in his harlequin clothing is based on the Hanged Man in the tarot card system and represents submissive states such as surrender or sacrifice.

Enigma Hanging Jester
Hanging Jester, 2022

Enigma garners respect and praise from fellow street artists and when you watch Enigma’s painting style close up you can see why. His can control would be admired by many graffiti writers, those fractured cross hatching strokes come from practice and skill not accident or chance.

2nd Century Greek bust with butterfly mind

tn__DSC2141 copy detail

Enigma has thus far had few gallery outings in London, what has been seen indicates his street art translates beautifully onto rough canvas, as spotted at the Secret Life Gallery in Shoreditch last year. Instinctively it feels like there is more and better non street art to come from Enigma.

ENigma Love Is A Verb Canvas
Love Is A Verb Canvas

ENigma Whake Watching Canvas
Whale Watching Canvas

Enigma Follow The Rabbit Canvas
Follow The Rabbit Canvas

There is a lot of fun to be had with a little light painting, a long exposure at night and Enigma’s high contrast imagery.

tn__DSC2346 copy cropped
Stag hands

Enigma Hanging Jester at night
Hanging Jester at night

Enigma has proved to be very engaging with the public.


Enigma Work In Progress
Work In Progress

We just don’t see enough thematic street art paintings, if you want an idea of the kind of level Enigma is operating at it Ed Hicks might be a suitable peer, a comparison that neither insults Ed nor flatters Enigma. The sources Enigma mines for his art, fractured ancient Greek busts, tarot cards, cast out demons and psychopathic Kubrick films do a bit more than merely hint at dark undercurrents within his art. There is an intellectual depth and creative variety to Enigma’s painting and in the high turnover here-today-forgotten-tomorrow world of street art it is testament to Enigma that his paintings are memorable. Let’s hope Shoreditch continues to play host to his street art for a long time to come.

Enigma Mackerel

All photos except gallery canvasses: Dave Stuart

Canvas art photos courtesy Enigma Photo captions mostly from Enigma’s Instagram

Monday, 3 January 2022

Street Art v. Graffiti starring Jim Vision

Should this Shoreditch Street Art Tours post start with an apology to the spraycan virtuoso Jim Vision? Perhaps.

Last night [31 Dec 2020, new Years Eve] we held a short notice online virtual ramble through some of the art that provided great food for thought on the Shoreditch Street Art Tour in 2021. With the benefit of being able to show slides from the past, we were able to look at the waxing and waning of Jim Vision’s Jerome St mural which concluded with the photograph shown at the top of this post mural taken 2 days earlier on 29th December. This is the story of that mural and it ends with the dramatic update based on what we found today!

The history starts in 2020 with a curved wall pretty heavily battered with graffiti of varying styles and levels of accomplishment. The artistic highlight on the wall was probably back in 2014 with a beautiful paste-up from the French street artist Ludo.

Wild! Featuring Noze, Lap406 Oct 2019
Wild! Featuring Noze, Lap406 Oct 2019

Ludo, 2014
Ludo, 2014

Forward to 2020 and Jim Vision secures consent to paint the wall with permission and has claimed the spot as his since, painting a couple of portraits as part of his admirable “Colourful Women” series. In the artist’s words this was “celebrating all women of colour with their vibrancy and strength, at the same time addressing an imbalance in the representation of women of colour on walls. This first dates from early Summer 2020.
Jim Vision, June 2020
Jim Vision, June 2020

The next portrait on this wall came complimented by a pod of killer whales. In this next early December 2020 photo we see the mural in great condition with 8 killer whales swimming through, to the right is a cluster of illuminations and the background is an abstract veil of almost luminous vertical streaks.
Jim Vision, 2nd Dec 2020
Jim Vision, 2nd Dec 2020

Just a few days later the negative spaces in the margins have been targeted with graffiti, including sundry tags and a nice piece by Lap in the background:
Jim Vision, lap406 , 22nd Dec 2020
Jim Vision, lap406 , 22nd Dec 2020

Things are relatively unchanged by July 2021, a throw has gone over the cluster of lights to the right, a couple of tags and Lap in the background appears to have been painted out. Still the augmentations are occurring away from the main subject:

Jim Vision July 2021
Jim Vision July 2021

By October there is fascinating development in the artistic interactions taking place on this wall, Jim Vision covers up new tags with the creative and playful expedient of adding Orcas where the tags were. Now the pod has grown to 20 killer whales and something a bit albino, or perhaps a 21st whale with only its white parts turned to us:
Jim Vision Oct 2021
Jim Vision Oct 2021

Halfway through December heavy tagging appears in quite aggressive spots at the centre of the portrait and a green tag close to the front of the face where the white whale was. Ours is not to cast judgement!
Jim Vision, tags, 19th Dec 2021
Jim Vision, tags, 19th Dec 2021

Then, on 29th Dec, a new killer whale appears to be likely to see in the New Year, its placaement jumping through the earring brings to mind the cruelty involved in keeping these beautiful beasts in captivity in sea life parks. This was the state of play at the conclusion of the timeseries presented in the “The Best Of Shoreditch Street Art Tours 2021” virtual tour last night (New Years Eve):
Jim Vision 29 Dec 2021
Jim Vision 29 Dec 2021

New Years Day, this morning, look what we found:

New Years Day 2021 Jim Vision with Slak & Cuso

Gonna take a lot more whales!

All photos: Dave Stuart