- BY MNR CONTRIBUTER, MARIE CAHALANE
London could just be another city – but it’s not, its very streets remind us of its unique identity. From the highways, down which we pass on the way to somewhere, to the little known by-ways that connect London. Doubling as an open and free gallery, London’s streets never fail seduce and excite the urban adventurer with a myriad of public and street art – some political, some satirical, some witty, and some just beautiful.
Well known British artist Banksy has made London his unofficial canvas for over ten years. Invader has left his pixelated mark everywhere from Lambeth to Hackney. Robbo tackled locations such as Camden (and artists such as Banksy), you can spot BC1 brightening up the waterways of Hackney Wick, Cept in Hoxton and Insect’s work can be spotted in the infamous Soho area, and this is to name but a few.
This artistic freedom did not develop overnight, it has been a slow evolution: the Graffiti of the 1980s inspired the Street Art of the 1990s that has since permeated all areas of London.
Part of the lure is that Street Art only ever feels temporary. It is unpredictable, ever challenges the status quo and, once in the public domain, even if commissioned, it is exposed to urban life – subject to its reverence and ravages.
If you want to tap into this pure London culture there are hubs where Street Art reigns supreme. Shoreditch, Brick Lane, and Spitafields, Hackney and Tower Hamlets, all in the East, have thriving Street Art scenes where it is often difficult to discern where a building starts and art stops. This is due in part to the artistic communities that have made their homes in these areas and the galleries that have been born as a result.
Shoreditch, in particular, has become an active gallery, featuring artists like Paul Vision and pieces like The Mural by Burning Candy. It’s a place to be seen and to get exposure, and a place to make a statement whether you are an emerging or established artist.
Camden too boasts a healthy serving of Street Art, its counter culture a natural draw for artists. With railway lines, bridges, canals and umpteen abandoned buildings it is prime real estate for the street artist. The effect of this can be seen everywhere, from minute stickers to large scale mural and incorporated into the architecture. If you want to absorb something of Camden’s creative character then you needn’t look farther than its streets. Top this off with a trip to Regent’s Canal where you will find a vandalised Banksy (courtesy of Robbo).
Street Art extends is more than a reflection of culture, it is a personal reflection of a community, with a power to give a voice and to rejuvenate an area. In Walthamstow, the Wood Street Walls project brings artists to Walthamstow to create big impact pieces. Internationally renowned artist Conor Harrington recently wrapped up his offering on Ray Dudly Way. This is art in the public domain, art for the people. And as a representation of a community, it is met as much with praise as it is with criticism.
The power of street art is its visibility. Consider Brixton – ever a vibrant and creative hub. When Brixton arches were threatened Street Artists came together to send a message to authorities, and did so on the facades of the very businesses affected.
Taken out of the context of the traditional gallery space Street Art has an alternative dynamic, a power: existing in the public domain, it cannot help but make a statement, be it a revolt against authority, political commentary, or admiration for them.
My advice: venture forth and embark on your own journey of discovery, who knows what you might uncover (or take advantage of one of the many tours that are run throughout the city!
Marie’s love for travel has taken her to South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and included a stint teaching in China for a year. Her passion for arts and culture keeps her busy on various projects. While suffering from perpetual itchy feet, she currently pursues a career in PR & Marketing in London and is on a mission to explores its subcultures.