Had enough of the Tate Modern and National Portrait Gallery? Some of the best art in London can be found on outside the galleries. Right next to the Square Mile – London’s shiny financial district – lays an alternative square mile, containing some of the city’s most eye-popping street art. Here street artists from around the world lay claim to the peeling billboards and crumbling walls of Hackney and Shoreditch, painting, chiselling, pasting and installing their fingerprints onto the cityscape. As anyone who lives there knows, the work of certain artists starts to follow you around and sticks in your mind. Here are the main examples and where you can find them.
Jumping out at you from the walls of Hackney, Roa’s intricate black and white animals harshly confront us with our turbulent relationship with the natural world. Most of the Ghent-based street artist’s work is legal (with prior permission arranged) so the pieces tend to stick around longer than most and become a permanent fixture of a constantly-shifting landscape. Both the rabbit on Hackney Road and the sacred crane on Hanbury Street caused uproar when there was talk of painting over them, and both were saved by passionate petitions.
Stik’s strikingly simple but expressive figures show that art doesn’t have to be complex to be effective. His gigantic androgynous paintings appear everywhere from shop fronts to sides of buildings and even people’s houses. Stik was homeless for a while, and his time spent observing people must contribute to the human emotion that these characters convey. One of the best examples is on Princlet Street, which shows two communities living side by side in the Brick Lane area.
“Beauty is in movement. That’s what it’s about. Beauty is about the way that someone moves their body. You can tell by someone’s walk if they’re angry, whether they’re happy or if they’ve just eaten. You can tell a lot about someone just by the way they’re moving their back or their eyes.”
Princlet Street (off Brick Lane)
Taking street art to new levels of technical mastery, Portugese street artist Alexandre Farto has been scalpeling, drilling and chiselling away at the crumbling walls of Shoreditch for several years, producing lifelike portraits etched into the very fabric of the city itself. His subjects are not the politicians and celebrities of countless billboard advertisements. They are the ‘everyday heroes’, the people we pass on the Tube whose names we don’t know, living out their lives. As our walls get thicker with layers of advertisements, graffiti paint and whitewash, Vhils strips these layers away again, revealing what lies underneath. Check out his exploding murals.
The Old Truman Brewery
Old Street Roundabout
Street art can be sculpture as well as painting, as South African Christiaan Nagel’s brightly coloured mushrooms make perfectly clear. Look up at the roofs and tops of buildings of Old Street and you’ll see these unlikely urban fungii popping up everywhere. Made from polyurethane (surfboard foam), fibreglass and stainless steel, they represent new creative ideas, appearing out of nowhere and flourishing in sometimes unlikely circumstances. “There is an element of randomness in any idea, that part we don’t have a choice in. Just like wild mushrooms, ideas pop-up.” Check out his mushroom sculptures for sale on is website.
One of the true originals, French street artist Invader has been installing his surveillance drones around cities worldwide for over a decade. His pixelated Space Invaders mosaics can be found in high up, high visibility areas, their sinister gaze providing a fitting commentary on the paranoid, surveillance culture in which we live. There’s estimated to be around 40 around London, assembled in advance and quickly installed, which you’ll start to spot when you tune into their specific vibrations. Ironically, almost nothing about Invader is known.
Images are provided by the Author
Article by Matt Lindley
Article publié pour la première fois le 01/03/2013