Welcome to London. East London, to be exact. A bit of a rougher area of town with a looong working class history. The streets are often a bit run down, but quite vibrant and alive. Alive and covered with art! That’s right: another big city exploration led to another chance to experience absolutely incredible street art! This time we were lucky enough to take a tour with street artist Josh Jeavons of Alternative London.
London’s street art scene was a bit different from the others we’ve enjoyed (links at the bottom). First off, there are a lot more 3-d works of art hidden around. Everywhere else the focus has been pretty much exclusively on paintings/stencils/graffiti, but London has a number of artists working with tiles, faces, even bronze sculptures! It really kind of blew my mind.
There’s a French artist named Invader who travels around the world putting up little tile creations, usually high on buildings, with designs of various Space Invader like characters! They’re scattered most everywhere, not just in London (and not even all on land!). In one city someone mapped out all the different locations they found an installation…and it drew a Space Invader alien! These street artists are truly thinking about their work and the locations they put them – they’re not just someone “feeling creative today.”
My absolute favorite 3-d artist, though, goes by the name of Jonesy. He creates mostly small, highly detailed, bronze sculptures which he puts up on the sides of buildings or, as we most saw, on the tops of sign poles! What a great place to add art! They are sort of like flag pole toppers, but very subtle and most of the time folks walk right by them without looking up enough to notice. Absolutely gorgeous work!
And, if you like artwork and signs, you have to like the work of Clet Abraham! Rather than paint, he creates stickers which he can then put up really, really quickly. These are two we saw, but click the link or Google him for a lot of really fun pieces.
Another thing I noticed in East London is that there were a number of spaces where artwork covered over each other. This didn’t seem too common in other cities where folks sort of respected the works that already existed and only painted over if the original piece was pretty much worn away (well, not counting if the building owner painted over it themselves, of course!). Not sure if this is due to there being so many artists in London or limited space or just the character of London street art, it was just something I noticed. Makes me realize, though, that some of the pieces I’ve photographed won’t be around for too long. Street artists accept that, but it’s interesting to me that as a photographer I may now have some of the only evidence theses works existed.
I apparently didn’t take any photos, but one of the other different elements I found in London was the number of works that were low to the ground. Hmm, actually I guess I should say the number at varied heights as Invader and Jonesy’s pieces are usually quite high up. Anyway, there were a few artists working down at shin level so often you don’t notice them if you aren’t looking. In fact, we even found a bridge where some artist or group had painted a bunch of little alien snake like creatures between the metal slats! These couldn’t be more than an inch or three or around, but there had to have been at least 100 of them over the bridge!
For the first time we came across a piece by an artist we had seen on one of our other tours – Martin Ron from Buenos Aires (link at bottom). Fun to realize we’re starting to recognize a few artists!
One artist, Stik, makes pieces that look really, really familiar, but I’m not sure if we actually know his work or just imitators. He often creates paintings that are connected to the community area for each piece. They all have a message like the one below. Great story: when Stik was starting out he decided he needed to do his work fast so as not to get caught (like most street artists). Wanting to make figures, he realized the fastest possible way he could do things: create each person with only 5 lines, a circle and two dots. Pretty amazing and you could see how he could complete a piece like this in mere minutes. Now he’s often invited to do his work.
Those are some of the biggest names for me, but there were a LOT of pieces I liked.
If these have inspired you and you’d like to see more, here are links to all my previous posts on street art and graffiti we’ve found around the world!