Brick Lane revisited

Along with a glut of candy coloured neon joy we also took a tour of some of London’s street art hot spots.

We take a quick turn around Wood Street in Walthamstowe before heading to my favourite art spotting haunt – Brick Lane.

We first visited around four years ago and it’s interesting to see how the area is changing.

While there is still a street art scene it doesn’t feel as vibrant or as strong as previously.

There are still colourful collages of stickers, paste ups and coloured paint to be found.

However the developers are moving in. Exclusive highrises are popping up and Costa coffee and designer burger joints are starting to encroach.

I have the feeling that the gradual gentrification of the area will sound a death knell for the street art scene. As the middle classes move in, so the artists move out.

It’s ironic that the very thing that has made the area so appealing to developers will be the victim of its own success.

But in the meantime there is still political satire to be found, musings on the surveillance state and statements to be made.

Key themes currently are the American political situation, Brexit and thoughts on the consumerism and commodification of the female form (or maybe I have overthought it)

Below are some cute paste up from the likes of Sub Dude London and Keef. Cuteness belies that biting messages that the work delivers.

Street art divides opinion, some people see it as vandalism and some see it as an open air, transient art gallery.

I think there’s a clear divide between what I personally class as “ART” ie pieces that exhibit actual skill or have a clever message to tell, and then just the mindless tagging of lazy aerosol wielding idiots. (who quite happily destroy other artists work)

Brick Lane has both in abundance and it’s a moveable feast. Pieces that appear and disappear almost overnight. Or are mutilated or transmogrified by human or natural interventions.

I almost love the weathered, old pieces the best. The ones that have been left to sink or swim by their creators. To claim their own transient place in the world – just like us.

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Neon wonderland

Taking a brief break from our Japanese Odyessy to document a quick trip to London this weekend.

Staying with a university friend in Amersham we first head to Walthamstowe, the home of 90s boy band E17!

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There’s a surprisingly quaint old village centre with a 15th century timbered house. But our main focus is hidden, rather unprepossessing, on an industrial estate. . .

It’s the home of a neon wonderland, a warehouse of rainbow gas and colourful wonderment….

It’s God’s Own Junkyard – a warehouse of all things neon. A mini Vegas.

The warehouse is full f neon signs that have been created and curated by Chris Bracey.

He’s made neon masterpieces for a wide range of high profile films including Eyes Wide Shut, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Batman.

The junkyard is an elective, electric collection of signs, statues and general bric a brac.

The website describes his haul as “New & used neon fantasies, salvaged signs, vintage neons, old movie props and retro displays.

“Neon art made from found objects, retrieved and renewed waste and lights.
Fairground & circus lighting, architectural sign salvage. Led & cold cathode luxury products. ”

But in truth it is hard to put into words the explosion of colourful joy that this mini rainbow in a metal box evokes.

From words of wisdom to girly bar signs, iconic statues to religious icons. There’s a surprise tucked in every corner.

Whether you’re a lover of rock and roll, burlesque, 80’s club chic or just an avid snapper, this is the place for you.

It’s a eyeball popping, sensual overload and even though it’s only a small space you are hooked for hours.

There is a particular emphasis on striperama’s, girly bars and general sex themed signs.

Neon does have a certain sleazy, enticing charm that works well for the skin trade.

There’s even a darling little outdoor space complete with Alice in Wonderland mushrooms and a pensive Grim reaper.

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We take a brief break from the job of snapping to enjoy a HUGE slice of cake in the Rolling Scones cafe . . .

Then it’s onwards to capture yet more of these gas filled neon installations.

You can commission and buy some of these gorgeous creations. I am already imagining one in the living room!

The name neon is derived from the Greek word, νέον, neuter singular form of νέος (neos), meaning new.

Bit of science – Neon is a colorless, odorless, inert monatomic gas under standard conditions, with about two-thirds the density of air.

It was discovered (along with krypton and xenon) in 1898 as one of the three residual rare inert elements remaining in dry air, after nitrogen, oxygen, argon and carbon dioxide were removed.

Neon is often used in signs and produces an unmistakable bright reddish-orange light.

Although tube lights with other colours are often called “neon”, they use different noble gases or varied colours of fluorescent lighting.

The neon sign is an evolution of the earlier Geissler tube, which is an electrified glass tube containing a “rarefied” gas (the gas pressure in the tube is well below atmospheric pressure).

When a voltage is applied to electrodes inserted through the glass, an electrical glow  results. Geissler tubes were quite popular in the late 1800s, and the different colours they emitted were characteristics of the gases within.

Neon tube signs are produced by the craft of bending glass tubing into shapes.

A person skilled in this craft is known as a glass bender, neon or tube bender. The neon tube is made out of 1 meter straight “sticks” of glass tubing, which are sold by sign suppliers to neon shops worldwide

The end result is the gorgeous, glowing, confections of light that we all know and love.

 

So if you’re a neon lover or enjoy exploring a living paintbox then take a detour to an industrial estate in E17 for a trip down the rabbit hole into wonderland!

Tate – old school

Having sampled some of the more modern art on offer in the Tate we also had time to wander around some of the older works (or, as I like to call it, the “real” art!!)

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Yes, controversial I know, but I am not a massive fan of “modern” art, Hence the last time I visited the Tate Modern I spent more time taking the mickey than enjoying the displays.

One of which I swear was a bathroom cabinet straight out of an Argos catalogue and just given a deep sounding title.

Probably something like “The futility of consumerism. Part 3. Mirror and chipboard.”

So give me a sumptuous Pre Raphelite any day!! Here’s some gorgeous Rosetti. The Beloved. 1866.

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Or this haunting Lady of Shallot by John William Waterhouse. A print of which adorned my teenage bedroom for many a long year. 1017739_10152682077302353_8155173633405313855_n

The picture illustrates the following lines from part IV of Tennyson’s ‘The Lady of Shalott’:

And down the river’s dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance –
With glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Another tragic portrayal, yet a highly beautiful painting, is Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais. Seems like artists can’t get enough of doomed women!

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This time the tragic scene being depicted is from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act IV, Scene vii, when Ophelia, driven out of her mind when her father is murdered by her lover Hamlet, drowns herself in a stream:

There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element; but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.

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Above L – R
John Singer Sargent
Philip Hermogenes Calderon

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Sir John Everett Millais,

Borough market

Fresh back from a weekend whizzing around London and visiting a few new places. One of which is the Borough Market in Southwark close to the Shard. Apologies for fuzzy pics, they’re all taken on my mobile!!

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Borough has long been linked with food markets and as far back as the 11th century, London Bridge attracted traders selling grain, fish, vegetables and livestock.

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In the 13th century traders were relocated to what is now Borough High Street and a market has been there ever since.

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In 1755, the market was closed by Parliament, but a group of Southwark residents raised £6,000 to buy land known locally as The Triangle and reopened the market in 1756.

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The Triangle is still at the heart of the market today.

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There’s a wide range of stalls including fish, bakery, confectionery, dairy and more.

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Above is a selection of sea food, all artistically arranged for the discerning shopper while below are a colourful array of veggy friendly salads.

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There’s a global food vibe happening with French Duck confit and lavender from Provence along with tasty continental pastries.

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Italian cheeses are piled high alongside a mouthwatering selection of bread and brownies!!

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A favourite photogenic confectionery are the colourful little macaroons in a plethora of flavours including Earl Grey tea and pistachio.

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Or you can just stick to the tried and tested traditional tastes such as chocolate.

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These adorable little tins of liquorice would make perfect keepsake pots for all your useful stuff.

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More colourful snaps of veg and drool making cakies!

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And some intriguing mushrooms (shudder) wrap up our whistle stop tour around Borough market. Well worth a visit if you’re close to the Shard. (and have an obsession with markets like me!!)

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Birds, boys and British street art

Wow I took a lot of photos in a single graffiti hunting day!

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Above are some stunning Bom.K and Liliwenn murals on Hanbury Street in Brick Lane while below are a selection of paste ups, sticker art and close up details of other pieces dotted about the place.

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Here’s a few pieces of work from Louis “masai” Michel with an exotic green bird and Otto Schade

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Colourful concoctions, weird images and smoking frogs all combine to feel just a little bit trippy . . .

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And a few final snaps of things that caught my eyes!

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I still seem to have so many pictures to put on! I’m on a roll . . .

 

Walls of colour

Whether it’s walls full of eye popping colour or the tiniest little sticker, every crevice in Brick Lane is crammed with art.

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Whatever your preferred style you are bound to find something to tickle your artistic taste buds.

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A mix of stickers, stencils and paper mash ups ensure that no two walls are ever the same.

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From iconic film stars turned into munchkins to delicate praying hands, there’s a variety of different subject matters and styles to spot.

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No door, wall or building escapes some form of decoration.

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As interesting, hip and edgy as it all looks in the sunshine, during a flying visit, I am not sure whether I would want to be surrounded by graffiti and peeling posters all the time.

Would the novelty wear off and be replaced by a more mundane weariness as every surface is deluged with “art”?

Sclater Street art cluster

Some areas in the East End seem to see a particular concentration of art. One such place is Sclater Street, just off the main drag of Brick Lane.

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Entire buildings are smothered in gigantic images.

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The vivid colours provide a perfect foil to the drab, derelict industrial surroundings.

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There are some recognisable figures gracing some of the walls. Below is an immense Usain Bolt by James Cochran AKA James C.

According to details about it the portrait is “created in a distinctive ‘scribble style’ developed by the artist to reflect the inherent energy and vibrancy of Bolt’s personality, as well as visually communicate a sense of speed.” Read more about James C and his work here.

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This disturbing trio of washed out figures is called The Letter Box Bandit and is by Id-iom another prolific artist. You can find out more the story behind the image here.

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These snaps were taken about a year ago and most of the work will already have disappeared, painted over, tagged by other artists or covered in posters. Almost as if it never existed at all.

But part of the joy of street art is its transient nature. Fluid and ever evolving you’ll visit the same spot just days later and it’s all changed again. Does that make the art more or less valuable?

I look forward to visiting the same streets again soon and seeing what has changed and what has endured.

 

Art or vandalism?

Banksy is an interesting phenomena. Once classed as a vandal, his art work is now protected from other “vandals” and art collectors!!

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Here’s two examples of his iconic work. Preserved from tourists and the tender ministrations of other street artists by a sheet of perspex.

Above, His Master’s Voice – possibly one of his best known pieces – can be found in the pub garden of the Cargo pub garden.

His work now goes for thousands of pounds, but twenty years ago it would probably have been jet washed off by the local council. Interesting how the perception of “art” and value alters constantly.

The piece below is also in the Cargo Club beer garden on Rivington Street. The invite says come graffiti but the plastic protection shield says otherwise.

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Here’s a variety of interesting pieces from ALO. Largely self-taught, the artist honed his craft on the streets of Perugia, Milan and Rome before moving to London.

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His work was displayed in the Saatchi gallery in 2014 in a show entitled Hail to the Loser. Pieces were on sale from anything from £600 to £2000!

Incase you don’t want to pay thousands of pounds to own one, here’s some in their natural environment! (Plus a random pair of legs and a sofa!)

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Lots more still to come with colourful postboxes, stickers and mash ups!

More art on the streets of London

Moving on from the colourful mash ups on Fashion Street we actually start to be able to recognise the distinctive different styles of some of the artists.

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Here’s a few examples of an artist identified as Paul “Don” Smith whose work is instantly recognisable. His subjects are as diverse as they are delicate. From the stars of the 2012 Olympics to music heroes. There’s also some colourful work by Gee.

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This huge colourful piece covers up a drab wall.

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It’s not all about huge pieces dominating walls and buildings though, I love to spot the tiny pieces hidden away or the amusing, playful bits. Neil awaits further instructions. . .

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C215 is another artist’s sign off that we start to notice. With distinctive colour motifs and detailed drawing, its a very distinct style of work.

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Another very recognisable artist is Stiks. Whose minimal, adorable stick figures offer insights into contemporary society. But they also look super cute!!!

His work fetches high prices and apparently Elton John, Bono and other celebs sport him on their wall. But here you can see it for free!

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The little people appear everywhere, stealing artwork, promoting harmony and eyeing up pot plants!

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Next up a true icon of the street art scene, colourful postboxes and more!

East End graffiti art tour

A trip a little bit closer to home was a day out in the East End of London touring some of the colourful multitude of street art to be found in the side streets and back allies.

My next few posts are dedicated to some of the colourful, intriguing, controversial and confronting art on display.

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There’s plenty of street art tours on offer and you’ll see crowds of tourists huddled together snapping pics of the snazzy designs.

However we decided to just down load a walking tour app on the phone and make our own way around.

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Here Eines bright letters cover this entire building.

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From grafitti to stickers, paste ups and murals there’s something on every street corner, lamp post, phone box and shop shutter.

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Neil loiters near a mural on Fashion Street. Meanwhile Paul “Don” Smith’s Glass tap silhouette is amongst detailed work.

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Lily Allen features in this Fashion Street paste up while a police notice warns about street art tours risking you a fine or imprisonment under act of terror laws . .

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There’s a wide variety of artists to be found, from the more well known such as Banksy and Stik to less well known (to me anyway) such as Gee. There’s also lots of pieces that I can’t find an artist to give credit to.

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We also snap work from Irony, Jimmy C, ALO, Eines, Gee Street Art, Don, Masai, Otto Schade, Maser & Conor Harringinton, D7606, Cranio, ROA, Obit, C215 and more.

More colourful creations to follow!