Battered yet beautiful

Finally I’m getting around to documenting our first ever trip to Germany for the man’s birthday last November.

We plumped for the hip capital city of Berlin for our first ever trip to Deutschland and a fab choice it was too.

We stayed in the Ibis Mitte hotel, perfectly placed to explore the city with a tram stop just around the corner.

There’s a bewildering choice of cafes, bars and restaurants all within a stones throw of the hotel, not surprising for a city that has 100s of choices from filling quick burgers to Vietnamese, sushi and Italian to traditional German sausage and beer halls !

Once we’d settled in, the stomach on legs was keen to sample his first ever currywurst and naturally there was a little shop and cafe just around the corner for him to get his fix!

We then take one of those fortuitous turns down a little dark alleyway that leads us to the quirky Cafe Cinema.

This electic cafe / bar has an intriguing open air courtyard splashed in colourful street art.

Whether it’s cute kittens or political satire, the walls are a vivid and mind boggling mas of murals and mayhem!

I force the man to spend a good half an hour here as I meticulously detail every little scrap of paint.

 

There is no escape once I spot painted walls!! I have a particular fetish for spraypaint..

It is also home to the Anne Frank Zentrum which houses a permanent exhibition about the young girl and the world she inhabited. The Zentrum is the German partner organisation of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

The exhibition focuses on the diary and the story of the life of Anne Frank. But also looks at contemporary life via the young people of Berlin.

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Next up we’re heading to see Berlin by night including the Berliner Dom and the Brandenburg gate.

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Scintillating Sardinia

We’ve off on our third trip of 2017 now. To the stunning Italian island of Sardinia.

Sardinia is one of those places that doesn’t seem to register very highly on people’s travel radars but is an absolute hidden gem.

Over the next ten days we find majestic old cities, hidden coves and stunning beaches so be prepared to be captivated by Sardinia!

First up we spend a few days in the capital city of Cagliari. We’re staying in the old castle district in the Castello Suites set in an old apartment block.

The old castle district is perched high up on a hillside which entails a bit of a trek from the station but is crammed full of traditional old features and shops.

The beautiful cathedral overlooks the city and is a pretty sight against a deep blue sky.

As with all Italian cities, every wall is an open air art gallery covered in paintings and street art.

The man manages to find a car smaller and cuter than him tucked in a side street.

More back alleys covered in graffiti offer colourful distractions for the snap happy.

As well as wall paint there are paste ups, stencils and tiny faces hidden in the doors.

As well as quirky art there are amazing little take away libraries in the street for on the move bibliophiles. I also love this colourful spice inspired door way.

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.

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!