London is rich in history, culture and tradition but not very many people know about its bustling street art community. The movement is relatively new to London, but it has certainly exploded in recent years. Well-known graffiti artists will purposely come to London, even just for a few hours, to spray paint a designated wall. Festivals dedicated to London street art also started to pop up and prominent museums with the likes of Tate Modern have featured galleries for this new type of modern art.
Last week, I traveled to London and joined a London street art walking tour of the East End courtesy of Free Tours by Foot. The guide was a native Londoner who has been involved with the London street art movement for decades. The tour featured the art from the neighborhoods of Shore Ditch and Bethnal Green. Here are 10 of highlights of that London street art tour.
London Street Art in 10 Pictures
This piece was created by one of London’s earliest graffiti artists who goes by the name “Stik“. His style is simple, using only stick figures and a handful of colored paints to convey his meaning. This particular image is one of his more popular work around London. Depending on your interpretation, this picture can either mean falling ill or two people arguing with each other.
Tucked in a small alley in the Shoreditch neighborhood in East London stands one of area’s newest creations. Sprayed to mimic a comic book storyboard, it features an angry looking gentleman wearing a cap who appears to be driving along a seaside with the words “Shore Ditch” written right next to it.
Whales and Dolphins
The most impressive of all the artwork we saw during the tour and certainly my favorite is this whimsical image of sharks, dolphins and other marine creatures by Fanakapan and Louis Masai. The mural is relative new to the area (less than two years old) and comes to life when viewed from a lens. If you have your doubts, go and see the piece yourself.
Woodbox Fun on Post
Another unique form of street art found on some of the East End’s streets are these small wooden boxes painted with different images that blend together. You can think of it as a Rubic’s Cube on post.
Community in Sticks
A simple but accurate portrayal of the neighborhood, another stick figure mural by Stik shows a woman wearing a burka and a Caucasian person holding hands, which symbolizes friendship and unity. This piece stands in a small alley just off Brick Lane where there’s a huge population of Muslims coming from the Asian sub-continent.
East End Pelican
The most famous London street art is this giant mural of a pelican, painted in simple black and white paint by the renowned Belgian artist ROA (it’s a pseudonym). Despite the lack of color, his art possess very detailed strokes as exemplified by this longstanding piece.
Grand Traffic at Night
If you look hard enough, you’ll find at least a handful of murals created by Dan Kitchener that depict London city roads with cars glittering at night. This one on Hanbury Street however is the largest and perhaps the most alluring of them all.
Meeting of Styles
This eye-popping mural takes center stage, quite literally, at the East End’s Nomadic Gardens, a not for profit organization benefitting struggling and amateur street artists. With one piece entitled a “Meeting of Styles”, this four-piece collection screams boldness and provides the perfect backdrop for entertainers performing on stage.
Almost a surreal piece, this painting by Elle of what appears to be two crying wolves and a woman transforming into something sinister is one of the newest pieces just off Hanbury Street. Using only black, white and brown paint, it provides a stark contrast to the colorful night of traffic painted by Dan Kitchener that stands just across the street.
Trash to Art
There were certainly a number of pieces at Nomadic Gardens that caught my attention but none more so than this scarecrow like piece that guards the garden’s only “bar”. Made with rusted steel, old plastic tubes, beer caps, repainted wooden boards and a disused rubber wheel; this piece to me, was one of the great examples of turning trash to art.
Have you seen any of these London street art pieces while staying in London? Share your thoughts and let us know of other pieces worth mentioning.
AN: The subtitles of each piece were mere substitutes and represent only my viewpoints unless mentioned otherwise.