August 22, 2017

Camden Street Art Tour part 1: Why London? What’s Hidden on the Streets?

Camden Street Art Tours and Global Street Art are two organisations collaborating to help in the promotion of street artists. Global Street Art arranges legal murals in London, and more recently across the UK, for artists all over the world. Camden Street Art Tours offered Flaneur one of their two hour guided meanders to explore the hidden and not so hidden street art in Camden.

Nelly, our group’s guide, has been photographing and documenting street art for three years. Present on social media she is so passionate about street art that she now links all her work to the artists to assist in promoting them.

Bambi s Amy Winehouse  Nelly the guide

Bambi’s Amy Winehouse & Nelly the guide

London is a top destination when it comes to wanting to decorate its spaces. Whether large scale murals, stickers or stencils people come from all over the globe to stamp their mark. Nelly suggests that some of the reasons for our popularity is because were more tolerant of the work and most Londoners seem to like it. Due to our lack of large spaces artists tend to produce smaller, more frequent works unlike those bigger scale murals which can be seen in places such as Miami. Organisations such as the two mentioned here are also able to assist newcomers with where to go.

Street art is ephemeral and with the increasing sophistication of techniques and the rise in social media it means images can be snapped and sent from here to Timbuktu in an instant. According to Nelly, the last fifteen years has seen massive changes.

Speaking of ephemeral art, the first piece Nelly shows us is one we all walk by, or should I say on. Just outside Camden Town tube station Ben Wilson forces us to look at an item which we often consider as not just annoying but disgusting: chewing gum. Wilson strolls the streets of London painting on gum. These pieces are often bypassed and only survive for around seven weeks then are destroyed by weather and shoes. Creating something beautiful out of a discarded piece of rubbish makes us view the city in a different way. Wilson’s work, although small, changes perceptions and cheers up any eagle eyed finder.

Not only did I learn to scrutinise detritus but I found out there’s an unknown famous female who goes by the name of Bambi stencilling works such as images of Amy Winehouse, raising awareness for the Amy Winehouse Foundation. Potential suspects are Paloma Faith and even Geri Halliwell! One of Bambi’s pieces was covered in flexi glass, one may consider this a good thing as it protects the work. However, it is not looked upon too highly in the street art world because it usually means the piece is being preserved so as it raises in value the owner of the wall can then sell it. Ironically, the flexi glass has been sprayed and scratched, ‘vandalised’ as Nelly stated. I thought this an unusual word to use considering that all the non-legal street art is vandalism.

One of the works which I thought interesting and suited the streets of London was a ‘paste-up’ by C3. ‘Paste ups’ are usually scanned and printed paper which are mass produced echoing the flyers and newspapers London is so familiar with. C3 though prefers to hand paint her ideas onto newspaper.

C3 s  Paste Up

C3’s Paste Up

With Nelly opening our eyes there’s not a minute that goes by where we don’t see graffiti or street art; the former being letters such as tags and the latter being images and a more creative expression. For example, across the road from C3’s work is a highly decorated van which included both and sits beneath some street art also. Unfortunately an image can’t be included here due to some of the language used on the van.

Art is difficult to define and comes in various forms created by a wide range of people using a variety of mediums and the streets are no different. Like Antony Gormley, French artist Gregos uses himself in his creations. Casting his face which act like a self-portrait, displaying his day to day emotions and placing them on walls so they look like Han Solo from Star Wars, creates an eerie bodiless mask peering out from, potentially, any wall. Gregos has had to make sure these works are securely fixed as he’s had people lever them off or damage them while trying to do so. He also encourages people to participate by buying one of his blank faces. Any purchaser then has the option to either decorate it and stick it somewhere of their own choosing or send it back to Gregos and he’ll install it in Paris. Take a look at his website for more information www.gregosart.com

Viewing the variety of street art and how London plays host to it has been eye-opening. For more on the tours please visit www.camdenstreetarttours.com and keep your beady eye peeled for the second instalment of Camden Street Art Tour where I look at how the streets have boosted careers and how the locals really feel about the art on their doorstep.

By Helen Shewry

 

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