Previously I explained that Camden Street Art Tours and Global Street Art are two organisations collaborating to help in the promotion of street artists. I participated in the two hour tour and discussed differing styles of street art from painted chewing gum to collaborative face casts. I also spoke about why London is a popular ‘canvas’ for the world. This final segment looks at how working as an artist on the streets has assisted careers and how the locals perceive this art form.
Partaking in street art has helped some artists become recognised, meaning they can now work full time in their chosen career and passion. Skull was one such artist. From Portland, Oregon, Skull found that due to the laws in his own state it was difficult to continue his art. He had a rethink and began producing stickers and paste ups which are much easier to quicker to place on your chosen ‘canvases’. Plus, it doesn’t carry a heavy penalty unlike illegal graffiti/street art. He’s a quality screen printer and thanks to the streets becoming his platform he is now a full time artist.
Local artists don’t get left out on this tour. In Camden the popular Heato’s retro cartoon- like art work can be seen. As well as a gift mural Welcome To Camden organised by Global Street Art which was specifically designed to tie in with the Camden Lock mural on the bridge opposite.
Art and especially street art is linked directly with society and whether it is designed to or not it comments on its surroundings. Zabou doesn’t hold back with her commentary. Big, bold and black and white with the clear title Disconnected, two characters are placed back to back focused on their phones – one even wears headphones so the detachment from his immediate environment is accentuated. These two figures are so close to each other, even in each other’s personal space, some would say, yet there is no acknowledgement or interaction. The intense and detailed looks on their faces highlight their concentration while the looseness of the dripping paint around the edges echo the fluidity of change and the slower unconscious drip of the erasing of the physicality of connection. In her title the ‘dis’ is even crossed out – her message isn’t subtle.
There is not only a humongous amount of art on the streets of Camden but the variety of styles and methods is astounding too. Don’t forget these artists work quickly to produce their work, even the legal ones are used to working at a rapid pace so can knock out something pretty astounding in a couple of hours. They are also not a precious bunch either. Some may repair work if it’s been tagged but most are conscious, due to the nature of street art, that it will be a transient piece. Even the legal walls are on rotation so will be blacked out and reworked on. There’s unwritten rules too, one of the main ones is you don’t go over someone else’s work unless yours is better, which is a big statement.
Most of the time it’s the locals who get annoyed if a work is defaced or even completely painted over by the council or owner of the property. During the tour one lady came out to chat about a piece just up the road from where she lived which she felt was beautiful yet had been recently painted over. She said she even witnessed the police stopping the legal street artists during their work on murals such as the spray can spraying out fire. Luckily the artist explained and it was all fine. Another anecdote told by Nelly was about Stick who painted the tallest mural in London (which is in Acton). His work had been damaged and he’d returned to repair it. However, he was approached by an angry local who reprimanded him because the residents liked Stick’s work and didn’t want it being vandalised. Stick was delighted his work meant so much that this person was willing to stand up for it, then he introduced himself to the much surprised and probably excited but most likely red faced supporter.
With such an array of talent it’s well worth exploring the streets of Camden with one of Camden Street Art’s experienced guides. You’ll be surprised at the quality and the quantity of work. I also enjoyed and appreciated wandering around observing the architecture which was the backdrop for these pieces. From railway arches to banks to bad smelling back alleys you really get a feel for London and its art scene.
Top tips for the tour:
Go to the bathroom before so you don’t have to nip off and miss anything. It’s around two hours and Nelly was full of info for the whole tour.
Wear comfy shoes and dress appropriately for the weather.
Take a camera.
Remember Camden is extremely busy so keep your items close at hand. Don’t have your tour ruined by pick pockets.
Both tourists and locals will enjoy the ever changing artistic landscape.
For further information please visit www.camdenstreetarttours.com. Get 20% off by using the code SAVE20 until the end of August.
by Helen Shewry