The Street Is Our Canvas – A Short(ish) Guide to Street Art

I am thrilled to be finally writing this post, as I’ve been meaning to write about my new passion for a long time. I’ve been in London for almost 10 years and it’s only the past year that I’ve become obsessed with this city’s street art. 

Street art is having a Renaissance – it is so, so much more than tagging and graffiti. The fact that it became legal in the UK hasn’t made it any less edgier or anti-establishment, but highly sophisticated and varied. As a sort of frustrated artist I’ve become a huge fan of street art, sharing as many pictures as possible on my Instagram (because street art is for everyone) and gaining a list of favourites. So when I found out about Camden Street Art Tours I booked myself in at the earliest possible slot, which was last Saturday – I’d like to think I’m reasonably knowledgeable about street artists but was (and still am), in all honesty, desperate to find out more. 

The tour was fantastic – I tend to take a lot of my street art pictures in East London as that is where a lot of it happens, but Camden has an amazing collection of street art too, with key names and soon to be iconic images. So yes, this is going to be a long post because I believe these artists deserve as much recognition as they can get. Street art is no lesser than the art you see in galleries – a lot of the time contemporary art is a joke and I find Brick Lane’s art much more sophisticated and interesting than what you see at Tate Modern.

One of the great discoveries of this tour was Simoni Fontana – a Greek artist whose beautiful work I’d seen on Social Media and finally got to experience in the flesh. Inspired by Manga art, there is a truly enchanting feel to her work. My friend interestingly pointed out how Tim Burton’s latest film, Big Eyes, was stylishly similar to Fontana’s mysterious girls.

It turns out the Greek Argiris Ser is Simoni Fontana’s partner (A street art couple – how romantic is that?!) and just as talented. His piece was right next to Fontana’s, and as our amazing tour guide Nelly pointed out, though different in style, the colours of each art piece neatly complemented each other. Sadly the building walls got swapped around at some point – here is a picture from his Instagram account to see it in all its glory.

Every time I see Dan Kitchener‘s work I stop on my feet – I love it so much! I first came across it last summer and instantly fell in love with it (and is unsurprisingly part of one of my favourite Instagram pics ever). I’m glad to see it’s still there, as he’s amongst my top 10 favourite artists.

Trust Icon was one the best discoveries in Camden – how amazing is this piece called “Last Trip to Wonderland”? His style, which reminds me ever so slightly of Banksy, is ironic and subversive – and I’m sure will soon indeed be considered iconic. Trust Icon’s work is a strong reminder that British street art can still have a rebellious nature, even if it’s legalised.

I don’t have a desperate need to figure out the meaning of this imagery, as it is ridiculously clever and engaging.

There are altogether three different artists I managed to identify in this image. The paint bucket is by D7606, who I discovered through Instagram. He brilliantly documents other street artist’s work but does his own thing too – I’d actually never come across his work so was thrilled to finally get to see his signature paint box. The cute redheads are self-portraits from a very young female artist from Manchester known as C3. The iPhone sticker is by a lady who goes by the name of PamGood2 – she was another Instagram discovery.

Stickers are a perfect way for street artists to promote themselves – they’re quick and easy, and probably admin-free (street artists need to get permission to paint on walls which I bet can be a lengthy process). I love D7606’s signature crayon! The skull that looks like it’s on E is by an American artist from Portland, Oregon – RX Skulls.

Renato Hunto is an Italian artist whose work is a bit like a tribute to Picasso – I love the strong use of colours and the updated Cubist vibe.

Well, what can be said about British artist David Nash, aka Gnasher – you gotta love a giant rendition of The Muppets. The little boy in the corner is by an artist called China Girl – it is amazing when seen in the flesh, I can’t wait for her to get more popular (and an Instagram account please!).

I love the innocence and delicacy in Alice Pasquini‘s work, an Italian artist who has been active since the 1990’s. I didn’t manage to get a good picture of this beautiful piece, but to give you a better idea the girl with the bouquet is on the right-hand side of the close-up of the girl. 

It’s nice to see tributes to Amy Winehouse all over Camden – these two are from the anonymous street artist Bambi. Her identity is unknown, her art is worth thousands of pounds. Rumour has it that Bambi is a female celebrity – Geri Halliwell, Victoria Beckham, Madonna and M.I.A. all being named as the potential real Bambi. Personally I really can’t imagine Victoria Beckham spray painting around London, so I’m gonna go with M.I.A. – I can so see this British-Sri Lankan singer having a rebellious yet lucrative art streak.

Gregos is one of my favourite street artists – the Frenchman sticks these three-dimensional, mischievous and cheerful self-portrait masks all over the world. Whenever I see one, it makes my day.

One of Camden Town’s most iconic murals, also by Gnasher, it is truly and equally loved by tourists as well as Londoners.

Isn’t this tiger beatiful? It’s by the super talented, super successful London-based artist JXC.

This incredible piece is by a London-based female artist who goes by the name of Pang. Her work is highly versatile – some of it being fiercely contemporary, and a lot of it, like this piece, solemn and reminiscent of classical art.

I absolutely love this hilarious piece by Leon Seesix, aka Dotmaster, done as part of a collaboration with Dr Zadok – it is not, however, a nostalgic nod to childhood, but a cheeky dig at an amateur artist. To hear the full story, I suggest you take the tour!

Saki and Bitches is a Japanese illustrator and street artist who creates super sexy (and super naughty) images of pinup girls with a slight retro and comic-like feel. As well as 2D art, she creates these super cute and raunchy little installations which she fairly refers to as toys on her website. How charming is this piece? It’s right under one of Camden Town’s most iconic spots.

Mr. Cenz interestingly started his career in street art with tagging. This is a good time to point out that graffiti and street art are, technically, two different things. Graffiti comes from the Greek word Graphein (γράφειν), which means to write, and tagging is a form of graffiti – it can be a way of signing one’s name anonymously, sometimes by the use of random words or even symbols. As far as I’m aware Mr. Cenz still does a bit of tagging but is nowadays more known for his beautiful and futuristic female portraits.

Ala Niz is a South American artist based in Berlin (another mecca for street art) whose powerful and huge images often carry socio-political messages. If I remember correctly this piece (titled “Inner Enemy”) was completed in less than an hour – can you believe it?

My Dog Sighs – best pseudonym ever – is a British artist whose clearly a master at painting eyes. I hadn’t heard of him before but he has a huge following on Instagram and has been active for years – his previous work is fairly different to this pretty piece in Camden.

I literally couldn’t find any online information about Heato, but I love this piece so much and couldn’t not share it! 

Otto Schade is one of the most interesting and successful street artists at the moment. A Chilean artist with a background in architecture, he essentially has two very different and instantly recognisable styles – circular stencil pieces like this one, which are all over east London and my Instagram (I feel very proud to have captured at least four of these), and his beautiful ‘ribbon’ style, as you can see here.

You gotta love Spanish artist Sr. X (which guess what, means Mr. X)! His work is kinda dark, very edgy and cool.

As seen in the seventh photograph, Mancunian street artist C3 puts up these pretty paste-ups of cute redheads around England and the world – she recently spread her ginger ladies all around New York. It is precisely the simplicity and easiness of her work that I’m sure will be the key to her success.

This soon to be iconic Camden wall came to life thanks to Camden Street Art Tours and BrushUp Media – I love the vitality of the font and slight retro feel.

There’s not much to be said about British artist Dale Grimshaw – I believe his art says it all. The eyes! The intensity! Oh, the sheer talent!

I learned a lot on this street art tour and therefore took in a lot of information – I might be mistaken but I’m fairly sure the author of this piece is unknown. I think the piece itself is 100% illegal, but will probably not be removed as it was done over an old piece of advertising (because funnily enough a lot of advertising was painted on walls back in the day) which is nowadays considered a part of British history that should be kept intact.

If I had a gun put to my head and had to choose just one favourite street artist, it would be Zabou. I really hope I’m never put in this situation because I love so many different street artists, but Zabou for me is truly the bee’s knees. The work of this French artist (who’s a graphic designer by day) is the perfect balance of enormous talent, super effective simplicity, great colours, vitality, fun, humour and romance. It’s mostly hilarious, at times highly poignant, always beautiful. Whilst most of it is usually characterised by strong colours, this piece in Camden is a more subtle and thoughtful piece – straight to the point, uncomplicated and very representative of the times we live in.

This incredible piece, aptly titled “The Routine Pendulum”, was completed by a Spanish artist named Pincheycolorea. I’d never heard of him before but he fell in love with street art in 1999 and has built a career from it ever since. I’d love to see more of his work around London.

And last but not least, this brilliant piece is by another successful British artist, Irony. A lot of his work consists of hyper-real portraits of women which inevitably make you stop right on your tracks – he’s clearly one of those people who are freakishly talented.

I cannot recommend Camden Street Art Tours enough – the two-hour long walk went by ridiculously quickly and even though I thought I knew a fair amount about street art I realised there is sooo much more for me to learn. It also made me fall in love with Camden Town all over again – it’s constantly invaded with tourists but beautiful walls on the main and side streets keep it charming and unpredictable.

Another reason to do this tour? Because we should all spread the art – it is, after all, there for us to love, share and protect.

All Photographs taken in Camden Town on April 18th, 2015 by moi – please credit me and ESPECIALLY the street artist!

Share:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *