Although this is not intended to be about any kind of order or preference of ranking, let’s begin at the end, or perhaps the top, the one single mural in Shoreditch compared to which all others are fussy little miniatures, the Connectivity Mural painted in 2018 and partly repainted in 2019. This took muralism in Shoreditch to a level of complexity, coherence and (unimportantly) a size which we had not previously seen.
Curiously, the very end of the decade saw an unexpected change to Shoreditch’s oldest mural as EINE updated SCARY in support of the mental health charity Movember
At the start of the 2010s street art muralism was in its infancy. Typically artists were on their own if they wanted to sort out a permissioned wall or if they were lucky there might be a gallerist sorting out a few spots to paint in conjunction with a major exhibition.
Mural walls with frequent updating were few and far between and were typically in the management of well organised, knowledgeable, skilled but otherwise busy spraycan artists.
Muralism changed dramatically when Lee Bofkin, a man with a vision, set up Global Street Art and delivered a different model for mural organisation.
Spore, Macism, 2013 – support by Global Street Art
Soon muralism was on steroids, exactly the way you all love it now. These days photo journals from certain street art and gallery websites pantingly announce “the world’s best murals this month” and it is clear that what appeals most to them and by inference you, is SCALE. Things ain’t worth shit unless two hoists, a photographer and a drone were involved. We don’t have so much of that in Shoreditch thankfully.
Jim Vision has been a key organiser of festivals, group shows and murals in Shoreditch but as also an awesome spraycan artist his own right produced a stream of belters throughout the decade.
Jim has organised Meeting Of Styles in London since 2008 and in consequence the Nomadic Community Gardens housed a series of spectacular signature murals.
Twesh Vibes Odisy Gent 48 Ders Sokem Meeting Of Styles 2014
Meeting Of Styles 2015 feat Zadok, Wisher, Tyme, Kak, Jim Vision, Ekto, Anone, ADNO
Meeting Of Styles 2018 feat Voyder, Samer, kaes, Jim Vision, Jeba, Irony, Fanakapan, Core & Aches
Graffestival 2019 feat Jim Vision, Trafik, Balstroem, Cazer, Planet Rick, 2Rise, Vile, Lifer, Tizer
Graffoto is allowed to pick favourites so it’s a pleasure to include this 2018 Xenz mural which was just beautiful. The young man in the photo potentially has a great career as an art curator.
Many home based artists made the transition from graffiti to non permissioned street art and then on to legal murals. At the start of the decade our favourite local muralists were the guys and girls making up the Burning Candy and The Rolling People crews.
D*Face got a double points score with Guilty Pleasures as both a mural AND rooftop!
Murals don’t have to be huge. This stunning confection by meme Martinez was painstakingly painted and looked incredibly photogenic, something which Graffoto is always biased towards
Shok 1 consistently produced virtuoso spray painted Xray imagery and successions of interesting thematic projects including the spectacular Rainbow XRay series.
A real challenge in assembling a selection of favourite murals and finishing before the following decade ends is the painful process of deciding what to leave out. The same applies to Mr Cenz’s oeuvre, over the decade Mr Cenz has produced a solid stream of stunning futurist inspired portraits.
In 2012 Sheffield’s Jo Peel managed to find a rain free 3 week period in April to paint and repaint a mural which was photographed to make the amazing “Things Change” award winning animation . Planning, execution and grinding hard work was required for this majestic achievement, a mural who fulfilment really unfolded in the virtual space with the street art element being a step in the process.
Things Change animation – Jo Peel
Portuguese artist Vhils drilled and chiselled this amazing portrait out of the plaster on a wall on Hewitt Street on a vanished building which for a while provided a home for the End Of The Line crew. This portrait was significantly different in the way pretty much that no one really works quite like Vhils.
Behind the Vhils in that photo you can see a mural depicting intertwined stiletto wearing legs by the immensely talented INSA. INSA developed his giffiti™ concept using an augmented reality phone app. The “Cycle Of Futility” was a standard waypoint for street art tours for a number of years until the wall was taken over by spraypainted adverts. You can simulate the effect INSA achieved on the street by downloading the free “Insa giffiti Viewer” app and displaying this next “work in progress” shot on a screen or another phone and viewing it through the app, available here.
London artist Stik’s “Big Mother” mural in Chiswick was the largest mural in the UK, the one time I cycled over to look at it a rear derailleur malfunction (shit happens) meant I didn’t get there and never actually got to see it in person before the block of flats was torn down! Brick Lane Couple dating from 2010 made it onto a list of the UK’s favourite art of all time in 17th place and from 2016 the famous “Shoreditch Past, Present, Future” has ruled the Old Street landscape though appreciating it requires understanding the different aspects of Shoreditch that each of the three characters is contemplating. Context is critical.
Event driven and campaigning murals were common occurrences. The terrible tragedy/crime at Grenfell tower led to many murals, including this two storey blockbuster whose scale is not actually that obvious from the photo:
Australian artist Jimmy C has made a huge contribution to London walls over the span of the decade, perhaps the one with the largest impact internationally was this amazing portrait of Usain Bolt which surveyed Sclater St market during London Olympics in 2012. Also features a stunning trackside image by Dank Kitchener.
That sorely missed spot also hosted a mural which was one of the highlights of Borondo’s sojourn in London in the decade’s middle years. Borondo was one of the most talented painters we saw in London over the decade and we were very luck to enjoy his work over quite a prolonged explosion of creativity.
In 2012 Shephard Fairey visited and for the first time put up some stunning painted murals as opposed to the huge paste ups which had previously been his calling card.
Even master of miniature sculpture Jonesy got a little mural action going
Neoh and Sweet Toof get a big nod simply for being awesome painters in completely different ways and being smashing people
It may not be possible to shoehorn a Banksy entry into each of the Review of The Decade posts so in the context of murals we can’t overlook the genius of Shop Till You Drop. Proximity to one of London’s most chichi shopping locations Bond Street lend this mural great context and it also is great to see a Banksy that survives without being under plastic.
Contemplating the impact of street art murals inevitably weighs in the balance some great aspects and some which are perhaps a bit unfortunate but this is a celebration of some the stunning murals we have enjoyed over the past decade so we’re not going to get into “muralism good or bad thing?” here, that’s what academics are for.
This series of “That was the decade that was” blog posts started with a look at the state of the game as it was back in 2010. Not sure what’s going to come next nor when all wthat is asked is that you just love, sign up, and follow.
All photos: Dave Stuart