Street Art

Street Art For Strange Times

You didn’t think a killer virus was going to stop street artists did you? Shoreditch witnessed an outpouring of street art addressing the Covid 19 pandemic from a number of angles. It’s amazing what a street artist could achieve with that one hour outdoor exercise license non-shielding people had during lockdown!
Thank You NHS, Artist Not KnownThank You NHS, Artist Not Known

One of the most prolific artists was Nathan Bowen whose suitably masked characters appeared all over from West to East
Nathen Bowen“Stay Positive/The NHS Warrior” – Nathan Bowen

Nathan Bowen, Harry Blackmore“Thanks NHS” – Nathan Bowen, Harry Blackmore; Oxford St

Nathan Bowen, Harry Blackmore, Ernest ObiNathan Bowen, Harry Blackmore, Ernest Obi – Shaftesbury Avenue

Almost as active as Nathan were Deanio X and Seen K26, often in the company of Tasnim Mahdy Deanio X, Seen K26, Tasnim Mahdy“Stay Strong” – Deanio X, Seen K26, Tasnim Mahdy; Old Blue Last, Shoreditch

Deanio X, Seen K26, Tasnim Mahdy“Stay Strong” – Deanio X, Seen K26, Tasnim Mahdy; Picadilly Circus

Deanio XDeanio X, Soho

Our weekly clap for carers, which was a beautiful collective thank you, has stopped but it is clear that many street artists remain grateful on our behalf to the NHS, to the carers and other key workers.
Robert Montgomery
“A quiet prayer holds over London…” We Love Our NHS – Robert Montgomery

Jimmy C
Thank You NHS – Jimmy C

Is it just me sees concentric stained glass hearts in shades of NHS blue in this homage by DRT?
DRTDRT (with Nathan Bowen & Co. in background)

Graffiti Life
Graffiti Life

On the flipside from the love for the NHS comes blame flinging and conspiracy theory. The UK’s elected political masters and their un-elected advisers repeatedly preached one thing but practised another to the point that anyone else would have felt embarrassed by. Street artists can be quite merciless when political hypocrisy becomes apparent and they proved yet again how swiftly street art can respond to current affairs.

In some countries the political response was based on denial or even deceit, Subdude latches on to those moments quite brilliantly.
Corona Credit Score = 0, Subdude

On the revelation that the NHS workers Boris thanked for his care in St Thomas’ Hospital were immigrants who now under the conservative government’s mooted minimum wage threshold would not qualify to come and lend their skills to the UK’s underfunded understaffed health service:
So How DO You Like Us Now Boris, Subdude

If you need to know what “Dominic Does Durham” is pastiching, ask your Dad:
Dominic Does Durham. Subdude

The early days of the UK response to the Covid crisis were characterised by simple clear messages and this apparent clarity was reflected in the referencing of the messages in the art. K-Guy found the graphic design and linguistic shorthand of those official three stanza instructions we saw on the podiums at the daily Coronavirus press conference in England lent itself to highlighting political neglect as an amplifier of the spread and impact of the disease through hospitals and care homes.
K-Guy“It’s A Testing Time”, K-Guy

K-Guy“Infected frontline policies”, K-Guy


“Infected frontline policies”, K-Guy

The surprising move to abandon testing and tracing and the awful situation regarding inadequate PPE provision featured in several pieces. Frankie Riot references the famous press conference where World Health Organisation head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus offered the simple “Test, test, test” which many developed countries decided to ignore with pretty devastating consequences.
Frank Riot
“Protect NHS Workers” – Frank Riot

China again:
Eau de Virus, ‘Orrible

Safe, Artist NKStay Safe, Remain Free – Artist Not Known

As Shoreditch Street Art Tours has emerged from lockdown doing very small private street art tours for the same price as the public tours, just so you know, the single piece of pandemic art everyone appears to be aware of is, not surprisingly, Banksy‘s nurse superhero painting on canvas “Game Changer”, donated to Southampton General Hospital.
Game Changer - Banksy“Game Changer” – Banksy, Photo: Banksy website

Banksy has done three pandemic related artworks: the aforementioned “Game Changer”; his earlier skit on the idea of the elusive rat stencilist working from home and most recently his brilliant makeover of a London tube with rascal rats parachuting with PPE face masks, rats tagging with sanitiser gel and rats sneezing all over the carriage in a lurid echo of the animation played frequently on the UK TV of the dispersal of vapourised snot from a sneeze in a train carriage.
Banksy You dont mask you dont get 1 copyBanksy, You dont mask you dont get”; photo source: 

Banksy You dont mask you dont get 2Banksy, You dont mask you dont get”; photo source:

Banksy You dont mask you dont get 2
Banksy, You dont mask you dont get”; photo source:

Among all the inspired pandemic related art and the positivity towards those who placed themselves in way of potential harm for our care, one artist was creating pro NHS art years before it became fashionable. Ben Wakeling recovered from his own mental health issues to channel his efforts into art as a therapy for people with mental health issues and his therapeutic work and his Outsider Gallery have proved so effective that his art therapy can now be prescribed by GPs.
NHS Mental Health - Ben Wakeling, London 2019
NHS Mental Health – Ben Wakeling, London 2019

To end this lockdown lookback on a positive note, could any message be more appropriate than Mark Titchner’s “Please believe these days will pass” plea.
Mark Titchner“Please believe these days will pass”; Mark Titchner

All photos: Dave Stuart except courtesy Banksy where noted

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