The history of street art is a complex story whose content varies depending upon author, location, editorial preferences for a “creation” date and people’s differing actual lived experiences. The early phase of its ripping away from graffiti was for many reasons dominated by stencilism and the significant role of the paste-up technique is easily overlooked. Perhaps the London International Paste-Up Festival has addressed that.
LIPF was held over the first weekend in November and featured art on paper by 100s of artists who responded to an open call by the organisers and here is a hat tip to Outside The Zone (Trix Mendez) and Art House Project London (Apparan). I had the pleasure of kind of winding up proceedings by leading a street art tour around the spots. This gave me the unexpected joy of meeting some street artists whose work I have loved for many years for the first time as well as renewing acquaintances with familiar artists and friends, I learnt more from the experience than anyone.
One reason why paste-ups were so significant was newcomers to street art who were not coming from a graffiti background were not going to spend hours creating, perfecting and refining a spraypainted piece of art under risky illegal circumstance, their art would be prepared at home, in the studio or at school and then pasted up in seconds. The paste-up was the ultimate in risk avoidance yet participants still experienced that buzz, the thrill of being a little bit naughty in a relatively harmless way.
More than other forms of street art paste-ups have an ability to acquire a history, to evolve. There is a joy in the aging of paper, the savagery of rips and tears, the marker pen additions from passers-by, the possibility that meaning is changed by clever juxtaposition of another piece of art. Some artists regard their art as having an independent life on the walls and indeed even photograph their paste-up to rejoice in those changes.
D7606 Kurt Cobain
The LIPF art was pasted up in Shoreditch over the preceding couple of weekends by a coalition of willing and experienced locally street artists. One of the kind of predictable and I argue welcome consequences of this early installation was other artists subsequently adding their creativity in and around the LIPF displays.
Creativity is a word that means different things to different people, beauty being in the eye of the beholder and all that. Here we see WRDSTH explaining how his Winona Forever paste-up was “edited” by artist unknown and subsequently restored by him and he gave a wonderful articulation of his rationale for doing so. For the benefit of readers and those who heard WRDSMTH’s anecdote first-hand, the second picture below shows the redacted artwork.
The festival locations facilitated several different presentation styles for the paste up. Two spots highlighted individual artists, Yu_wallart and JD Montaigne in an installation format, reminiscent perhaps of something by Ludo or early Camille Walala when walls were less cluttered! It would be rare these days to see single stand-alone paste ups like this but hey, organisers gotta make use of the spots they have available!
In four other spots the team had created massive banners of art pasted onto vinyl which was then tied to what in any other circumstance would be advertising frames. The first one featured below serendipitously referenced the world’s most prolific paste-up artist. Its placement and elevation high up the wall precisely matched a Lenin paste-up placed illegally by Shephard Fairey in 2007.
The two Old Street banners had to be taken down on Sunday evening but the others on Dereham Place and Bateman’s Row (above) could last a few more weeks.
The location the artists referred to as “The Beast” became my favourite as it offered the closest approximation to the layering and direct application of art to the wall that we see in the wild.
Collaboration is a wonderful aspect of most forms of street art and one beautiful collaboration that emerged in the festival was between Donk and Uberfubs. Donk pasted-up his brilliant “Higher Ground” piece a week before before the main crew got to work with the other paste-ups, the second photo shows the dramatic impact on his monochromatic composition after Donk invited Uberfubs to augment it with her flouro creatures, Natasha Searston also got in on the act.
Donk did his bit to shame the youngsters by getting his Dad’s art pasted up in the festival, a quartet of coppers with appropriate symbolic numbering which represents the acronym ACAB which…..go figure!
ACAB by Donks Dad
Some collaborations arise through intentional placement, such as the kitty cat and rat living in perfect harmony with two foxes, others are actually created as single sheet collaborations
Perhaps the guiding hand of the installers has had a role in placing a body positivity collaboration between Flakes Store and Planet Selfie adjacent to a Playgirl cover and Sam Fox in a box.
The Live and Let Live/Street Art Against Hate project was initiated by the #NoHate family, an awesome group of street artists from Cologne. Artist were invited to support the anti-hate initiative by creating paste-ups adding their art within a circular “Live and Let Live/Street Art Against Hate” message. A version from Streetart.globe gave me the prompt to explain Sunday’s tour group the Street Art Against Hate project and the opportunity to demonstrate the power of collective paste-up messaging with an anecdote about the time I came across their Brick Lane Wall of Love in the company of two parents who had lost a son in an American High School mass murder. Full 2018 story HERE. The impact of the message and the touching affect it had on Patricia and Manuel Oliver in 2018 truly demonstrated something about paste up street art.
As I told the story, street artist Face The Strange handed me two of his versions of the paste-up message, demonstrating perfectly that the project is actually still alive and doing good things.
One of the more inventive uses of paste-ups we have witnessed down the years has been Dr Cream’s creation of online stop frame animations using paste-up linoprints.
Daisy Riot animation frames by Dr Cream
He has done loads of these in Shoreditch over more than a decade and something we have never succeeded in doing is to locate all the elements of an animation to have a go at rendering our own, it is nice to think that this game or quest was Dr Cream’s gift to the streets. Finally, courtesy his LIPF installation we have all the frames of a star jumping Daisy Riot animation and I was thrilled to get it to work, though my effort does appear to be a homage to the jumpy animation style of Roobarb and Custard (look it up!).
Dr Cream “Daisy Riot” animation
As the social media flurry around the Festival subsides, I mentioned in my little digital contribution that I had enjoyed leading the Sunday tour and had learned a lot from the guests and artists present. As I pointed out the drama in the layering of Rider’s fluorescent prints against his darker monochromatic background, print artist MeandBlue helpful informed us that the two prints flanking Rider’s display were by David Shand, an artist who was new to me. David focussed on the residue of tears and colours generated by the action of time on flyposters on the streets, a phenomenon paste-ups are beautifully susceptible to. David passed away last year but as I explored his art online this week I got the sense that the spirit and intent of the festival would have chimed with him, it was a pleasure to be introduced to his work through the art on the wall.
No matter what form a piece of street art takes it will always by elevated by good placement and use of the environment. Wrdsmth scores highly for placing the “Hearts Shatter” message within the shattered glass window, happily no wrists were slashed in the placement of the oversize stencil through the jagged shards.
The festival concept had a few minor and unavoidable aspects in which it deviates from the nature of paste-up street art in the wild. Pasting all the art up at one point in time denies the “patina” of a good street art spot that comes from artworks going over eachother, from the tearing, the layering, the decay and aging at different rates from different moments in history. Seeing the artists own particular eye and mind controlling placement and juxtaposition is often desirable. On the other hand paste-up street art actually facilitates collaboration, sharing and representation by mailing paper or digital art to friends in other locations and letting them get on with it.
Something rather less obvious from the participation in the LIPF was the gender balance. The art world is notorious for its discrimination on many basis especially gender. A crude assessment based on identification of artists in a sample of 155 photographs suggested a ratio of male to female artists of 5:3. It’s not great, it’s not perfect but it is likely to be better than the perceived state of play in the in gallery world.
Did the paste-up festival work? It got huge numbers of artists’ work visible on the streets, it introduced the art of many artists from overseas that we had not seen here before, it brought new artists to outdoor walls who have never displayed in public this way and it gave huge visibility to this under-sung street art genre. It was a success.