Yup, that time yet again, the seasons ticked “all complete” means another 12 months of Shoreditch street art to mull over, pick through, assess and applaud. Really it’s just an excuse to rifle once more through the well over 10,000 photos that got added to the archives this year, though later you will not be able to supress your giggles at the crass stupidity self-inflicted on my photo collection in the past twelve months.
So how did the new intake fare, the artists for whom this year Shoreditch walls hosted their debut public art exhibition? Drash La Krass’ forte is the haunting subversion of fashion mag models. Her wild, Burtonesque characters (Tim, not Richard) are painted over magazine and poster images of fashion models, leaving only the merest glimpse of the original, the result is peppered with glitter and once pasted on the streets some were further mashed up with marker pen. A wonderful newcomer to Shoreditch’s street art gallery.
Equally alluring was Feeble Feel whose willowy figures evoked late period Matisse and like Drash La Krasse, glitter was a key ingredient. Her art included a delightful “borrowing” of fragments of murals imaginatively dragooned into service as background landscape.
One of the nicest plague of bugs last Summer was newcomer Nove London’s Miro-esque hand painted infestation. As well as bringing classic song lines to life, Nova’s attention to background colour was too good to be accidental.
The artist formerly known as Enigma (Yutaro Inagaki name change announced today!) had a brilliant year. Anointing any specific Enigma art pieces as “better” or “favourite” would be churlish but the way a couple of his pieces of art proved themselves to be time dependant was genius, or damn great luck! A fish rising from Shoreditch’s winter ground just seemed surreal in January but with Summer’s lush growth it became apparent the fish’s intention was to feed on the greens. You are welcome to read the January photo as evidence of my failure to anticipate that!
Throughout the year Enigma continued to push his art in new and interesting directions. He went full Holbein with an anamorphic cat and as they make great internet clickbait, here’s the obligatory cat pic.
Street artists love company and street art produces a greater proportion of collaborations than most other art forms, Enigma hooked up with the brilliant Ed Hicks for one of the year’s best collaborations in Dalston.
From the Viaduct to Penge and Shoreditch to Southbank, Nylon had a prolific and brilliant year including grabbing a prestigious spot next to one of the Banksys at the Viaduct. Of all the Nylon art I saw this year, the following photo takes the prize, its “bizarre quotient” seems just right for Shoreditch.
The political event that dominated street art this year was of course Russia’s grotesque invasion of Ukraine. Opposition to war and support for humanitarian missions came from many artists including Subdude, Wrdsmth, Jola, (another newcomer to street art) and LDashD.
Sidok has been giving style masterclasses all year and a highlight came at the height of the Russian bombardment of civilians and soldiers in the last Mariupol hold out at the Azovstal steel works, who can wipe from their memory the images of women, children and pets emerging from the wreckage as the siege ended.
In Cardiff, one of many UK destinations I visited this year to see the street art, My Dog Sighs painted one of the earliest street art responses to the Ukraine situation, the photorealistic tearful eye captured brilliantly the numbing sense of distress, helplessness and horror and deservedly went viral.
For sheer beguiling painting skills some of my favourite artists this year were Esau_teric and Priest. The unusual painting technique giving such prominence to a deliberate spluttery effect and some very adventurous colour combinations as well as those viciously angular lines and limbs just made each new composition found in Shoreditch a real joy. See also the mural by Esau-teric featured at top of the post, kind of asking “2022 – WTF?”.
The platinum jubilee and subsequent royal passing gave street artists cause to express their views regarding the monarchy.
The award for pursuing the augmented reality vision in street art this year goes to David Gersch. Gersch’s street art is those DiCaprio meme stickers, pasteups, stencils and AR street art that appeared all over the parish – there is an example in the “By the people” photo above. Gersch created a Leo-verse, an alternative metaverse where with sufficient immersion you get to believe you are DiCaprio. With 1000 variants of his DiCaprio character (each available as NFTs natch) Gersch has a lot of pixelated dayglo lurid DiCaprio memes to choose from.
French street artist Thom defaces billboards using a fragment of a sharp blade to cut into the surface of adverts to reveal hidden colours, buried meanings and chance juxtapositions. We had the pleasure of bumping into the artist and thanks to a slightly OCD approach to photography, we were able to demonstrate not only the detourned advert but the original untouched advert AND the hidden advert on the layer behind revealed in fragments by Thom’s cutting. (full story HERE)
Graffiti writers can flirt with the street art or art world audience by blurring an imagined or at least irrelevant boundary between what is graffiti and what is art. Helch produced prolific quantities of clever typographical art over the past twelve months and even stepped over the hard core graff line by releasing a screen print. One spectacular Helch achievement is visible only by airplane or drone, check High Flying Drone Shots HERE and just below is a very recent highlight finished just in time for the Christmas hols. Homage to Helch’s compositional brilliance appeared earlier this year on the blog HERE
The relative normalisation of international travel this year meant that once again we were blessed with a visit by a selection of street artists from Portland and their buddies from other US parts. The group reported they had a wonderful time in Europe and this blog gushed with excitement over the art put up by RX Skulls, Voxx Romana, City Kitty and Toastoro. Our blog post featured loads of photos of the magnificent street art they put up around Shoreditch so for this flash back here are some behind the scenes photos which demonstrates how street artist help eachother even when the actual art going up isn’t collaborative.
Sometimes the creation of layers and the forming of the street’s patina is a matter of chance and accident, other times the interactions are the result of quite specific art intentions and the artist we used to know just as Sell Out but now have multiple naming options remains one of the masters of interaction and augmentation.
The state of play for murals in Shoreditch has been a little disappointing recently. Fewer female artists getting decent mural spots; fewer visiting international muralists, less frequent mural turnover. Spraypainted advert painting significantly exceeds the amount of art muralism we see in Shoreditch. Are the dominant wall arrangers tactically sacrificing Shoreditch walls for advert revenue opportunities or are fewer artists seeking the support of Shoreditch spot arrangers? There is far more to be analysed and resolved than these few words convey but overall it appears – to someone who is not a wall arranger – that the main mural arrangers fail to adequately balance the art and the commercial activity.
With that bit of soap box bashing out of the way, here are some of the mural highlights we saw in 2022.
Just how magnificent is Ed Hick’s mural outside Viaduct, formerly the legendary Cargo Nightclub? (View LARGE)
Cranio visited again and painted murals, collaborations and illegal spots as well as having a gallery show at BSMT Space (who had a cracking year bouncing back from covid).
Just to finish off with a few favourite photos from the year. This first photo reminds us that this art existed and that is important. Medea, Buhloonhead, Jane Mutiny and Diocles claimed patches of Shoreditch for these beautiful splashes of inspiration, this scene genuinely took my breath away with its beauty but none of the art survives. Seeing the photo I remember exactly what I thought, I remember who I met and who I chatted with and we discussed exactly that view.
It was actually the beautiful resonance between Medea’s composition and the livery of passing East London Line trains that made for one of my favourite photos of the year:
This next image was just the proof (yet again) that the first prerequisite for getting a decent shot is showing up. That’ll be a candidate for the book cover.
Sometimes timing, place and luck conspire to bless you with a photo opportunity, it was a real chuckle to capture City Kitty, Toastoro and D*Face being raised on Brick Lane, accidentally recreating Joe Rosenthal’s famous Iwo Jima image. I was due to meet a street artist friend for an afternoon meander taking photos and as soon as I turned from taking this shot I realised said artist was right behind me. You got to show up AND be facing the right direction lol.
One more, back when I first got into street art one of the artists that really intrigued me was Nonose. The colourful sputnik like potato aliens were lurking in the oddest places, on bus stop roofs, jammed into firewater inlet connectors in derelict buildings, in road excavation digs… Nonose really opened my eyes to the unique possibilities for placement in street art as well as the delicate challenge to the boundary between fathomless conceptual intrigue and nonsense. You wait forever for a nonose then a whole bunch turn up at once.
You heartless bastards, those of you who read the opening paragraph and jumped straight to this section. The year also gave conclusive proof, not that any was needed, that the older I get the faster I peddle backwards away from wisdom. A massive collection of digital photos poses storage issues, pixels cause problems! Backing up is a huge headache best addressed from the ostrich position, disaster will oblige by wreaking havoc near but not to said collection won’t it? You can guess where this is going. I had figured out that my back up process had a built in risk, a particularly stupid sequence of drive and folder copy and delete actions combined with a moment of forgetfulness could lead to loss of those memories, I knew it. Absentmindedly this year I pursued that sequence and triggered that moment of forgetfulness, it took several days for the enormity of my stupidity to register. The good news is that I still have some art show photos, a category complete separate from my street art photos, at least I have those from the years before 2009 and those from 2022 but all the photos from all the art shows in the intervening years: now atomised in a silent irreversible digital apocalypse.
Roll on 2023!