Guest Guide to Street Art...
Get to grips with the best of the Bansky rivals in this pick of top street art by a man very familiar indeed with the scene in London. Gary Means, purveyor of excellent Alternative London tours relies not only on a real passion for urban creativity, but genuine ties with street artists themselves...
Words: Gary Means
I honestly believe that London has one of the best street art scenes in the world, and like everywhere, it constantly changes and evolves. I do my best to stay up to date with what's going up, particularly in east London and we cover a huge amount on our tours - around 100 pieces of work by around 50 artists from all four corners of the globe.
When I was asked to make a list of my top five pieces, I found it practically impossible. So I decided to take it from a slightly different angle. If you stop most people on the street, they can only name one street artist; Banksy. This is nothing against Banksy - we would not have the scene we have in London without him. But I wanted to put together a list of artists that your average person on the street might not have heard of, but in my opinion should have. So here goes...
Phlegm is an artist from Sheffield whose work shamelessly takes you into his own fictitious world, with intricate paintings filled with elaborate machinery and dark characters. His only mediums are white emulsion paint, a roller and black and white spray paint. He paints the biggest walls he can find and makes amazing limited edition comics in the same style.
This piece to me is Phlegm gold. I was fortunate enough to spend some time watching him paint it and I think it is so imaginative. The way he's used the thick layers of tags as the water line, the bits of protruding wall have become turrets and in one instance a character's hip. It's just incredible. This one has to be seen to be believed.
2. David Walker
Another of my favourites. David has come from a design background but for his art - whether on canvas or walls - he has a spray-paint only rule. I love what he does with the can; loads of colour, it's messy and abstract but the drips and the imperfections make it perfect, and there is an amazing finesse and depth to his work.
This is a recent piece David painted, and as always it's a beautiful portrait of a female face in his unique style.
Next up has to be my favourite stencil artist, Paris-based C215. Several layers of intricately cut stencils make up his usually colourful and always captivating portraits of everyday people. C215 is one of the street artists that rarely, if ever, gets permission for his work, although I'm sure it's equally rare that a building owner will stop him painting. In fact I've recently seen two of his pieces around Brick Lane given ‘the Banksy treatment' and protected with Perspex.
This one was painted on a miserable rainy day in London and I just think it's an incredible gift for the people that had walked home from work in the rain and had this surprise waiting for them on their front door. He doesn't know them and he has no affiliation with this city, and that to me is street art in its purest form.
4. Jimmy C
Adelaide born Jimmy C. was giving workshops to aboriginal kids when he accidentally invented a new way to make his art. When trying to do dot art with a spray can he realised that he could use the dots and drips to make pointillist-style work with cans. Now he's developed another, more sketchy style, just as unique and recognisable.
This wall shows both styles, one soft feminine piece with dots and one sketched piece based on a photo taken during the London riots, which balance the wall out perfectly. This is also on a back street that 99% of people will never walk down unless they're looking for this, which I love.
5. Jo Peel
Another artist from Sheffield, Jo is part of the Scrawl Collective alongside David Walker. She may not be your typical street artist, but I felt that what she did on the Village Underground wall was worth a mention. Anytime anyone does a stop motion animation with street art they will be compared to Blu, which is understandable. But to me that's like comparing anyone that kicks a football to Pele. People can use the same technique and do something original with it. Jo's piece is original and she put some serious hard work and long hours into creating it. Here's the video, enjoy.
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