No. 58 – London Street Art & Graffiti Tour
You can live in a city all your life and not really know it. I am a born and breed Londoner and I must confess I don’t really know London as well as I would like. London is a big diverse place. So I decide the best way to learn more about where I live, is to be a tourist in my home town.
One area in London which I have had a great interest to learn more about and explore was Shoreditch & Brick Lane, East London. I work in the city and Shoreditch is just a stones throw, but really don’t think I have truly got to grips with it. As an area which many people used to believe was the dirty underbelly of London, now it is one of the “up and coming trendy” area. One of the unique aspects of this particular area of London is that it is the home to the city’s iconic street art scene. I am a lover of all forms of art and really appreciate but don’t fully know much about street art. So naturally when I came across the existence of London Graffiti & Street Art Tours, it had to automatically go on to my Bucket List.
I did a bit of research and came across Free Tours by Foot – London Graffiti and Street Art Tour. All you have to do is sign up for the tour, which is free (which is great). They then email you about where to meet.
There I was on a cold Sunday morning in Whitechapel, where I meet with a lovely guide Greg Simpson and a large group of fellow ‘tourists’. There was about 25/30 of us on the tour, we have a couple from Australian and another from Brazil, a couple of friends from America, a few other single ‘tourists’ like me (well not like me, most didn’t live in the UK, was the only hometown tourist). We were all wrapped up warm, and ready to walk around Whitechapel, Brick Lane and Shoreditch.
Greg, our guide, started off with introducing himself and letting us know that he is a street artist (not artist names for legal coverage) and you could tell straight off the bat, that he really enjoyed giving these tours and meeting new interested people.
He started off just taking us to this wall filled with graffiti and street art.
He explained what the difference it, how people start out in this underground community, the etiquette of respecting others work, the street wars, the tell-tell symbols, tags, art of certain players etc.
We then went along Brick Lane, where he show us some work which had just gone up and also some established work, such as this stunning piece by artist AkaJimmyC, which was dedicated to a local family-run business on brick lane.
We kept going to a school play yard to find some commissioned work by Phelgm, which took up the whole side of a building, and was all done by hand. He told us how this bristol artist had to learn to go from brush to spray can, which for his very delicate work is amazing.
He also told us about other artist trying to tag and throw shade on large more established artist to make a name, and the whole community codes on conduct. It is very much an honour based system that all street arts work under, it was very inspiring to hear the truth behind the art and the culture.
Then behind some house, in a dead-end you come across this beauty piece commissioned for an art gallery by Mr Cenz (Mr Cenzone) who you be shocked to know does all this piece free hand, with no guides or grid work at all to help. He also can put these masterpieces up in a night. Here are two of his pieces we saw on our tour.
Now onto the world famous in terms of Street Art – Hanbury Street just off Brick Lane. Here we saw a number of fresh pieces from visiting street artist.
Starting with this piece which had only gone up the night before by StinkFishStink – a brazil artist who was over for an exhibit in London, but wanted to put a few pieces on the street. Very much infused by asian imagery.
Another two inspire pieces on start of Hanbury Street by legendary artist with brilliant stories behind their art.
I will start with Dreph, who was a street artist for years and was one of the biggest names on the streets for years, then he went into teaching and has recently come back to his art. His art now is of influential and inspiring women in his life and celebrating those women and what they contribute to society. As you can see from the piece in the picture it is a very empowering image for all women.
Another artist celebrating women and empowerment is Hanna Lucatelli a Brazilian artist, she is again about telling the stories of women and those who have withheld horrible trials whether it be sexual assault or oppression. I love the simplistic and skill of her work and more over the message of Love Saves.
Hanbury Street, you can all see lots of work which will stick around for months or hopefully years, as the artist is so famous, the owner of the wall doesn’t want it remove and they have enough respect in the community not to work over it.
Here are a few examples, and also a few new pieces which weren’t quite finished yet.
Other great pieces in that area include the haunting yet powerful eyes of Dale Grimshaw, this was a truly moving piece, and beside having to stand in a very busy road could happily stood for much longer to try to take it all in. Was one of the highlights for me.
Then you also have a very different style of Shok-1, with his x-ray art, whether its be his Elvis Pelvis or his MasterPeace (another of my highlights).
There was of course a few of the Banksy which have now been enclosed to protect in Brick Lane, and there was tonnes of other artists that we were introduced to. Including getting a picture of us in front of one of his friend’s piece to help great buzz over his work.
Nevertheless, at the end of the tour, Greg just took us down an alley which if you weren’t paying attention you wouldn’t of paid any attention to, yet, it was a real art studio for may artist, with lots of clean walls for them to let out their creative and hone their skills. It is a hard art, street art and graffiti and especially hard to make a name and or make a living from it, not everyone is a Banksy. We need to give credit to all the artist and their work.
My write-up will never do justice to the London Street Art scene, especially as it is ever-changing night to night, and that is one of the major joys of it. The creativity of this community is boundless and therefore so is my enjoyment of it. It also means, that I would definitely go on another working tours to see new pieces that have come up, and also just walk around myself now that I have a great understanding of the culture and the skills and talent behind each piece.
I would highly recommend whether you be an actual tourist or you already live in London to go for a walk around Brick Lane whether it be organised tour or not. Just look up and around you and find art that you like and let others know about it – As it might only be there for a day or a week.