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Streets ahead

Streets ahead

Shoreditch is a huge outdoor gallery featuring international street art. It not only includes works from the big names of the street art world but also those from new groups of emerging artists. It is an exciting scene where you learn to look up to discover new works on rooftops and at the street posts in search of stickers with tags. This is a way “to identify who is in town” said our young expert RJ Rushmore, who created the street art blog Vandalog.

The street art movement has been a keystone of popular culture since the 60s. It has transformed dark public areas into vibrant artistic hubs. The East End is a good example: art has contributed to the creation of a unique neighbourhood full of energy, colour, passion and young talents.

From New York City subway-style graffiti to “cartoonish” wall painting, to abstract street art, to confrontational photorealism, to sophisticated graphism, and to video game references, artists from the US, France, Italy, Spain and Brazil are coming here to leave their mark. They use aerosol strokes, fire extinguishers, oil paints, stencils (a French expertise often referred as “pochoir”), mosaics, cement and other mediums to express themselves.

Eine’s massive “Scary” under a rail bridge in Rivington Street

It has been almost a year since the world discovered British street artist Ben Flynn (known as Ben Eine) when David Cameron gave President Obama the painting “Twenty First Century City” during his Washington visit. Ben Eine painted a series of Shoreditch shop-shutters with his distinctive set of bright letters. Artists often receive permission from owners to paint shop-shutters as it protects them against graffiti. Some artists such as David Walker (Griff) have used shutters to show their work – an amazing portrait can currently be seen on a shutter in Curtain Road.

Eine’s massive “Scary”, with its red background and black and white letters, can be seen under a bridge in Rivington Street. This previously sinister and dark spot is now flamboyant and less frightening. Last Sunday, a few meters before that spot, we actually bumped into Eine, who was rushing towards Shoreditch House to do some work. 

Banksy’s “Policeman With Poodle” off Rivington Street

Rivington Street used to be a place where the famous Banksy was very active. Just to the left of Cargo Club stands a wall with Banksy’s famous “Policeman With Poodle”. It is now protected by a plastic sheet to prevent people from chipping it out of the wall and selling it.

Most artists shown on the various “legal walls” in Shoreditch also sell their work on canvases in galleries. The open parking lot off of Great Eastern street is a field of international talents displaying works such as SheOne, Probs, Enter, Deo, Panik, Nimo, Horfe, C215 and AliCè.

(From left to right) SheOne, Probs, Enter, Deo, Konirow and (above Konirow) Panik

Some of these artists are working collectively or in pairs. Such is the case of “Best Ever”, a collaboration between UK artists Neil Edward and Hadley Newman.

Wall on Curtain Road with Best Ever and Plastic Bones

It is not surprising that Street Art has also strongly influenced fashion: the sisters of legendary street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat have launched a line of casual apparel inspired by his work; artist Futura 2000 designs his own clothing label with a store in Japan; Ben Eine designed Totes with Anya Hindmarch; and Agnes B, the French designer and collector of contemporary art, is known for her involvement in street art.

We ended our inspiring street art journey with a few Hanoi style street dishes in the Vietnamese neighbourhood on Kingsland Road.